Manor’s season of progress has a sting in the tail

2016 F1 season review

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Manor made a huge leap forward in 2016 but their season ended on a slightly sour note as they fell to last in the constructors’ championship with two races to go.

Having almost disappeared from F1 entirely at the end of 2014 the team spent the following season in a kind of limbo, plodding along with their old chassis and an outdated Ferrari engine. But for 2016 a new chassis and a switch to the latest-specification Mercedes hardware propelled them into the midfield.

Manor team stats 2016

Best race result (number)10 (1)
Best grid position (number) 12 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 3 (1/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,167 (85.38%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2015)11 (10)
Championship points (2015)1 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking11

Manor slashed their average deficit to the next-slowest car from almost 3.5% to under 0.3%. That was close enough for them to regularly race the likes of Sauber and Renault. At tracks which particularly suited the MRT05 the team could even target the points.

“There’s been a lot of work gone in,” explained owner Stephen Fitzpatrick. “We’ve really built up the resources of the team this year, we’ve moved to a great new facility; the wind tunnel facility at Mercedes and that’s led to a big step forwards in our aerodynamic development.”

At the Red Bull Ring the stars aligned. This was one of few circuits Pascal Wehrlein already knew from his DTM career and he put the knowledge to excellent effect, qualifying twelfth and snatching the final point, elevating the team ahead of Sauber in the championship.

As well as being significantly quicker, Manor also enjoyed much better reliability. Austria was their only score of the season but Esteban Ocon (who replaced journeyman Rio Haryanto at mid-season) came within two laps of adding more at the soaked Brazilian Grand Prix.

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The Red Bull Ring payday allowed Manor to broaden their horizons. “I gave the team quite clear instructions this year they were to focus as much of their efforts as possibly on the 2016 programme until we were able to put some points on the board and try to secure tenth place,” said Fitzpatrick. “From Austria onwards the team have been working exclusively on the 2017 programme.”

But in the second half of the season Sauber became a growing threat and at Interlagos Felipe Nasr took ninth place. That knocked Manor out of the championship top ten – a development which potentially cost them millions of pounds in prize money.

Fitzpatrick admitted that was a “real disappointment” for the team. “I think they’ve worked incredibly hard for the last 18 months since the start of last season without much reward and it looked like we were heading for a tenth-place finish which was a big step forward for us.”

It was a poorly timed development with a potential new investor waiting in the wings. However Fitzpatrick said finishing last in the championship was “not a deal breaker” for the talks.

“One of the things I was quite clear on, right from the start, was that I accepted that in the current F1, money equals performance, so anything that was going to bring more funding to the team and help the team develop and progress I was very open and if that meant bringing another investor, even a majority investor, that was something I was happy to do.”

Fitzpatrick said the team have “agreed terms with an investor” but final confirmation of the deal has not yet appeared.

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Author information

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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9 comments on “Manor’s season of progress has a sting in the tail”

  1. It’s been a long time coming, but Manor are finally looking like a proper Grand Prix team. The partnership with Mercedes makes perfect sense as they get the best engine available and (this season at least) two talented drivers with huge potential. The Wehrlein/Ocon partnership is far preferable to, say, Haryanto/Stevens.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here. I think they’re on the up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more points next season, and to see them regularly ahead of Sauber and maybe a few more teams (Haas?, Williams?).

    Of course it’s a kick in the teeth to lose the money for 10th place, but if it doesn’t kill them financially then “no harm done”!

  2. I think that the fact that Manor are talking about the positives is a massive barometer for F1 in general. They came last and lost big money as a result. But they still aren’t talking doom and gloom (and bankruptcy). F1 seems to have turned a corner for the better.

  3. I think the bad form of sauber and renault this year made marussia look better than they really were. Comparing to 2015 it looks like marussia kept its pace but sauber and especially renault dropped to slower levels. And it is not a good looking comparison for marussia. Renault had to scrap their car together in really short time frame and sauber is just broke. Almost catching up a dead donkey in a horse race is nothing to write home about.

    Before this season I expected marussia to pull out at the end of this year if they finish last. The new car for next year is a big undertaking. Maybe they pull out at the end of next year when they’ll finish last once again. They may have a scrap with sauber but I seriously doubt it. It would take massive streak of luck.

    Marussia has no real business being in f1. They are just too slow.

    1. Marussia had no business being in F1 but Manor do!

    2. @socksolid

      Comparing to 2015 it looks like marussia kept its pace but sauber and especially renault dropped to slower levels.

      Sorry mate, but that’s not quite true. Manor were literally uncompetitive in 2015, as in “unable to compete with anyone, ever.” In terms of qualifying performance, their gap to their closest rivals (McLaren/Sauber) was bigger than the gap that separated those teams from Mercedes.

      Let’s compare the best qualifying lap times from Abu Dhabi in 2015 and 2016:
      2015: 1:46.297 – 2016: 1:41.886 => improvement by 4.4 seconds (!!!)

      2015: 1:43.614 – 2016: 1:42.274 => improvement by 1.34 seconds

      2015: 1:42.807 – 2016: 1:41.775 => improvement by 1.03 seconds

      2015: 1:40.237 – 2016: 1:38.755 => improvement by 1.48 seconds

      So what does that tell us?
      – all teams were able to improve their lap times by at least 1 second
      – Mercedes, being the benchmark in 2015 and 2016, improved by roughly 1.5 seconds
      – Sauber and Lotus/Renault could therefore be argued to have gone (slightly) backwards
      – there’s no way Manor’s massive 4.4 seconds gain can be downplayed as “keeping their pace”. They’ve improved more than anyone else on the grid (in fact, Mercedes might be the team that improved the most, together with Red Bull, which is why it’d be somewhat unfair to say that they went backwards), by a huge margin.

      For a more global analysis and colourful curves, I can recommend this article, authored by Keith himself.

  4. Lets hope that there is both an infusion of money and at least equal driver talent next year. Certainly Ocan was a huge upgrade from his predecessor. His replacement needs to be of the same level if they are to compete with the next level of teams.
    BTW: Whats up with Mercedes seeming to be willing to let Pascal go to Sauber? A team with historic ties to Ferrari.

    1. Sauber do have historic ties with Mercedes too.

      1. @the-last-pope
        Yeah, but those ties were severed 20 years ago, and in F1 they never amounted to more than driving the Illmor-branded engine around until it was ready for McLaren.

        I wouldn’t call Sauber’s ties with Ferrari ‘historic’, since they came into existence only after Sauber parted ways with Mercedes. Sauber’s relationship with Ferrari is the present.

  5. Glad to see that somehow one of those three new teams back earlier in the decade have survived. Little did I know it would be Virgin/Marussia/Manor.

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