The Manor Marussia F1 Team has given the strongest possible sign that it intends to move off the back of the grid by announcing a number of big-name signings to its technical teams.

Former Toro Rosso chief designer Luca Furbatto has joined the team as its new Head of Design, reporting to Technical Director, John McQuilliam. A former graduate of mechanical engineering graduate from the celebrated Politecnico di Torino, Furbatto was the designer of the last three Toro Rosso racers. The Italian has extensive experience in Formula 1 with past stints at McLaren (2001-2011), Toyota (2000) and British American Racing (1998-1999).

Furbatto’s position at Toro Rosso was claimed by former Mercedes designer Andy LeFleming.

Another big signing to the Manor Marussia team’s roster is that of Gianluca Pisanello, who joins as the team’s Chief Engineer. Pisanello formerly headed up engineering operations at the now-defunct Caterham F1 Team, having moved across with Mike Gascoyne from Toyota.

Undoubtedly the team’s biggest signing is that of Bob Bell, who joins as a technical consultant for the remainder of the season. Bell’s reputation needs little explanation: he spent 15 years at McLaren before joining Renault and becoming its Technical Director in 2003. The French team won back-to-back World Championship titles under his leadership in 2005-6, and he was promoted to Acting Team Principal after the ‘Crashgate’ scandal broke in late 2009. He was subsequently appointed to the role of Managing Director before moving across to Mercedes, where he assumed a Technical Director role until the arrival of Paddy Lowe.

One line of thought for Bell’s role being consultancy-based is that he is hotly tipped to head Renault’s return to Formula 1 as a constructor, should it successfully negotiate the takeover of the Lotus F1 Team.

Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team and Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team; Graeme Lowdon, Manor F1 Team Chief Executive Officer and John Booth, Manor F1 Team Team Principal, as the team reveal airbnb as sponsors

Merhi was on hand with teammate Will Stevens as well as John Booth (Team Principal) and Graeme Lowdon (CEO) to unveil Airbnb as a team sponsor.

In other news, the team has confirmed that Spanish rookie Roberto Merhi will remain on the team’s driving roster at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. The 24-year-old was a last-minute signing to the reborn team ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and was expected to race in the “opening rounds” of the season until a driver with better funding could be found.

After beating teammate Will Stevens on merit for the first time this season at the preceding Monaco Grand Prix, Merhi will stay with the team for another weekend.

“I’m looking forward to Canada, as the track looks pretty challenging but also a lot of fun. The mix of long straights and slow sections is interesting and I know the weather can play a big part in mixing things up a bit,” he said ahead of this weekend’s race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Merhi was on hand in the paddock on Thursday where the team also unveiled its first proper sponsor in the form of Airbnb, the online hospitality exchange service provider. The California-based company will carry its logos on the engine cover of the team’s cars at this weekend’s race in Montreal.

Image via XPB Images

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Geoff Burke

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