JANUARY 17, 2009

More on the Honda situation

In an effort to understand exactly what is going on at Honda Racing F1, we contacted the team's local Member of Parliament, Tim Boswell, to confirm that he had made a complaint to the authorities following requests from members of the F1 team, as had been reported in the Daily Mail.

Boswell is a seasoned politician, who has been MP for the safe Conservative seat of Daventry since he took over the set from Reg Prentice in 1987, when he won a majority of 19,690. He was a junior member of John Major government between 1990 and 1997 and then an Opposition spokesman on various matters under Conservative Party leaders William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. Boswell is well-versed in the ways of F1 as Silverstone is part of his constituency.

The story that emerged from him is rather different to the one being reported.

"I had a contact from someone who clearly had a commercial interest earlier this week," Boswell said. "I am not aware of the identity of his principals. He expressed concerns about the conduct of the bid. While I was and am unable to evaluate these personally, and I am also conscious of the sensitivity of the situation at this time, I thought it right to draw them to the attention of BERR [Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform] by a phone call on Wednesday, which concluded by my suggesting they might wish to contact him to make further enquiries."

Boswell said that he subsequently spoke to "a number of people with links to the team locally" but says that these discussions were not what prompted the discussion with BERR.

"I pass no judgements on the merits of their personal opinions," he said.

It is a fair guess that the original complaint was linked to Achilleas Kallakis, the 40-year-old scion of a Greek shipping family, who has made a name for himself recently in the London property market and as a player of TV poker. It was reported in the Daily Telegraph that he was not satisfied with the receeption his bid received from Honda.

The coolness towards Kallakis is not entirely surprising as his empire, estimated to be worth around $400m, is hidden away in Monaco and Switzerland. Honda wants to avoid a situation in which the team is sold to someone who does not have the money to run it properly. The fear is it would create another situation similar to Midland F1, when an apparently wealthy steel magnate - Alex Shnaider - was unable to fund his F1 team properly. He eventually sold the team to Spyker, making a decent profit for himself, but leaving the team in a very poor state.