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Manor F1 enters administration as team faces collapse

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The Manor Formula 1 operation has entered administration for the second time in less than three years amid ongoing financial difficulties.

Manor missed the final three races of the 2014 season after a financial collapse, only to return in 2015 as Manor Racing under new ownership.

British energy executive Stephen Fitzpatrick has funded the team for the past two seasons, with 2016 arguably being Manor’s strongest F1 campaign to date since the first edition of the project debuted back in 2010.

However, Manor still ended the season bottom of the constructors’ championship after being overtaken by Sauber at the penultimate round, costing the team millions in prize money.

Fitzpatrick said over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend in November that talks were ongoing with an investor, understood to be American-Mexican businessman Tavo Hellmund, regarding a possible takeover.

It now appears that talks have broken down, with Sky News reporting on Friday morning that Manor is planning to enter administration, putting 200 jobs at risk.

The report states that employees at Manor’s base will be informed of developments on Friday, adding that the team is not currently able to afford to test for 2017. The first collective running is due to take place on February 27 in Barcelona.

Manor has not yet made any plans for the 2017 season public, although Wehrlein was expected to leave the team in favor of a move to Sauber, while Esteban Ocon, who raced for the team for the final nine races of the 2016 season, had already been confirmed at Force India for the new campaign.

The new F1 season will begin on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.

UPDATE – MANOR OFFICIALLY ENTERS ADMINISTRATION

Following the Sky News report early on Friday, FRP Advisory has now been appointed the joint administrators of Just Racing Services Ltd., the company that owns and operates Manor.

When contacted for comment by NBC Sports, FRP Advisory gave the following statement.

“The team has made significant progress under its new ownership since the start of 2015, the highlight of which included securing a constructors championship point in the preceding F1 season, but the position remains that operating a F1 team requires significant ongoing investment,” joint administrator Geoff Rowley said.

“During recent months, the senior management team has worked tirelessly to bring new investment to the team to secure its long term future, but regrettably has been unable to do so within the time available. Therefore, they have been left with no alternative but to place JRSL into administration.

“The joint administrators are currently assessing options for the Group.

“The 2017 season commences on 26 March in Melbourne, Australia, and the team’s participation will depend on the outcome of the administration process and any related negotiations with interested parties in what is a very limited window of opportunity.

“No redundancies have been made following JRSL’s entering into administration and all staff have been paid in full to the end of December.

“The ongoing staff position will however be dependent on whether new investment can be secured in the limited time available and the joint administrators will continue to review the ongoing financial position.

“Manor Grand Prix Racing Ltd, the sister company of JRSL, which has the rights for the team’s participation in F1 is not in administration.

“We remain highly focused on engaging with interested parties.”

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”