- Oct 27, 2014
Manor F1, formerly Marussia, have announced they will be racing in 2015, initially at least with modified 2014 cars before hopefully moving to a new car later in the year.
So far 23 year-old Briton Will Stevens, who made his F1 debut at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with the now-defunct Caterham team, is confirmed to drive one of the modified MR03s; who will be his teammate is currently unknown.
It represents quite the coup for the Banbury-based team which collapsed with millions of pounds of debt last October before the 2014 season had finished. Work led by team president and sporting director Graeme Lowdon’s over the winter managed to stave off planned auctions of team assets and last month the team emerged from administration, though the first plan to run 2014 rules-compliant cars was rejected by the F1 Strategy Group, forcing the modifications.
It has been revealed that the “principal investor” in reviving the squad is Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO and founder of Ovo Energy who reportedly had £40 million available to spend. Fitzpatrick explained the reasoning behind his investment, having apparently looked into supporting Caterham or even a Formula E team: “It was one of those situations that needed more time to understand everything, so it seemed too late, with no realistic possibility of reviving the team”, he said. “It was ironic that after making it through a hard first five years, claiming ninth in last year’s championship and reaching the first rung of financial stability – if there is such a thing in Formula One – it seemed like too good a story to end there.” Indeed, his investment plus the extra £30m or so of prize money from Marussia finishing ninth in the Constructor’s standings in 2014, means the team will have a budget of about £60m for 2015, and will not be reliant on sponsorship. Former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King has also joined as interim chairman.
The question now is what Manor can achieve with a year-old car, one that was already well off the ultimate pace towards the end of last season. The modified MR03 still needs to pass necessary FIA crash tests before it can race, and considering the advancements the other teams have made during testing there is no guarantee the Manors will get within 107% of the poletime to qualify in the first race in Australia. Still, Manor’s remaining crewmembers and new investors deserve kudos for making the best of what was a very sad and messy end to Marussia in 2014.