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Brawn GP to Replace Honda in Formula 1 as Manager Leads Buyout - Sathish - 03-06-2009

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Brawn GP will replace Honda Racing in the 2009 Formula One world championship after Japan’s No. 2 carmaker sold the team to its former manager Ross Brawn.

Brawn, Honda’s team principal last year after working with seven-time champion Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and Benetton, bought all the shares in the Brackley, England-based team, Honda Motor Co. said in a statement today. Honda spokeswoman Yasuko Matsuura declined to give financial terms.

“The past few months have been extremely challenging for the team, but today’s announcement is the very pleasing conclusion to the strenuous efforts that have been made to secure its future,” Brawn, a 54-year-old Briton, said in an e- mailed statement.

The sale means 10 teams will start the March 29 season- opening Australian Grand Prix at a time when Formula One costs are coming under closer scrutiny by automakers experiencing the worst global sales slump in decades. Honda quit the most-watched motor sport in December and put the team up for sale to save more than 20 billion yen ($203 million) a year.

Following Honda’s departure, teams agreed to slash costs by 30 percent by banning testing during the season and sharing data on tires and fuel -- previously areas of fierce competition. Yesterday they announced further plans to halve overall budgets in 2010 compared with last year’s level.

Brawn GP will use engines supplied by Mercedes-Benz in this year’s championship. The new team retained Honda’s driving lineup of Britain’s Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, who held off the challenge of fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna, the nephew of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna.

Experienced Duo

With 423 races between them, Button and Barrichello will form the most experienced partnership on the grid. That may help Brawn GP “get up to speed in the shortest possible time” for the season-opener in Melbourne, Brawn said.

“In what will be their fourth season together, their experience with our team, our systems and our engineers will prove a real asset,” Brawn said.

Teams have only two pre-season testing sessions left before the championship starts. The final test takes place March 15-17 in Jerez, Spain.

Honda Racing, which employs about 700 people, finished eighth and ninth the past two seasons after placing fourth in 2006 on its return as a constructor.

According to Formula Money’s annual report on the sport’s finances, Honda spent $1.49 billion on Formula One in the past five years, more than any other carmaker.

Brawn, who helped Schumacher win five straight driving titles as technical director at Ferrari, was hired to run the team 16 months ago. Before his 10 years with Ferrari, Brawn oversaw Schumacher’s back-to-back titles in the same role at the Benetton team in 1994 and 1995. He began his F-1 career in 1978 as a machinist with the Williams team.

“The journey ahead will be challenging,” Brawn said.