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Manor prepare to race in Australia as energy boss is revealed as backer
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Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  04 Mar 2015   |  7:06 pm GMT  |  123 comments

The Manor F1 team today confirmed its intention to be on the grid at next week’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix using modified 2014 cars and Ferrari power units from the end of last season.

At a press conference held at London’s Millbank, the team introduced media to its new backers in the shape of 36-year-old Northern Irishman Stephen Fitzpatrick of the OVO energy company. He is, he told reporters, backing the venture himself and not via his company.

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“We’ve all worked incredibly hard to get the car ready for Melbourne and the season ahead,” he said. “Our fans have given the team amazing support for many years and we want to restore Manor to the very best of racing in the future.

“I have a lifelong passion for Formula One and can’t wait for the season ahead, with Manor and the team.”

Fitzpatrick will be aided by the presence of former Sainsburys CEO Justin King, who will take on the role of interim team chairman, while the core Marussia duo of Graeme Lowdon and John Booth will remain in place, with Lowdon as President and Sporting Director and Booth as Team Principal.

The team says it intends to operate on an annual budget of £60-62m, with half of that amount coming from last season’s prize fund, attained thanks Jules Bianchi’s ninth-place finish in Monaco and for finishing in the top 10 two years running.

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Regarding the financial landscape of F1 and the thorny issue of the division of spoils in the sport, Fitzpatrick was clear.

“We’ve chosen to be here,” he said. “We know what rules are and we will play by those rules. It would be very bad form to come in and call it unfair.”

The team’s initial challenge will be made with 2014 Marussia cars that have been modified to comply with 2015’s nose cone regulations and changed safety regulations. However, the team also revealed its intention to deliver 2015 spec cars later this year, running 2015 Ferrari engines. The cars will be crash tested later this week and the team’s freight will leave for Australia at the weekend.

In a statement Lowdon said: “I want to thank all of the teams, the FIA, Formula One Management, our suppliers and staff and of course all of the fans for the support we’ve received over the past six months. It has been a challenging period for all of us but we’ve come through it and now we just want to go racing again.

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“With formidable new business leadership in Stephen Fitzpatrick and the board presence of Justin King we are now in a great place ahead of the new season. This is a fantastic and very rewarding moment for all those involved with the team.”

King added: “It’s a real pleasure for me to be involved in Manor. I know from the years I spent at Sainsbury’s that with the right people, the right values, and sheer hard work you can turn any business around.

“In Graeme and Team Principal John Booth we have all three and I’m fully confident that we can help Manor be competitive at the highest level of racing.”

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The team’s plans to race 2014 cars have faced criticism due to the possible speed differential to 2015 cars, but the team insisted today that it can race without compromising the rest of the field in Melbourne, saying that the two-second deficit to current cars mentioned in some quarters is partly accounted for by 2015 spec Pirelli tyres and that the team has no fears regarding meeting the 107% qualifying rule.

Last week Manor announced Will Stevens as the first of its race drivers for the season but did not today reveal the identity of the second driver.

To get a feel for Fitzpatrick and what he is about check out this Ovo Energy video

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1

Why Ecclestone proposal isn’t going forward? With £15M engines and customer chassis there would be no financial failures and all spots on the grid would be covered. Who is stopping the reform and why?

2

Simple. Because ditching the hybrids would likely cause three of the four engine supplies to quit F1.

3

I just went for a walk down Albert Park to see how preparations are going. Marussia air freight boxes are in pit lane… However I didn’t see any Marussia/Manor signage on pitlane garages.

I hate seeing the word Marussia now… instantly makes me think about how bad Jules is. Such a shame is career came to premature end.

4

An interesting one. I didn’t want them to go under and said as much when they hit difficulty towards the end of last season. That said, they looked down and out at the end of the calendar year (they were supposed to be liquidated in mid-December I believe). So when the speculation first started that they were still trying to make the grid, I didn’t know what to make of it. They’re a great group of racers, no doubt, but was it really worth trying to cobble together the cash to make the start of the season, while seemingly being destined to run out midway through?

Against that backdrop I’m delighted they’ve managed to secure a pretty strong investment and support package from some fairly prominent UK businesspeople (Sean Fitzpatrick & Justin King). It’s just a shame that a lot of that will initially go into playing catch up simply to hire new people, speed-build a 2015 car and redevelop the operational know-how within the team (I imagine the factory will still be in decent nick). Fair play to Mr Fitzpatrick in particular for taking the financial risk but whatever happens I sense Manor Marussia will be under pressure to deliver a big step in 2016 because the investor(s) won’t have money forever. However, for now, I’m really happy to see them back and wish them well for the season ahead!

P.S. Any idea who the 2nd driver will be? Will Stevens has already been confirmed. Max Chilton doesn’t appear to be an option. I had heard Giedo van der Garde’s name floated earlier in the week but would be surprised if it went to him with the legal wranglings going on between him and Sauber. I imagine whoever it is will bring money with them but hopefully they will also have some pedigree from the junior formulae, even if they may not be world beaters.

5

Stephen Fitzpatrick*! I actually read this a couple of days ago and had meant to double-check the name! It’s been a long week!

6

Why is Fitzpatrick sinking his hard earned money into this. From an investment perspective its a lost cause with a struggling team in a structure which brutally chews them up and spits them out at a moments notice. From a fans perspective I can see the appeals but realistically its a stupid descision

7

I’m well pleased that they will be on the grid this year. Well done Marussia and Fitzpatrick.

8

Crash tests passed, I think these guys mean business. They said Melbourne and every article said the third race etc. So they are on target.

A lot of negativity above, it might be a small budget, but if the money is spent wisely there is no reason why their 2015 chassis shouldn’t be in par with the other backmarkers.

9

I don’t get it … why spend £60 million to tool around at the back with little or no chance of scoring points. Unless you’re spending £100+ million it seems to me you’re just making up the numbers and waiting for scraps to be thrown from the big boys table.

I suppose if you have money to burn .. there’s always F1 or a Prem League football team .. perhaps he should have a chat with Tony Fernandes and ask him how things have panned out for him. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have Fernandes’s money .. so it makes you wonder how and why.

As for the fans of Marussia .. are there any ? I don’t recall seeing many of their shirts at the British Grand Prix.

I wish them luck, they’re going to need it in spade loads.

10

People are so quick to dump on those that, in this case, haven’t even started yet ! Armchair critics are pathetic. Personally, I wish the new teams all the luck in the world.

I find it sad that the F1 rules are so tight. If they weren’t then the new teams might have more of a chance.

11

I hope Manor make it to Australia and get at least one car to the finish. I think it will be a challenging year for them but if the do get the improved PU later in the seasion they could score a point or two. If they can survive the season i think they will be ok. They deserve a bit of good luck after the terrible events on the last two years.

12

Cheers for that…in that case the team will be looking for a partner/sponsor for next year…wirh a name that reflects who they really are…lots of smart men at the top…could actually happen…I truly thought Caterham would outlast Manor…funny world for sure.

13

Even if all the teams spent £200 million somebody would still end up finishing last. That’s the crazy thing about relying on manufacturers to prop up F1. Why would any business stick around if they keep spending all that money and finishing last? Unless it can be written off as marketing and translates into sales (and more importantly profit) worth more than the cost of running the team. Maybe that works for Red Bull but I’m betting not for most. To have a viable number of teams F1 really needs to be affordable to the hobbyists.

14

Great news! Good luck to them.

15

Pleased to see them getting back in, but my money would have been on Caterham to be the one team to get back. My biggest worry now is the lack of track time the two drivers will have had before Melbourne. At least Will Steven had a go in the Caterham at Abu Dhabi and maybe the second driver will be one of those without a drive after last season.

16

Oh Yes, one had almost forgotten Caterham. One wonders if all the crowd funding money was spent on their jaunt to Abu Dhabi or if there was any left over to go towards ‘administration fees’. Mind you I agree that they looked to the outside world the more likely of the two to survive but I guess Bianchi’s two points swung it in the end.

17

James, how & when does the 30 million earned by Marussia pay out? Seems to me that the business plan is to take that and run. Run away that is. What is the minimum races they have to participate in before they get the money and then they can fold again?

If that indeed is the plan, I’d rather see the money going to the teams that are struggling, but actually interested in staying in Formula1.

18

Over the course of the season first payment being March 31. The idea is you have to stay in it to earn your money from previous year

Hence the requests for advances – Lotus did it a couple of years ago

It’s bad because it sends out a signal of cash flow issues, of course

19

Have the owners paid off their debts to thier suppliers? Would hope so, before launching this new outfit.

20

They are already winners if they can make the grid in Melbourne. That means they get last years prize money and with no caterham to worry about this year they are guaranteed tenth spot constructors this year.

Two years to solidify the team before Haas f1 join and they have to beat anyone to tenth place in the constructors championship.

21

The only reason Manor needs to race is to provide a back marker to make Lewis Hamilton’s life a little more difficult on Sundays.

22

That’s McLarens’s job this year but at least it will give Lewis a chance or two for friendly waves at his old pals Fernando and Jensen 🙂

23

Excellent news !!!! Good luck to them 🙂 I hope they pull off a few surprises and rub a few noses in the dirt. Nice to see that a little place like N.Ireland can produce a result when the rest of the F1 world was sucking it’s teeth and contemplating it’s navel. Men of action needed – Jordan and Irvine and others come to mind…….

24
kenneth chapman

@ tom….they bring character? what is this. do you define character as tootling around the track one or two laps down and the only time you get to see them, fleetingly,is when they are being blue flagged?

obviously those are your opinions i just find it hard to get even mildly enthusiastic about their return. if i recall the last bloke who owned this team burnt through 150million or so? what makes them think that they can do any better? now if audi were to announce their intentions to compete i would break out into joyous approval by way of raucous applause.

i have more confidence in haas next year as they are well funded and are a bunch of professional racers with a racing history although not in F1.

25

Always a fan of the underdog, and this is good news for those involved. But with this kind of uncertainty and enormously late start, its hard to imagine any continuity that remains in the team being much of a factor. Picking up where they left off in 2014 in other words.. is it even possible at this late hour?

Fascinating really. Where was this money 6 months ago? Why would anyone with this kind of money insist on starting from an impossible position? As glad as I am for the team it all seems a bit futile.

Contrast these last minute funding splurges we have seen over the years to what appears to be Gene Haas’ well thought out, properly planned operation. Interesting.

.

26

Hooray! They’re British!

27

Oh I *hope* we’re not going to see SAINSBURY’S as a title sponsor!

What next, a Lotus-Asda? Or a Williams Kwik-E-Mart?

28

Whatever brings the $$$ in…

29

Don’t know about Lotus-Asda, but the biggest (and richest) chain of supermarkets in Thailand is Tesco Lotus…..

30

>>Lowdon said: “I want to thank all of the teams, the FIA, Formula One Management, our suppliers and staff and of course all of the fans for the support we’ve received over the past six months.<<

Yes, thank you, VJ, you're an inspiration and shining example to all of us.

31

Personally I think this is great news. F1 needs smaller teams. They bring character, especially when they’ve danced with death and seemingly come out the other side. Wondering who the second driver will be now – Vergne…? Gutierrez…?

32

James do you have information on just how Stephen Fitzpatrick has managed to afford to fund/buy Manor?

From a little bit of research it looks like hes invested £30million from his own personal savings and the OVO energy company hasn’t been involved in the deal. Looking into his history he sunk all his money into starting OVO in 2009. Since then the company has grown but hes been paying himself £125,000 per year and the company hasn’t been sold onto the stock market so he hasn’t cashed out. The largest investment into OVO I can see is Al Gore but that was only £8million and probably didn’t end up in Stephens bank account. OVO actually bought his £2million pound house last year. So if the guy needs his company to buy him a house how has he managed to buy an F1 team?

This guy seems like a real entrepreneur and I wish him good luck. Hes doesn’t seem stupid but hes no billionaire so the money side of things makes me worry for their longevity. What happens next year when he doesn’t have another £30million to lose.

33

Smart people make sure they dont earn big declared salaries that attract huge tax. They find other ways to remunerate themselves in companies.

34

“seems like a real entrepreneur..” Umm, yeah I guess so.

“doesn’t seem stupid…” Umm, noooo, I would guess not.

Craig, try not to state the totally obvious, and try to not lose any sleep over Mr Fitzpatrick’s financial management skills. They are no doubt far superior to yours ( or mine, I’ll happily admit).

Hey Fitzy, Go Hard!! Rock on boy! I’m waiting on your call for that spare slot!!

I only take number one status though. Don’t bother calling me otherwise.

RB

35

“So if the guy needs his company to buy him a house how has he managed to buy an F1 team?”

I can’t answer any of your other questions, but who’s to say he *needed* his company to buy him a house?

36

“So if the guy needs his company to buy him a house how has he managed to buy an F1 team?”

I don’t know the answer to any of the rest of your questions, but who’s to say he *needed* the company to buy him a house?

37

The answer id simple he wont drop his gas and electric bills at all despite him buying in the supplies for less than half he was a yr ago 🙂

38

All good and valid questions. He didn’t hmg around to ask after the briefing

However…he said when we met that he is a big fan of this website. He’s been into F1 for some time, it seems

39

Steve is a very smart and disciplined guy. People said he was mad to take on the Big 6 in the UK energy market and there was no way he could compete but just look at how many customers they now have and how fast they are growing.

I wouldn’t be surprised they do things differently, by that I don’t mean the old “were great at using CFD” angle Manor came in to F1 originally with. In my mind there is a lot of value in F1 that people don’t think about or consider because everyone sees winning the championship as the be all and end all regardless of whether they can afford it or whether it will bankrupt themselves.

It is true of all sports that you need participants and only one team can win so the argument of “what is the point if they don’t spank £100m+ because they’ll never compete” is redundant. On this premise you might as well only have 4 F1 teams, 6 Premier League teams, 4 National Football sides, 3 US Baseball teams – I could go one and on because in all sports there is realistically only a handful that can truly compete for the big prizes.

Personally I say good on him and Manor and I for one can’t wait to see how they get on and cheer them on from the sidelines. In the end we’d all love to be in a position to be truly inside the ropes having a go and for that you can’t or shouldn’t knock anyone.

40

That’s what reassures me about him. He obviously knows F1 and the dangers it brings to your pocket. We need these teams to survive and I wish them all the best.

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