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.”
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
- 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.