Yesterday delivered the news that we had began to fear over the past few weeks. Manor Racing is in a dire situation and may not recover from this.
Earlier this week we posted a blog that questioned if the team were ever going to find a buyer. We suspected that we already knew the answer to that question but felt it was not fair to those who work for the team to scaremonger without knowing the full facts.
In a previous life I worked in the City, primarily dealing with listed companies which had gone in the administration. The story was always the same, lack of credit, failure to find a new buyer, administration and more often than not a liquidation process which can leave creditors waiting years for a fraction of what they were owed. The writing was on the wall for a while in our opinion regardless what others were telling us.
This blog has been full of praise for the current team owner Steven Fitzpatrick and the way he had guided the team to its most competitive season yet. Whilst we fully appreciate that it is his money that has kept the team afloat and we don’t blame him for a drawing a line in the sand as to where his losses stop we feel he has let himself down by the way he has conducted his business in the past few months.
Take this statement made during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, where he claimed that losing 10th place in the Championship standings costing the team crucial commercial rights incomes that it would have received as a top ten team.
“Not a deal-break,” he said. “It doesn’t help financially but the terms of our agreement have been..re-finalised, lets say. It was clear 10th place with one point on the board with two races left, that there are lots of scenarios and you plan for those in advance.”
Now lets look at the statement from Fitzpatrick published on the Manor website confirming the team were indeed being put into administration.
“For much of the season we were on track. But the dramatic race in Brazil ended our hopes of this result and ultimately brought into doubt the team’s ability to race in 2017.”
A clear contradiction which has misled thousands of fans and hundreds of employee’s. It’s his money and he is entitled to do with it as he likes but as a business man I am not sure he is to be trusted going forward. We understand that the news of the teams impending administration was leaked by the top brass of the team to the press before staff were informed. Yes that is correct, team members found out about potentially losing their jobs through Sky News. Does that strike you as good leadership?
So where do things currently stand? It has became clear that potential investors have seen the books and the progress of next years car and are not convinced it will make it to the grid on time. We have been informed that is the reason given for the reported Asian investment that was mentioned before Christmas fell through.
If that is the case, the situation is much worse than anyone had ever let on. The team have literally came back from the dead once before in 2015. However, there will be significant rule changes in place for 2017 so it won’t be a case of just patching on a few updates onto last years car like they did in 2015.
The way we see things at the moment is that at best, Manor have a very small chance of being rescued. They won’t be at testing and the MRT06 will be very fortunate if it completing its first lap in anger in FP3 in Melbourne. It’s 2015 all over again. We may spend the year miles off the pace but we can live with that if it means that 200 people remain in a job and the team yet again lives to fight another day.
It’s a terrible state of affairs for the team to find itself in. Our sympathy lies not with the top brass who have not covered themselves in glory in the past few months, but with the Manor staff and family at the factory for whom many have been through this before.
It is also yet another of what a terrible state of affairs F1 in general is in. A global sport with an audience of 400 million and valued at 8 billion dollars – but cannot support 11 teams nor come to an arrangement that allows a team that was shown to be on the pace and scored a legit point and broke into Q2 several times. The fact that Manor fielded two younger drivers, both of whom the current World Champions believe one day will be World Champions will just be allowed to die with no thought given to the important role that minnows play in F1 just pretty much sums the current governance of the sport up. F1 needs the little guys.
This is a terrible time for fans and team members alike. We fear things won’t get better until it gets worse but no matter what happens the people back at the factory should be extremely proud of their efforts over 2016 and if the team do disappear, the staff back at Banbury can more than hold their heads up high.