Rumours sprung up out of nowhere just two days ago that things weren't going to plan at Honda Racing. There was talk of them cancelling their Christmas parties, and possibly even redundancies. Then things got a lot more serious, with an emergency meeting be called at the factory in Brackley, and employees told that Honda were withdrawing from Formula 1.
The manufacturer will continue to fund the team until March 2009, and if they haven't found a buyer by then, the outfit will have to fold. However, bosses Nick Fry and Ross Brawn are quietly confident that they will be able to find a new owner, with Fry admitting they have already had three interested parties contact them, within the first twelve hours.
There are no forced redundancies within the team, although any volunteers won't be stopped. It's worrying times for the team. Jenson Button visited the factory today, and said he was as shocked as anyone else by the news. He said the first couple of hours were completely painful, but then he pulled himself together. He wants the team to be optimistic and put on a positive front for any potential buyers.
It's a serious blow for the team, and Button in particular, as they have endured two very poor seasons, with 2009 their goal. With Ross Brawn joining in 2008, the team abandoned progress on this year's car to concentrate fully on the overhauled regulations. They have spent a lot of time and energy on the KERS system and getting their car up to scratch, and everyone within the team was sure this would be a return to glory for them.
It would appear that Honda weren't quite so confident. With the global economic downturn affecting many areas of sport, it isn't a surprise to find teams struggling. Honda have seen a reduction in sales recently and are looking to make reductions at their car manufacturing plants. It was a surprise how quickly this decision came, however, with very little warning.
If the team can be bought, then it may be that they can come through this okay. We don't know who the three potential buyers are or how seriously they want to enter the sport. Hopefully, it will be a more successful selling period than it was for sister team Super Aguri. However, Honda are a much more attractive proposition than when they tried to sell SA, with a lot of the infrastructure already in place. At the moment, though, it is just a case of wait and see.