There it goes. The 2016 season has come and gone, and now we wait (patiently) for the next season where we are optimistic that Manor would move up from the back of the grid. It is to our belief that even though according to the official F1 standings, we lie 11th and last out of all constructor teams, Manor has also been one of the most-improved teams this year, and we’d dare say alongside Red Bull and McLaren-Honda. However, this opinion of ours is mostly not shared by many mainstream media, one of which was Paul Weaver’s very own End-of-Season Report, which also stated that Rio Haryanto was his pick for the worst driver of the season. Though it was not stated directly, it was implied so when he stated that:
Ferrari. No, not Manor, or Sauber, who were never going to achieve much with their limited resources.”
Mr Weaver seemed to suggest that Manor, Sauber and Ferrari were in contention for the worst team of the season, and that we were spared the blushes due to our ‘limited resources’. However, the team here at Manor Racing Team Fan Blog thinks otherwise. One needs to only look at the lap timings we did at any track last year and compare to this year to realise that we had made huge leaps and bounds. To use the 2015 and 2016 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying results as an example:
2015 Belgian Grand Prix
2016 Belgian Grand Prix
(Information from Wikipedia)
Where Merhi trailed the pole sitter Hamilton by a gap of 5.092 seconds, Ocon was behind Rosberg by only 2.306 seconds, a gap that was cut by 2.786 seconds, which is admittedly large in the F1 world. This holds testament to the huge amount of work that the team has put in between 2015 and 2016 to make Manor competitive again, and if this pace of development goes on, the team could move up the grid next season and be constant overachievers soon, like the Force India we know today.
One of the reasons why our beloved Banbury-based team has improved so much over this year is its shrewd administration appointment. Recruiting Nicholas Tombazis and Pat Fry, which you would remember as former Ferrari aerodynamicists and engineers respectively, as Manor’s Chief Aerodynamicist and Engineering Consultant was only going to bring the team experience and skills that were needed to bring the team forward. Together with the recruitment of Thomas Mayer from Renault and Dave Ryan as Racing Director, the large-scale changes at the team in just one year meant that the team was prepared for the 2016 season despite it only exiting administration a while back in 2015. A reason to be optimistic for next year is that Tombazis and Fry, who were employed only in January and hence had less influence on the car, would have more input in the 2017 car, which coupled with the Mercedes engines would move us up the grid.
The most significant change from 2015 to 2016 was the change from year-old Ferrari engines to the latest 2016 spec Mercedes engines. What was particularly pleasing to hear this season was when K Mag said “There’s no way I’m going to get past him, He’s like a rocket on the straights,” regarding the Manor in the Bahrain Grand Prix. The new engines, which came at a discount as we took Pascal into our driver ranks, was said to shave off 1-2 seconds per lap. Not only did we get a rapidly rising talent, we also got the engines that the front-runners such as Force India and Williams were using. That’s shrewd business strategy for you.
The colour change to orange, white and blue was also most pleasing, with the blog team here often reading comments that the car was one of the best designed on the paddock.
Having an engine discount and a talent in Pascal Wehrlein whom many touted as a future heir to a Mercedes race seat was always going to be a win-win situation for Manor. This was again highlighted by Pascal’s 5-time entrance into Q2 this season, which is a best for the team. Pascal’s 10th position in Austria where he nearly caught up with the Williams of Bottas also helped the team to clinch 10th place in the constructors’ standings, only to lose it in Brazil when the Sauber of Nasr took a 9th place in the rain-soaked Interlagos track. At this point of writing, Mercedes’ second driver following Rosberg’s retirement has not been confirmed, with Pascal potentially moving to pair up with Hamilton (though Bottas of Williams is touted as the most likely driver to replace Hamilton). Pascal has also been linked with a move to Sauber, which may not make much sense to his career and certainly a few rungs below Force India or Williams, which are also Mercedes-powered. We are sure that Ocon being able to secure a higher-level drive than Pascal would have demoralized him, and Pascal would also not have been particularly pleased with widely spread claims on news media that he was difficult to work with. We urge Pascal to bide his time and seize at every opportunity to prove his detractors wrong.
Rio Haryanto, whom Manor has the privilege of having as the 1st Indonesian driver to grace F1, is a very divisive character within and outside Manor’s fan base. Outside Manor, he is often touted as the worst driver of the 2016 lineup, as evidenced by Mr Weaver’s End-of-Season report. This comes despite Rio out-qualifying Pascal 5 times, and having less experience than Pascal as the latter is also Mercedes’ reserve driver, and had time in post-2014 F1 cars. Rio’s last stint in a F1 car was way back in 2010 when he worked as a test driver for Virgin Racing, and in the light of this, Rio definitely had a steeper learning curve than his German counterpart. Rio in fact started to get up to speed as the season went on, and the team here at the blog have been considering how Rio would have fared had he kept his seat to the end of the season. We would very much like Rio to be given a second shot at racing for Manor, which is still very possible since he is still a reserve driver at the team.
Finally, we have Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman whom to us feels like a journeyman whom had stopped for a rest at a tavern. Ocon’s first race for Manor was at the Belgian Grand Prix, and now after 9 races he will be switching to Force India. Ocon was also like Rio – he got better as the season went on, even finishing ahead of Wehrlein in the Japan, Brazil and Abu Dhabi Grand Prixs. Ocon was also two laps away from finishing in the points in Interlagos, which would have kept us ahead of Sauber, however, it was not meant to be. In fact, Ocon’s stint at Manor was so short, even Codemasters, developer for the annual official F1 games, didn’t create an in-game face for him, and didn’t even bother to update the driver roster, leaving F1 gamers to continue to have Rio in the game despite Rio being demoted. It is fair to say that we did not manage to fully see Ocon’s full potential at Manor, and instead, we have to keep tabs when he moves to Force India. We wish Ocon the very best in his move to Force India.
For an in-depth article on our views about the publicity aspect of our beloved team this season, we suggest you head over here and have a good read.
It certainly has been a roller-coaster ride through the 2016 season, where we had our fair share of ups and downs. Though we may have (marginally) come last in the constructors’ championship, things are not as bleak as the previous seasons. In fact, there are lots to be optimistic about as we head into the new season, such as whether we would be able to keep up with our impressive rate of improvement and how we would be able to use the 2017 rule changes to our advantage.
Up the smallest, but sexiest team on the grid, Manor.