Honda CEO rules out F1 return any time soon

TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda could eventually return to Formula One but not in the near future, Chief Executive Takanobu Ito told Reuters on Thursday.

Honda stunned the sport in December when they decided to quit and sell their team.

Since then, under a management buyout led by former principal Ross Brawn, the Mercedes-powered team have led the championship and are poised to take at least the constructors’ title at Suzuka on Sunday.

“It would be difficult to re-enter Formula One racing under current business conditions,” he said in an interview ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

“But in the future, if it became a competition based on fuel efficiency and performance, as well as pose a technical challenge, then we would surely want to take part. I do not see that happening in the near future.”

Britain’s Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who drove for Honda last year, are first and second respectively in the driver’s standings for Brawn. Button will take the drivers’ title if he scores five points more than Barrichello on Sunday.

Ito said Japan’s number two carmaker would be interested in returning if the sport made possible changes such as employing hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars or other environmentally-friendly technologies.

The carmaker has been a strong proponent of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as the most promising zero-emission alternative to combustion engine cars.

Honda, who own the Suzuka circuit, said Ito was unlikely to attend Sunday’s race.

Editing by Alan Baldwin