We are back from our festive break in which we have managed to move to the other side of the world where the sun is shining, the coffee is great and the accents are hilarious. We will now be based out of New Zealand so lets hope the time difference does not get in the way of reporting what will be a crucial few months for the team.
One of the most frequent questions we have been receiving on social media pertains the the on going sale of the team. We are not embarrassed to say that at this precise moment we have no idea what is going on, mainly because worryingly, we are not sure the team seems to know that much at the moment.
It now seems a long time ago now that in Abu Dhabi, Manor team boss Stephen Fitzpatrick said that “We have agreed terms with an investor at the moment and we are still working through that and I can’t really talk more about the specifics”.
Before the Christmas break after a few nudges from those in the know, this very blog proclaimed that the mystery investor that Fitzgerald was referring to was Texan Tavo Hellmund whom has long been linked with a purchase of the team. We still believe that at the time of writing that article that he was indeed about to purchase the team. However, it is clear that something changed shortly after when it became clear that other interested parties were told they could re-enter the bidding process.
Shortly before Christmas F1 blogger Matt Somerfield claimed on his blog that the deal had been reached. While not discounting the involvement of Hellmund he stated that a consortium with ties to the Asian market and several GP2 drivers are behind the purchase. This was a bold claim for someone who normally only writes on technical aspects of F1 to make. Furthermore, subsequent reports from other media outlets suggested that the mystery Asian involvement was from non other than Jagonya Ayam – the Indonesian division of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Jagonya had entered into a partnership with Team Campos who raced Indonesian Sean Gelael in its GP2 team last season. Presumably, Gelael would have became the teams reserve driver until he had gained enough points to gain a super license and would have eventually became a full time driver for the team. However, these reports were quickly denied by all party’s concerned in Indonesia. We are still not quite sure what to make of these claims.
The sale of the team went very quiet over the Christmas period but the latest word is that the favourite to buy the team is former team owner Graeme Lowdon, who is part of a consortium which includes former McLaren CEO Ron Dennis. We must admit that we rolled our eyes when we first read reports of Dennis’s interest in the team and thought it would be a case of people adding 1+1 together and getting 3 but it now appears that there may be some foundation in the rumour.
Personally, I hope he is involved in some way with the purchase of the team. If for for no other reason as it is never dull with Ron around! He has something to prove after he was unceremoniously dropped by McLaren. He has decades of know how on how to run a F1 team and would not get involved simply for the team to sit at the back of the grid. Dennis is the classic “brand multiplier” that potentially allows for a relatively low entry with the potential of high returns on a future sale of the team to other investors. He may not have the hundreds of millions of pound in his bank that are required to move Manor up the grid but I imagine he certainly has working relationships with those who have.
With Honda rumoured to be looking for a second team to supply engines to for the 2018 season and the seemingly loosening of the ties in the Mercedes and Manor relationship you would have to bet that any Dennis involvement in the deal will also mean Honda engines in the back of the MRT given his long relationship with the Japanese manufacturer.
One thing we do know for sure is that as every day goes by without a new owner it is harming the teams chances of building on what on the whole was a big step forward in 2016. Sauber did finish ahead of Manor in the Constructors Championship but come the end of the season the teams were closely matched. Whilst Swiss based team have had financial issues of its own and will be running a 2016 engine in their car next season, at least it knows what it has to work with and who will be driving the car. Without a new owner and set plans for the short and medium term, the gap between the two team will get bigger by the day.
Finally, Happy New Year from all the team at Manor Racing Fan Blog. Fingers crossed it is a good one for our beloved little team. However, we are going to have to get some good news soon if that is to be the case.