MAY 17, 1999
The twelfth entry
HONDA's inability to decide on its Formula 1 program has led to considerable manoeuvring in the Grand Prix world as different groups try to secure the twelfth entry, which had been guaranteed to Honda. With Honda now wanting to renounce the commitment made last year, the twelfth entry - the last F1 "franchise" available - is up for grabs.
Although attempts are being made to move Honda Racing Developments across to a Dome/Mugen operation the need for a settlement between Honda and the F1 authorities will probably result in the HRD team ending up in the hands of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone as part of a compensation package. He will then sell it to the highest bidder. Engines could be supplied by Supertec - in which Ecclestone has a shareholding. Likely bidders for the deal are David Richards of Prodrive, who is still looking for a way back into F1 after falling out with the Benetton Family last year; Zakspeed, which tried to buy Arrows last winter; Flavio Briatore or perhaps a quick-witted racing investor such as Roger Penske.
The HRD operation is now just about able to build its own F1 cars. Two autoclaves are due to be delivered this week and there are sufficient machines and personnel to do all the other necessary work.