Mid-Season Review: Manor Marussia

The British love an underdog story and the nature of Formula 1 has provided plenty of David vs Goliath tales over the years. Manor’s mere appearance in Melbourne was one such triumph against adversity, as it followed not only Marussia’s fall into administration in October 2014, but also their failure in the eleventh hour of their bid to attend the 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi. Now running what is effectively their 2014 car, albeit modified to fit the 2015 regulations, Manor’s season is all about preparation for the future as they look to cement their place in the Formula 1 paddock.

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Timeline of the season so far

  • February 4th – Administrators announced that Manor Marussia would exit administration on the 19th February via a Company Voluntary Agreement.
  • February 6th – The team’s hopes of being granted permission to compete in the 2015 season were dashed after Force India voted against their entry on the grounds of safety in what was a controversial Strategy Group meeting. In order to make the grid, Manor were forced to make their 2014 package legal under the 2015 technical regulations.
  • February 25th – Briton Will Stevens was confirmed as a Manor driver for the season.
  • March 9th – Roberto Merhi was announced as the driver to partner Stevens in 2015.
  • June 1st – Former Renault and Mercedes Technical Director Bob Bell arrived at Manor as one of a number of key new appointments within the team’s technical squad.
  • June 6th – 2013 GP2 champion Fabio Leimer was announced as the team’s third driver and earned his first F1 outing at the Austrian Grand Prix in FP1.
  • July 18th – Former Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, passed away following injuries sustained in his accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Team Performance

Current Constructors Standing: 10th (0 points)

If points were awarded for dogged determination, Manor Marussia would be a threat to the sport’s elite. Of course, points potential is lap time limited and as such, it would require a chaotic race to give Manor an opportunity to score. Their approach, however, has been admirable, with their early gamble on the intermediate tyres giving both Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi an opportunity to snatch some points if a deluge did indeed fall. Unfortunately for them, the fortune did not land in their favour.

Ultimately, scoring points now takes less importance, given the demise of Caterham ensuring that Manor will secure a lucrative top ten finish, regardless of their performance this season. What the team are wary of is the arrival of Haas F1 in 2016 and the threat of being leapfrogged in the pecking order by F1’s new boys will motivate Manor to ensure that 2015 sees them prepare in the best possible manner for what could be a crucial upcoming campaign.

As Graeme Lowdon indicated in a recent interview with Autosport, “We are developing the next car. What I am happy about is the progress on it does look really good, so that gives everybody energy to push forward.” 

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Driver Performance

Roberto Merhi

Current Drivers Standings Position: 19th (0 points)

Best Finish: 12th (British GP)

Grade: C+

Will Stevens

Current Drivers Standings Position: 20th (0 points)

Best Finish: 13th (British GP)

Grade: C+

When the only reference point is the man on the opposite side of the garage, it is difficult to assess both Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens’ respective rookie campaigns. Certainly, Stevens hit the ground running, calling upon his experience gained driving for Caterham at Abu Dhabi in 2014 and out-qualified his teammate at the first four attempts. Consideration was, however, given to the fact that Merhi is both taller and heavier than Stevens which was partly attributable to the pace deficit.

Since beating Will in Monaco, Roberto has turned his season around meaning that at the mid-way point, he has drawn level in the internal duel. His endeavors are made more impressive by the fact that he is also competing in Formula Renault 3.5 concurrent with the F1 schedule, albeit his campaign in the junior category is yet to reach the heights of 2014, where he finished as runner-up to Carlos Sainz.

Mid-Season Assessment

B-

It would be unfair to judge Manor’s 2015 efforts based on their standing in the pecking order. Making it to the grid in 2015 was a huge achievement in itself and the B- grade takes into account their commercial work completed over the course of the past six months, as well as some key appointments to integral positions, which promise to pay dividend in the future. They may not make the loudest noise in the F1 paddock, but Manor have certainly come a long way in a short period of time, with brighter prospects on the horizon.

Image Credit: "British GP 5 July 2015, Silverstone 037" and "British GP 5 July 2015, Silverstone 024"
By Rob Dunckley (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0]
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