Manor face fresh upheaval after surviving into 2015

2015 F1 season review

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Manor team stats 2015

Best race result (number) 12 (1)
Best grid position (number) 13 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 3 (2/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,911 (88.72%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2014) 10 (9)
Championship points (2014) 0 (4)
Pit stop performance ranking 10

For Manor, merely being on the grid in 2015 and lasting until the end of the season was an achievement after their 2014 campaign came to an early end.

“The staff were all made redundant on the 7th of November 2014 and things looked pretty bleak at that particular time,” recalled Graeme Lowdon. However the determination of those in charge of the team lead to an unlikely return. “Formula One racing teams are pretty precious things and something that deserves effort in making sure it continued,” he added. “Certainly my belief in the team at that stage never wavered once.”

After securing funding at the 11th-hour from businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick, Lowdon along with team principal John Booth faced a race against time to get the team back on its feet. The new championship was little more than two weeks away when their participation was first confirmed, and their full driver line-up was announced four days before practice started at Melbourne.

“We received a lot of help from Bernie Ecclestone in particular,” said Lowdon, “also from Jean Todt. Everybody involved in the governing side and the commercial rights side were entirely constructive during that whole period and the team wouldn’t have survived without that input.”

Manor tested the patience of FIA and FOM when it failed to run at all at Melbourne. Two weeks later in Malaysia the cars finally hit the track for the first time, though a fuel system problem kept Will Stevens from starting the race. Roberto Merhi did start and, astonishingly, reached the chequered flag.

He was three laps down, but little more could expected from a year-old car with a year-old Ferrari engine. Early in the season there was talk of them getting newer hardware later in the year, but with little realistically to be gained from doing so the plan was shelved. By the time the curtain fell on the season Stevens’ chassis (number two) was an unusually high mileage example of a Formula One car, having logged over 20,000 kilometres.

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Lowdon and Booth stood down from the team
It took the team until September to reassemble their staff (with a reduced headcount compared to the previous year) in their new premises. By then changes had been made on the driver line-up front as well with Alexander Rossi arriving for five races in place of Merhi and doing a solid job.

The team never lost sight of the fact that its survival into 2015 rested on the prize money it had secured the previous year. Tragically, the man who had delivered it with his brilliant drive in Monaco 12 months earlier passed away in July. The loss of Jules Bianchi was devastating for his many friends at the team, and prominent reminders of his loss were visible on the team’s car all season long.

As the end of the season approached the team’s management were optimistic about the progress they could make without the disruption of the previous off-season. “We have not had the benefit of being able to plan how we would correctly like to plan for the 2015 season,” said Lowdon. “We think we’re making the optimum decisions going forward.”

However a disagreement over the team’s future at the highest level led to the departures of Lowdon and Booth, along with recently recruited star technical director Bob Bell, formerly of Mercedes and Renault. A supply of current-specification Mercedes engines for next year promises to be their ticket into the midfield, but at the time of writing it is unclear who will provide the direction or drive the cars.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Manor face fresh upheaval after surviving into 2015”

  1. So far the team really is doing a great job of bringing us that feel of racers just barely hanging on but trying to make it work (like Minardi used to do). I really hope they manage to get a good chassis built around that mercedes engine and find decent drivers to have it fight the other teams for those last few rows and for places during the race.

    Apart from Stevens probably returning I haven’t heard much about their drivers – the usual rumours of Magnussen, Wehrlein, Ocon, Rossi, Haryanto (hm, he wouldn’t have a superlicence, would he?) etc. make the rounds. But really it will all be down on who brings how much to the table to fill up their budget hole for 2016.

    1. So far the team really is doing a great job of bringing us that feel of racers just barely hanging on but trying to make it work

      Not feeling it. They added about nothing to the 2015 season. 2014 up until Suzuka was great, with them taking points in Monaco etc. At that point there was indeed some feeling of the underdogs punching above their weight. But for me that feeling is long gone. Add to that the owner who just wants to make money, top management jumping ship, and a bunch of uninspired drivers and it’s a sad rather than inspiring story.

      1. @me4me

        Not feeling it. They added about nothing to the 2015 season.

        What did you expect, then? They went bankrupt last year, they were taken over by Manor, they had no new car and barely any money, they fitted a new nose on their existing chassis en kept last year’s engines. Of course they couldn’t improve on 2014 or even do the same as in 2014 – they were always going to have a hard year. It’s good to see they have survived 2015 and are now looking to the future.

        1. @mattds, I expected nothing from them, and nothing is what we’ve got. That said, 2016 has the potential to be much better for them, and therefor they should be in a better position to actually contribute to the show.

      2. Add to that the owner who just wants to make money

        Yes, because Formula One is a highly profitable venture for a team owner. Just ask Monisha Kaltenborn or Vijay Mallya.

        1. Kaltenborn isn’t the owner of Sauber.
          As for the money making, Fitzpatrick got the team out of administration for a relatively small fee, survived the season on sponsors and FOM money, and barely invested any of his own. If and when he sells, he will make a massive profit. That is the money making part.

          1. From what I read Sauber ownership is 2/3 peter Sauber and 1/3 Monisha Kaltenborn.

      3. Apex Assassin
        10th December 2015, 0:10

        Rossi was uninspired? Do you even watch or just talk?

        I doubt very much the loss of Lowndon, Booth, and Bell can be easily rectified. That said if they do indeed show up on the grid in 2016 with a car they’ve tested (lol, even if it’s the 2015B-spec that was never used) with a 2016 Mercedes power unit and 2016 Williams gearbox and suspension then they’ll be miles ahead of where they were this season. That’s a lot of “ifs”. A lot!

        I’d expect to see Lance Stroll there in 2017 if the team still exists and they are still in a technical partnership with Williams.

    2. You guys said it @bascb and @mattds. Let’s hope they can fight at least one team next year!

  2. Manor certainly have the potential for some strong results in 2016 (as does any team with a modern Mercedes PU), but for them to be taken seriously, they really need to get two decent drivers in there and some strong names in the key positions.

    Unfortunately the names I’ve seen thrown about would come up with a very weak combination of drivers I feel, perhaps only slightly stronger than Renault’s pair (should both be retained). That is unless they somehow manage to stick a combination of any two of Vandoorne, Ocon, Rowland or Magnussen in of course, but that looks highly unlikely.

    As for the key staff in other areas, I am unsure regarding who would suit the roles vacated by Lowden and Booth. I’ve seen Alex Wurz’s name thrown around, but I don’t think the timing is right for him. I wonder whether Renault will be doing any substantial reshuffling straight away and whether some names from there could end up at Manor.

    1. Wurz said no to the role actually @craig-o.

  3. Chris Ghanime
    9th December 2015, 15:43

    Wurz actually refused the position. I think it would be fun to see Mansell or even Jacques Villenevue at the helm lol. I hope they have some success next season. As for drivers they should get someone with some experience like Jean Eric Vergne or Buemi.

  4. Keisoglou Alexandros (@)
    9th December 2015, 16:25

    Reading this article made me remember the same thought that had crossed my mind the day Bianchi passed away.

    This is a team, maybe THE team, who, of all on the grid, has the burning flame and desire for success. They have been through so many things, faced so much unfavourable odds, that they deserve massive respect just for keep racing.

    Think about it. The three bottom teams signed in to compete in F1 in the first place, with their only hope being the engine cap cost – which never happended. This left them hanging dry in the air, and an air of uncertainty has surrounded them ever since. Marussia spend 3 years in limbo, barely able to scrape with HRT. Timo Glock was their biggest hope, and he left in 2012. The team looked likely to collapse, as HRT’s folding only increased this likelihood.

    Then, a young, fresh and hugely talented Frenchman, going by the name of Jules Bianchi, came into the scene. He was a Ferrari protege, the biggest name in their young driver’s academy. Jules was very quick in 2013, and his teammate, Max Chilton was a very safe pair of hands. For once, Marussia had a solid season in F1.

    Then, in a warm May afternoon, at the Monaco coastline, Jules Bianchi scored points for the team. This, as EJ said, “brought them of age”. Things were looking bright, as the team kept beating Caterham all season long. But on the Japanese Grand Prix, we all know the tragedy that hit them next. The world was shocked… Rest In Peace, Jules.
    2014 ended with Marussia collapsing. But somehow, on early 2015, a new hope came. Marussia rose, once again, “like a phoenix”, and showed up in the Australian practice sessions.

    Their story reminds me of Brawn GP’s. More than anyother team, i thing Marussia [i] deserve [/i] a shot at victory. They have showed tremendous passion, have recovered from uncountered hits, lost their finest boy, carried on a weight almost too much for them (competing in F1), but they still go on.

    They have earned it.

    1. +1

      #ForzaManor !

  5. I can only be nervous about whatever it was that made Lowdon, Booth and Bell walk out.

  6. Really upset that Lowdon and Booth have gone, they ARE Manor… Also quite astonished by the longevity of Steven’s chassis, which I assume was Chilton’s last year. Anybody know how many MR03s were produced? I always wondered if they had a spare one this year…

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