John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
4 minute read
1 May 2015
8:00 am

Hard times for F1 teams

John Floyd

With the break before moving to the start of European circuits, the situation regarding the financial status of several F1 teams remains a concern.

FINISHER. In Malaysia, Manor F1's Roberto Merhi finished 15th and the top teams sneered.

It is certainly an issue the authorities would love to eliminate.

Some teams are considered almost an embarrassment to the higher echelons, one in particular being Manor F1.

Regarded a minnow of the sport, the team has come in for criticism from F1 management and members of the elite corps known as the Strategy Group.

It has been said they have no place in the sport and that all the efforts to revive the team are purely an attempt to ensure they are paid the prize money they earned in the 2014 season.

That neither of their cars even took to the track in Australia was condemned by Bernie Ecclestone.

He stated it was obvious the team had no intention of racing and he would therefor bill them $2 million (R24 billion) for the return airfreight.

Strange, when the FIA officials had accepted the team’s reasons for not being able to compete …

Malaysia was a little better. At least Roberto Merhi took to the track, but the rumours were the team only had enough money to run one car and only had one engine control software package.

Merhi failed to meet the 107% qualifying time, but was allowed to race at the discretion of the stewards and finished 15th, three laps behind the winner.

At least the car finished, which is a better result than McLaren, with both cars failing to reach the chequered flag.

China was next up and despite being 19th and 20th on the grid, both Merhi and Will Stevens were well inside the required 107% ruling and went on to finish 15th and 16th – this time two laps down.

Bahrain saw a similar result for Manor – and let’s not forget this is a 2014 specification chassis and power unit.

So we have the so-called minnow managing to stay afloat despite all the destructive comments being made – but what short memories all those guilty of such diatribes must have.

Manor Motorsport was founded in 1990 by John Booth, a former Formula Ford racer, and Booth and his team certainly made their mark in the motorsport world.

The team promoted young drivers with great success in several race series, such as British F3 Formula Renault 2.0 UK, F3 Euroseries, GP3 Series and Formula Renault 2.0 UK Winter Series.

Employing divers such as Antonio Pizzonia, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Oliver Jarvis, Franck Mailleux, Marc Hines, Lucas di Grassi, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, Manor was a force to be reckoned with.

The Formula Renault UK title went to Pizzonia in 1999, Raikkonen in 2000, Hamilton in 2003 and Jarvis in 2005.

The Renault UK Winter Series was won by Raikkonen in 1999 and Mailleux in 2006. Hines took the 1999 Masters of Formula 3.

Entering the British F3 series in 1999 for the first time, Pizzonia took the championship with Hines, repeating the feat in 2000.In 2004 Hamilton won the Bahrain Super Prix and in 2005 Di Grassi took the Macau Grand Prix.

Manor joined the F1 circus in 2010 and was registered as Manor Grand Prix, but raced under their sponsor’s name, Virgin, utilising Cosworth engines. In 2011 a technical partnership was arranged with McLaren.

In 2012 Marussia Motors purchased a controlling interest and Manor became Marussia F1. In 2014, the Cosworth engine was replaced by one from Ferrari, but the sponsor’s financial position meant a decline for the team and finally liquidation.

Making a stand with the kind of determination missing in many involved in the sport, Manor are back on the grid. Any team that can nurture new talent and produce the results they have over the years deserves a place in F1.

With two world champions having been through the Manor experience – Raikkonen in 2007 and Hamilton in 2008 and again in 2014 – this is one minnow that perhaps has the potential to produce stars of the future.

Why those who hold the purse strings are so determined to eliminate the minnows is a mystery to me. The sport needs the innovation that made F1 the pinnacle of motorsport in past decades.

The new format seems to favour only corporate investment.

We are seeing financial problems for several teams. Most are obliged to accept young drivers on the grounds of sponsorship funding, not just ability.

Some are proving they deserve the seat, but if it comes down to how much they bring in, would we ever have seen the likes of Hamilton and Raikkonen making their mark in the sport?

We need more Manors.