Marussia – or as its company name of Manor Grand Prix Racing Ltd. as team Manor F1 Team – may yet make the Formula 1 grid for the 2015 season.
The process for Marussia to return would require it leaving administration, which it was placed into in October last year, just before the United States Grand Prix at Austin. This is possible to happen by February 19, as outlined by administrators FRP Advisory.
A press release issued this morning by FRP joint administrator and partner Geoff Rowley and noted by several outlets, including NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton’s blog, reads in part as follows:
“It is envisaged that, prior to the commencement of the first race of the 2015 season, investment into the business will be made upon the Company exiting from administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (“CVA”), which is planned for 19 February 2015. A CVA is a restructuring process agreed with the Company’s creditors which allows for a turnaround of the business and the creation of a longer term viable solution for the team.
“Given the confidential nature of the negotiations underway we are unable to provide further details.
“The joint administrators would like on behalf of Marussia F1 Team to thank all involved with the team for their support during this process.”
There are still hurdles for Marussia to overcome even assuming the company exits administration at that date.
The car itself is a question mark. Marussia had a December auction, and a second one in January was stopped at the last minute due to talks with a possible new investor that could save the team. Even so, a 2014 car, as Buxton reports, would need to be the stopgap measure and would still require support from the rest of the grid. Per BBC’s Andrew Benson, a rule making strategy group meeting on Thursday (February 5) would likely determine if this is a feasible route.
Then, there’s the matter of where the team would work out of. A report emerged last month that the new Haas F1 Team had bought Marussia’s factory in Banbury, and while Gene Haas didn’t explicity confirm that purchase when providing a team update during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte last week, he didn’t outright deny it either.
Drivers and crew are also needed – obviously – if other hurdles can be green lighted. And this is where Buxton has more insight, with his blog noting neither McLaren nor Ferrari would be overly keen on assisting on that front given their own respective objectives.
“Dealing with a B Team… if under the existing agreements with FOM we are obliged to run a third car we will almost definitely run it ourselves, no question,” McLaren’s Ron Dennis told Buxton at the team’s car launch last month. “If a third car is 50% wrong then two cars would be 100% wrong. You do not want to run a B Team. It is not what Formula 1 is about and it’s certainly not what we are about.”
That leaves Max Chilton, who has just recently tested for Trevor Carlin’s new Indy Lights program in Florida and is in the process of starting a new career Stateside after nearly two full years with Marussia. Crucially, he has not been confirmed to drive for Carlin as yet, but the team release and information there outlines a clear focus on the North American racing side of the equation, and not F1.
It will also, of course, come down to investment – and whether there is enough funding available to bring the team back to the grid. Per Buxton, payments would need to come through in part via the money generated by the team’s ninth place finish in the 2014 Constructor’s Championship, which are paid in segments throughout the following year rather than in a one-time lump sump.
Hopes of Marussia remain just that for the moment, but could evolve depending on the aforementioned meeting on Thursday and whether that can get the ball rolling.