Today brings the shocking and horrible news that Manor Racing have gone into administration. The news comes at a crucial time as F1 teams are readying themselves to begin pre-season testing for the 2017 season in February. This is very sad news as over 200 jobs are at risk if they don’t find a new buyer. I’m sure you have many questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Why has this happened?
Money, or lack thereof. Manor have reported that they had made a loss of around £11m in 2016. Now, that may not seem like that much in F1 terms but for a small independent team like Manor, it’s huge. They likely took a financial risk by over-spending on development of the car in the hope that it would get them a higher constructors championship position. And this worked… for a while.
The team was no doubt buzzing after Pascal Wehrlein crossed the line in Austria in a points position as it lifted them above Sauber and into 10th. Neither team scored a point for most of the rest of the season but then came Brazil…
Ocon of Manor and Nasr of Sauber spent much of the race in the points as a deluge made for a crazy race. Later on, normality seemed to be restoring itself as Ocon slipped out of the points. But Felipe Nasr came home in ninth place to elevate Sauber above Manor in the constructors table. This was disastrous for Manor as last place in the standings would gain them absolutely no prize money. Cheers Bernie.
If they had finished in tenth, then that £11m loss would likely have been turned into a several million-pound gain for the year. And it’s incredibly ironic how Felipe Nasr may be the one to send Manor out of existence when the Banbury outfit would’ve been his best chance to stay in the sport in 2017. Hindsight is a wonderful thing…
What does this mean for sport as a whole?
If Manor don’t return in 2017 then that would mean that the three new teams which joined in 2010 would all be gone from the sport. They were all enticed in with promises such as a year-on-year decrease in spending but instead costs skyrocketed. HRT folded in 2012 and Caterham followed suit in 2014. Manor themselves have also gone out of business, again in 2014, before Fitzpatrick revived the team from the ashes of Marussia (their previous guise).
This all means that potential teams will be put off joining the sport, as aside from Haas, there hasn’t been a successful independent team join the sport since Brawn in 2009. It’s also bad for the teams near the back of the grid as no sponsor wants to see their brand being shown off while being lapped by a Mercedes and at the rear of the field. So, the likes of Sauber could get less sponsorship money than what they currently do and this could be lethal further down the line.
What needs to be done to stop this happening again?
There’s no way to stop teams leaving the sport, manufacturers and businesses come and go, it’s the way it’s always been. But when new teams regularly can’t handle the high costs of the sport you know that there is a fundamental problem with the system. The easiest way to stop this from happening is to restructure the prize money awarded to teams. There is no way that a team should get no reward for completing a 21-race season across five continents, it’s just not sustainable.
Credit where it is due, though, the teams have agreed to reduce the cost of engines. But this only comes into effect for 2018 so no benefits will be seen until then.
Will Manor be back?
In some form or another? Maybe. As Manor? Almost certainly not.
Manor need to find a buyer for the team and if one is found then they will likely be re-branded (much like in 2015). It’s impossible to say whether they will find a new investor or not. They are an attractive outfit in that they will have Mercedes engines for 2017 but they no drivers and probably no car for the upcoming season. If there is light at the end of the tunnel I’m predicting a very tough year for Manor (or whatever they will be called) in 2017 as, at this rate, they probably won’t make pre-season testing.