Caterham, Marussia discussed merger

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Marussia F1 Team sporting director Graham Lowdon has revealed to Sky Sports that the team held talks with fellow backmarkers Caterham over a possible merger during the off-season.

Bernie Ecclestone has made no secret of the fact that he would like the sport to have just ten teams, and with Marussia reportedly facing financial uncertainty, it would appear that the move was considered by both teams.

“I can confirm that discussions took place,” said Lowdon. “I wasn’t involved in them and as I understand it, the conclusion was unacceptable to our shareholders. So nothing happened.”

Although the talks broke down, Marussia are still confident of performing well this season, and their pace at last week’s Australian Grand Prix was highly impressive. Jules Bianchi finished one lap ahead of Caterham’s Charles Pic, displaying the true pace of the MR-02.

The team did however face a struggle to even arrive in Melbourne, having failed to sign the Concorde Agreement with F1 supremo Ecclestone. Therefore, passes for team personnel were withheld, making the weekend difficult for Marussia. Although they have not confirmed if they will sign the contract yet, Lowdon is confident that Marussia will continue to function despite Ecclestone’s rebuttal.

“We have sweated blood in this sport to build a team. We employ a lot of people and we have a huge fanbase. We are not giving up that easily, but each passing week makes us worry that we are deemed to have no place in this sport. We do not think that is the case.”

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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