Jenson Button will find out in the next few days whether he can resume his formula one racing career at Honda this season. Photograph: Steve Holland/Reuters
Jenson Button's future in formula one was hanging in the balance yesterday as the Honda team faced a 10-day countdown to salvation or oblivion during which they must convince Mercedes-Benz they have the resources to pay the €8m (£7.15m) annual lease fees on supplies of the German car maker's engines.
Mercedes and their partners at McLaren have indicated that they are prepared to offer a lifeline to Honda at the going financial rate. But Mercedes are understood to want assurances that they have sufficient budget to compete seriously throughout the year and will not have sponsors or a new team identity which in any way compromise the Mercedes brand.
"We have offered as much help and assistance as we can in the interests of the sport as a whole and the solidarity of the Formula One Teams Association to help the Honda team stay in business," said Martin Whitmarsh, who takes over as McLaren's team principal from Ron Dennis on 1 March.
Sources close to Honda suggest they have around £35.8m in backing made up from severance payments from the Japanese car maker who decided to put the team up for sale last December and advances on television revenue from Bernie Ecclestone.
This means Button and his proposed new team-mate Bruno Senna, will be able to compete in at least the Australian, Malaysian, Chinese and Bahrain grands prix, thanks in part to an additional £18m funding from Brazilian sponsors, Petrobras and Embratel, who are anxious to support Senna, who was runner-up in last year's GP2 championship.
However, it is likely that the re-worked Hondas will arrive in Melbourne to start their world championship campaign without having taken part in any testing. Given that the new rules for 2009 debar any testing once the season has started, they will face an uphill struggle. Just getting to the starting grid will be the easy bit
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