Well, that soggy Sunday in Brazil has had some ramifications. Following a meeting of employees at the Banbury base on Friday morning, Manor Racing have once again been placed into administration. Once again, they will need to initiate a great escape if they are to make the grid in Melbourne.
It’s a stark reminder of how F1’s small teams are feeling the pinch under the current regulations.
Manor have been in this scenario before. At the end of the 2014 season, both they and Caterham fell into administration. Manor managed to perform an escape Houdini would have admired, albeit running a 2014 specification car in 2015 and having to revive what was merely a skeleton of the former outfit. Caterham did not make it out of the mire.
As OVO Energy’s Steven Fitzpatrick purchased the team at the close of 2015 campaign, Manor were on the up. Indeed, their 2016 package was arguably the most competitive the Banbury squad had ever fielded. Pascal Wehrlein’s five Q2 appearances and point in Austria are fine forms of evidence.
Hardly surprising given that the likes of Pat Fry, Dave Ryan and an admittedly brief input by Bob Bell all contributed to the campaign.
However, losing out on tenth place in the Constructors’ championship was a dagger to Manor’s future. The current prize money structure is brutal, in that only the top ten teams receive the column 1 and 2 payments.
Without wanting to perform too many mental gymnastics, it basically means that whoever finishes eleventh is frozen out of prize money altogether. Column 3 means that FOM pay a measley $10 million as a ‘reward’ for participation and that is it. Manor exclusively occupy this column.
As such, when Felipe Nasr broke Banbury hearts in Brazil, that could well have been THE pivotal moment. It’s impossible to know all the moves that were played in the boardroom chess since that race, but a sensible train of thought would link Manor’s lack of prize money to the fact that the supposed buyer of the team never materialised, which in turn, likely led to today’s events.
F1’s flaws are what have dumped a popular little team into the mire for a second time. And that’s a chronic problem. What businessman would now consider Manor a viable investment opportunity when you consider that they have slipped into administration twice in as many years?
F1 needs the independent teams to thrive. What would happen if Sir Frank Williams or Bruce McLaren entered the circus today?
Without David, Goliath doesn’t have a story…