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Branson's Honda bid gets the nod of F1 boss

BRITISH entrepreneur Richard Branson wants to take over Honda's Formula One team, the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said.

"I've spoken to Richard's people about it. He would love to do it," said Ecclestone as he gave the move his blessing. "I'd like it very much. It would be super. We're working to try to make it happen."

Honda put its British-based team, which has 700 employees, up for sale in December when it announced it was quitting the sport as a constructor and engine supplier.

Although McLaren's partner Mercedes has made it clear it is willing to supply engines, the team has yet to find a rescuer with the first race of the season in Australia on March 29.

British billionaire Ecclestone, 78, said Branson's Virgin Group had made a bid and was the only real alternative to a management buyout being led by the team's existing management under chief executive Nick Fry and principal Ross Brawn.

The other option would be to close the team, a move that could end British driver Jenson Button's grand prix career.

Ecclestone said it was now up to Honda to decide which path to follow.

"I have no idea which way it will go. I wouldn't bet on it either way," said Ecclestone, who faces a starting grid reduced to just nine teams and 18 cars if Honda was to fail.

Asked about deadlines for a decision, he replied: "I think it was about two weeks ago."

The Guardian newspaper reported the cut-off point could be next Monday, with Mercedes setting a deadline for a first payment for the engines.

Earlier this week, a source close to the situation who did not want to be identified said the Virgin Group had been approached by Honda as one of several interested parties.

"They are looking at it and Branson is thought to be interested," the source added.


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