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Senna signs for ex-Honda team - 4 races UPDATE #3 This rumor is now downgraded to 'speculation' today.  With less than six weeks to go until the start of the season, speculation regarding the future of the Brackley-based team, which was put up for sale by the Japanese car manufacturer in December, is now reaching fever pitch.

Bruno Senna
Widespread reports over the weekend claimed that Senna, nephew of the late great Ayrton Senna, had signed and would bring with him considerable financial backing through his links to Brazilian oil company Petrobras and telecommunications firm Embratel.

However, Telegraph Sport understands that not only are the reports regarding Senna untrue but Petrobras have pulled out of a sponsorship deal with Honda for 2009.

It leaves the future of the team and their 750-strong staff, including Jenson Button, hanging in the balance.

With the nine other teams on the grid having already finalized their line-ups for 2009, former driver David Coulthard recently voiced concerns for Button's future career if he is forced to sit this season out.

There now appear to be three options on the table.

Firstly Honda could shut down the team altogether, which would cost them an estimated £100 million, mainly in redundancy payments. Paying off Button's recently signed three-year contract would alone cost £24 million.

Secondly, Honda could accept the proposed management buy-out proposal being led by the current CEO Nick Fry and team principal Ross Brawn.

Finally, Honda could accept a bid from an unnamed third party, who have come to the table late in proceedings.

A source within Honda described the company as "reputable, able to bring long-term financial stability, with a brand image known throughout the world. Formula One would do well to have them on board."

The source also alleged that certain members of Honda Racing's management are calling it a "hostile bid".

"The Honda Motor Co. board have to ask themselves what is best for the shareholders first and then what is best for the 750-strong staff," he said. "If they allow a management takeover to go ahead which then fails this could be deemed negligent; a grave concern for all shareholders.

"Furthermore, will the shareholders be happy to continue funding the F1 team even after Honda have pulled out? A failed MBO will also see 750 jobs lost.

"Will Honda be on the grid in Melbourne? I would say it's 50-50." Telegraph.co.uk

02/13/09 (GMM)  The team currently known as Honda will be in Melbourne, but has secured enough backing to guarantee its presence at only the subsequent three grands prix.

The Guardian on Friday agreed with speculation and reports that an immediate solution to the Brackley based squad's situation, following the withdrawal of owner, sponsor and engine supplier Honda Motor Co., has been found.

But, citing sources "close to the" team, the British newspaper said the secured $30m funds, in part thanks to Brazilian sponsors backing the rookie Bruno Senna, may get Honda to only Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain.

The report also said Senna and Jenson Button will be powered by Mercedes-Benz V8 engines.

02/13/09 (GMM)  According to rising speculation and reports, the F1 team currently known as Honda has secured its future and is preparing for the season opening Australian grand prix.

The whispers indicate that team boss Ross Brawn is briefing his colleagues at the Brackley headquarters to the effect that a solution is in place for the 2009 season, following the shock withdrawal of the Japanese manufacturer Honda Motor Co.

The details of the rumor are that Mercedes-Benz will power the newly independent team, and that Jenson Button's teammate will be the Brazilian rookie Bruno Senna, backed by key sponsors.

Should the speculation be correct, the 40-day timescale to scrutineering in Melbourne indicates that an announcement about Honda's plans - and a name-change - must be imminent.

Contracted driver Button, 29, was hopeful about the future last Sunday when he took part in a 10km mini-marathon in the outer suburbs of London.

"Training is going really well and hopefully we can make good use of it in a few weeks," he said in a video posted on his personal website.

"Fingers crossed I'll be on the grid in Melbourne," added Button.

02/12/09  According to our sources Bruno Senna has now signed for the ex-Honda Racing F1 team - and an announcement that the team will be going ahead will be made soon. The team is expected to use Mercedes-Benz engines and Senna will be partnered by Jenson Button. Backing for the team - the name of which has yet to be announced - is expected to come from Petrobras and probably one or two of Senna's personal sponsors.

It is not clear when the announcement will be made.

There have been some rumors in recent days that the team may have the backing of none other than Bernie Ecclestone. This would not be a surprise as Ecclestone is keen to make sure that the teams are not unanimous within the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and having a financial interest in one of them is a good way to ensure that this happens.

It is believed that the majority of the money to run the team will be coming from Honda itself as it is cheaper to pay to keep the team alive than it is to lay off all the staff. Grandprix.com

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