Honda negotiating to buy BAR

WE hear that the Honda Motor Company has embarked on negotiations to buy British American Racing from British╩American╩Tobacco. The Japanese car company is understood to have acquired an option to buy the team when it agreed to supply BAR with factory engines next year but it was not expected to make a move until the team is competitive. BAR has looked quite promising this year although the chassis is still not a match for the top cars. The Honda V10 engine, on the other hand, is an impressive unit and enabled Jacques Villeneuve to stay ahead of Michael Schumacher for the first half of the British GP.

Our sources say that the talks have been accelerated as a result of rival car companies Mercedes-Benz and Renault buying into Formula 1 and because Honda wants to get more control of the chassis building side of the team in order to speed up the education of Japanese engineers in the skills of carbon composite engineering.

The deal makes a great deal of sense for BAT as it will enable the tobacco company to recoup a big chunk of the money it has spent in F1 in the last two years, which in effect means that all the publicity generated to date will have been free. BAT would have preferred rather better publicity than has been achieved. It is possible that as part of the deal BAT will remain on the cars for another couple of years as the red Lucky Strike roundel bears a useful resemblance to the Japanese flag, the color scheme in which Honda is expected to race.

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