It has been quite a turbulent few months in the life of Manor Racing Team.
With constant speculation about the sale of the team, followed by the loss of 10th place in the flukiest of circumstances by a driver who it turns out may have inadvertently ended his own F1 career and two failed takeover bids, the team, yet again, slipped into administration.
It has left us yearning for the days where the season would end and it would be a long, boring few months in which we were reduced to getting excited at even the prospect of seeing a sneaky glance of a rear wing of a new car.
Also over the past few months it has become increasingly clear that responsibility comes with running a simple blog about everyones favourite F1 back-markers. We are constantly surprised by who reads this blog and honoured when they reach out to us.
Let me make this very clear, our number one concern is that the team finds a buyer to ensure that 200 odd hard-working and long-suffering staff back at base in Banbury have a job not only in the short-term but one that ensures long-term stability for all involved with the team.
I bring this up as I am increasingly aware that all the speculation that surrounds the team at the moment can’t be helping these people. We have it on very good authority that those on the ground floor have been kept in the dark by the current management to the point where they found out about the teams administration via Sky Sports News.
Mr Fitzpatrick has achieved much in his time with the team and we understand the predicament he finds himself in, but that is an unforgivable way for members of staff to find out about their employment situation.
It is with that in mind we have to confess that reading reports such as the one that came out of this blog back in November regarding Tavo Hellmund being a new investor in the team have probably not helped clarify the situation regarding the new ownership of the team.
At the time, the team’s situation was not publicly known to be as bad as it clearly is now and Mr Fitzpatrick himself claimed that the team were secure for 2017 and that a deal had been reached. In turn, we saw foresaw no issue in reporting some information we had been tipped off back at the USGP and which was then re-confirmed yet again to us at the time of our writing of that blog.
In our defence, more reputable and connected individuals than ourselves also reported what we believed to be a day or two later also. A deal was on the table but at the last minute Mr Fitzpatrick decided to open the bidding up and another investor came to the party. These things happen but we looked stupid nonetheless.
It was probably the same new investors that respected F1 blog ‘Somers F1’ reported in late December had agreed to buy the team. Given the detail he went into, his information was clearly given to him by someone credible and from within the team. That deal also collapsed at last minute.
Why are we telling you this? Well because we have been given some new information that suggests a takeover of Manor Racing is imminent and is in the final stages of completion. We have zero inside track on this deal and it like the other deals may fall through at the last minute. We pray this one gets over the line.
So here is what we know:
We believe that CGF a private equity firm in the U.K are in the final stages of purchasing Manor Race Team from Mr Stephen Fitzpatrick. Whilst they are the name and the funds behind the bid, it is spearheaded by an individual who at this time will remain nameless. CGF’s main activities are within the Asian market and we believe that if successful, Manor Racing will be given more of an Asian flavour going forward.
What we can say is that the spearhead figure is not who has been widely reported in the press and other outlets. We have it on good authority that the individual in question may be involved somehow in the background, but he has told a source close to us that any suggestion of further involvement such as team ownership or management is merely rumour. This is consistent with what the individual has already been on the record as saying, which appears to have been ignored by the usual copy-and-paste monkeys.
Other reports have suggested that factions close to Rio Haryanto are part of the bid and that he will return to the team in 2017. Whilst we understand that Haryanto may be part of the plans going forward neither he, his family, or his sponsors have anything to do with this deal. He is however, strategically important to the potential new owners.
After a run of terrible luck it appears that Rio just may very well be the man in the right place at the right time. If this comes off he will be one of the luckiest men alive. We can confirm that if he does indeed find himself in a Manor car for 2017 he will be doing so without any personal sponsorship from long term backer Pertamina.
Rio and his team are understandably playing their cards close to their chest but have told their inner circle that they are hopeful of reaching a deal if the takeover is complete. We can confirm talks have already taken place between the two parties.
We were hesitant to report our initial findings as whilst something was clearly going on, the deal made little sense to us. Multi-million pound fun d groups don’t tend to be vainglorious nor are they known for spending tens of millions of their money on something unless they see a way of making that money back and then some. To be a bit more blunt, we were at a loss as to how this could be achieved by buying Manor Race Team given its current catalogue of issues and it’s financial history.
Well, that has has changed in the past 24 hours with some helpful information coming our way which makes it very clear why CGF are keen to get on the F1 grid and why now is a good time. If the takeover it successful it will most certainly be an exciting time for the team and fans in a certain part of the world. This is a very ambitious strategy. CGF have the deep pockets required to successfully deliver on their plans and are going to have to be in it for the long run to see it come to fruition.
As we said above, we have no inside track on this, other than what our usually reliable sources from that part of the world tell us. This deal could very well fall to the wayside at the very last moment just like the two previous bids. We hope and pray it does not.
The departure of Bernie Eccelstone as F1’s chief executive may throw a last minute spanner in the works. Whilst Eccelstone has not shown much love for a team which he never wanted on the grid, we understand talks had already taken place with CGF and Eccelstone and he was supportive of the takeover.
However, Ross Brawn, one of the three men charged with replacing Eccelstone has recently been on record in saying that he believes F1 should find away to keep smaller teams on the grid and being a true racer himself we hope that he will pull out all the stops to do what he can to save Manor Racing. Moreover, do Liberty Media really want an F1 team being liquidated in the first few weeks of their regime?
We think not.