An eleventh-hour bid to rescue the remains of the Marussia F1 Team looks to have been thwarted at one of the first hurdles, with the F1 Strategy Group voting to block the return of the team unless it can build 2015-spec cars.
The sudden revival of the project came via an announcement from the Manor group – the outfit which operated the Marussia team – that its administrators, FRP Advisory, would seek to end the team’s administration on February 19. The team had entered administration in October and missed the final three races of the 2014 season; it was eventually estimated that the team’s total debts amounted to almost $300 million.
The team was entitled to a prize fund payment of about $53 million as a result of finishing ninth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship standings, but it would only earn the money if it appeared on the grid in 2015; should the team fail to do so, then the money gets allocated back into the overall pool.
As was shown repeatedly over the course of 2014, rival F1 teams are inherently selfish and there was little reason not to expect a repeat dose when it came to the Strategy Group. The remaining teams stood to gain from sharing Marussia’s money between them, and there was a chance that some would vote against the idea of letting the team fight on.
The Strategy Group comprises the top-six constructor teams, and a request of this nature would be considered a ‘rule change’ whereby unanimous support would be needed before it would be sent to the F1 Commission and the FIA for sign-off. When put to the vote, the Force India team – the first to vote in the bloc of teams – put its foot down and scuppered the bid.
“Marussia have an obligation to put in a proposal to the F1 Commission and F1 Strategy Groups to be able to demonstrate that they can deliver a programme for 2015,” Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Sky Sports.
“They’re asking for dispensation in terms of running a 2014 car prior to switching over a 2015 car and in that should be all the details of what is going on.
“The reality is that absolutely no documentation was provided whatsoever. Even the process that was used in terms of the letter that was sent in was not compliant. It should be sent by the administrators and it was sent by one of the former directors of Marussia.
“So, while it’s a very emotional subject, it also has to go through compliance and due diligence and it couldn’t go through either of those.”
If that’s the case, Fernley’s response makes sense. With each team being allowed to miss three Grands Prix a season, that means that the team would have until the Bahrain Grand Prix in mid-April to appear. Even that deadline is massively tight: the team has next to no staff and much of its equipment – and factory – were sold to aspiring F1 team owner Gene Haas at a song when the team was under administration.
What was even more interesting were the denials from the Manor camp, who claimed they are yet to many any sort of application to the Strategy Group.
“I was surprised to hear some of the comments made today, particularly regarding an application we were said to have made to yesterday’s meeting, which I can confirm was not the case,” said Graeme Lowdon, a representative from the team.
“We did make a request on December 17 last year and we have been working since to satisfy the requirements subsequently communicated to us, specifically complying with all the regulations, aside from the exempted articles.
“We did not make any application to [the] Strategy Group meeting and nor were we asked to. Instead, we are proceeding with our clear process regarding compliance and building our operation.
“We are doing everything possible to adhere to the process set out for us to return to the 2015 grid. This is a fantastic good news story for the whole sport and we just want to go racing.”
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