Kurt Verlin
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Formula 1 Expansion Dreams Die with Manor Racing Bankruptcy

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Manor F1 - Pascal Wehrlein

Pascal Wehrlein racing a Manor, which is not returning in 2017
Photo: Jen_ross83

Last week, I briefly mentioned that if Pascal Wehrlein felt aggrieved for not getting Nico Rosberg’s seat at Mercedes, he should at least feel relief in knowing he has a Formula 1 seat at all for the upcoming season—the reason being that Manor Racing, his old team, may not even be around this year.

It was just speculation at the time, but it has unfortunately come true. Manor Racing entered bankruptcy protection earlier this month and was on the verge of collapse, but there was still hope that the team would find new investors to take over—indeed, there were interested parties, supposedly including an Asian consortium.

However, no buyer came forward in time and thus Manor Racing exists no more. Nearly all its employees are being terminated with immediate effect and the team will not participate in the 2017 Formula 1 championship.

Manor was the last of three teams who joined the sport in 2009 when the FIA opened up the application process to add new teams to the grid, the others being HRT and Caterham. The FIA had wanted to do this because several teams and engine suppliers had left F1 in the wake of the economic recession and the grid had been looking starkly thin. But HRT folded after 2012 and Caterham at the end of 2014. That makes Haas F1 the only new team to join F1 in the last 8 years to still be around but given that it debuted last year that probably doesn’t count for much.

Caterham F1 Car

The Caterham F1’s green livery made it easily recognizableCaption
Photo: Ian Dick

For an outsider, it may be easy to put the blame on Manor, Caterham, and HRT: maybe they should have been more successful and stayed afloat through prize money; maybe they should not have gotten into an expensive sport without being able to finance it.

But when Manor and the others had joined F1 in 2009, it had been with a promise from Max Mosley, then head of the FIA, that budget caps would be introduced in the aim of making F1 more affordable for small privateer teams, enabling them to not just participate but also compete with the better-funded, more established outfits.

Those budget caps never came to be, however, and with the 2014 regulations greatly increasing the complexity of the cars’ power units, costs have risen rather than declined. The same goes for the new aerodynamic regulations being introduced for 2017. It seems increasing costs are only going to continue to be a reality of the sport.

It’s a shame, because the smaller teams were often the ones who showed the most spirit and who were many times the first Formula 1 homes to real talents who would then go on to blossom at bigger teams. Formula 1 needs small teams, even if they spend the whole season trying to score just one championship point; besides, everyone loves an underdog.

So it’s goodbye, Manor. Hopefully you’ll be back on the track some day.