London: Business tycoon Vijay Mallya is pitched against Mexican billionaire and one of the world’s richest persons, Carlos Slim Helu, among others, to buy the Formula One team of Japanese auto firm Honda Motor Co. Ltd, a report said on Monday.

Pulling out: A 15 May photo of Britain’s Jenson Button driving a Honda F1 car. Honda put its Formula One team on the block earlier this month as it decided to move out of the racing activities due to the slowdown. Claude Paris / AP

In a report published on Monday, automotive industry website Motor Authority said Carlos Slim, Force India’s Mallya and UK-based motorsport and auto engineering group Prodrive Holdings Ltd’s David Richards have emerged as the potential buyers.

The other interested parties include a Swiss hedge fund and Greek shipping tycoon Achilleas Kallakis, it added.

Force India formula one motor racing team was formed last year after a consortium led by Mallya bought the Spyker F1 team for £88 million (Rs621 crore today).

Noting that Richards has “has travelled to the Middle East for talks with investors," the report said, “another serious candidate is Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire, who is the second richest man in the world." “68-year-old Slim, who controls the telecommunications company Telmex, gave the game away when he visited the embattled team’s UK headquarters last week," it said, adding, “His helicopter, displaying his official crest, was too big to be landed on the helipad, so the team had to clear the carpark."

“A takeover by Slim would boost the chances of GP2 driver Bruno Senna, who is backed by the Telmex subsidiary Embratel," the report said, adding “it is also believed that Force India’s Vijay Mallya has expressed an interest in the team, as has a Swiss hedge fund and Greek shipping tycoon Achilleas Kallakis".

The report quoted Honda F1 team’s chief executive officer Nick Fry as saying, “We have had a high level of interest in the team since Honda announced their withdrawal from formula one... Work on the build (up) of our 2009 car continues to ensure our objective of being on the grid at Melbourne in March will be achieved."

Indicating that it might have to shut down the Formula One racing outfit if no buyer was found, Honda chief executive Takeo Fukui said, “We, Honda Motor Co. Ltd, have come to the conclusion that we will withdraw from all Formula One activities, making 2008 the last season of participation.

“This difficult decision has been made in light of the quickly deteriorating operating environment facing the global auto industry, brought on by the subprime problem in the US, the deepening credit crisis and the sudden contraction of the world economies," he said.