Honda has admitted that it has "no serious buyer" for its troubled Formula One team, increasing the likelihood of Jenson Button being forced to spend the forthcoming season in the F1 wilderness.
Honda decided late last season to sell off or close its Brackley-based operation, and names linked to a buy-out have included Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson and F1's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The team's current management line-up, Nick Fry and Ross Brawn, have also tried to secure enough backing to run the team themselves, through television rights fees and a sponsorship package tied to young Brazilian driver Bruno Senna.
However, Honda chief Takeo Fukui told a press conference in Tokyo that little progress has been made with any of the proposals. "There are various offers for the team but we have not seen any serious buyer yet," he told Reuters. "We find the sale process difficult."
Honda is running out of time to keep the team running; the opening race of the season is a little over a month away, the team's 2009 car has yet to turn a wheel in anger and a proposed engine contract with Mercedes-Benz is said to require financial guarantees, perhaps as soon as by this evening.
Ecclestone appears to have written off any prospect of involvement with the team. "I tried to help with the management buy-out," he told the News of the World. "They should have taken what I offered. It was a very good offer for everybody concerned. Now all we can do is hope and pray."