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Sun 28 Dec 2008 09:24 AM

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Mexican billionaire rescues Honda F1 team - report

World's second richest man set to step in to save team with $400mn budget.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's second richest man, has rescued the Honda Formula One team, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on Saturday.

"The saviour has arrived: Carlos Slim, 67 years old, the second richest man in the world," said the newspaper.

"The news is not official as all the details have yet to be formalised. But two things are certain - the team has been saved and the drivers will be Jenson Button and rookie Bruno Senna in place of Rubens Barrichello."

Honda, believed to have an annual racing budget of around $400 million, announced earlier this month that they were pulling out of Formula One as a result of the global financial meltdown.

La Stampa, which did not identify the source of its story, added that Bruno Senna, the nephew of former triple world champion Ayrton Senna, is sponsored by Embratel, part of Slim's Telmex group.

Honda first competed in F1 in 1964 and clocked up three Grand Prix wins, including Jenson Button's in Hungary in 2006.

Its engines were also been behind dozens of victories by stars such as Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

The team finished ninth in the constructors championship this season with 14 points.

Veteran driver Barrichello achieved the team's best result with a third-place finish at Silverstone.

Honda Motor also supplied engines and other technical support to Formula One team Super Aguri, which called it quits due to financial problems in May.

Motorsport in Japan had been particularly hit by the recession with Subaru and Suzuki pulling out of the world rally championship.

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