JUNE 14, 1999
The future of Honda Racing Developments
FORMULA 1 BOSS Bernie Ecclestone is taking a leading role in finding a buyer for the Honda Racing Developments Formula 1 operation in Bracknell, Berkshire. The team - which has a staff of around 100 people - has been left in the lurch by Honda's decision to ally with British American Racing.
With Honda's representatives having disappeared off to Japan and no more testing being planned the HRD crew is currently winding down operations. We hear, however, that the team is keeping itself busy and one can only speculate that perhaps the design engineers are working on the design of a chassis to take Supertec V10 engines. This is the only real option for the team at the moment.
It should not be forgotten that Ecclestone is a shareholder in Supertec and, in effect, has a free engine supply available for next year, BAR having had to agree to pay compensation to Supertec for not using the French engines in 2000. This has led to suggestions that Flavio Briatore - another Supertec shareholder - will step in to run the team for Ecclestone. This is a possibility and speculation in the paddock suggests that if Briatore is put in charge of a renamed HRD, he would try to hire Benetton's Joan Villadelprat - who ran Benetton on Briatore's behalf throughout the early 1990s.
Another option which should not be ruled out is that former RAM March team owner John Macdonald - a longtime Ecclestone associate - may come back to F1 to run the team for Bernie until a buyer can be found.
While Ecclestone may be content to own the team for a while, he is also understood to be actively looking for a buyer and we hear that at least one group has been to see the facilities at HRD.