Marussia future under threat as rival teams turn down 2014 car use request
Force India vote no and say Marussia's bid "lacked substance"; Would-be investors assessing implications of decision; Plan for Marussia to come out of administration still going ahead
By Sky Sports Online
Last Updated: 06/02/15 6:05pm
Marussia's hopes of competing in the 2015 F1 season appear to have been dashed by rival teams.
The team, who were due to race under the Manor Grand Prix name, had hoped to compete this season using their 2014 car but that request has been voted down by opposing teams.
They wanted to use their old model to give them time to build a credible challenger for the 2016 campaign, but that request had to be passed by the Formula 1 Strategy Group, and failed to do so on Thursday.
"They wanted to come in with last year's car and it didn't get accepted," F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told the Independent. "It needed all the teams to agree and there were three or four of them that didn't agree.
"The money that they should have got gets distributed amongst the teams that are racing. That's a pretty good reason I suppose. Maybe the other teams would have liked to use last year’s car. The trouble was that you can’t do these things for one team, you have got to do it for everybody."
Former J Sainsbury chief executive Justin King was looking to complete a takeover of the team but that was reportedly dependent on the Manor receiving their fee of more than £25m for finishing in the top 10 of the Constructors' Championship in back-to-back seasons.
Sky Sports News HQ understands that Marussia's would-be investors are now assessing the implications of the F1 Strategy Group's decision, and while haven't ruled out continuing to try and rescue the team, the move has put added pressure on that process. The previously announced move to come out administration on February 19 via a Company Voluntary Arrangement is still planned to go ahead.
Although Force India voted against allowing Marussia to run their 2014 car, it is understood that the outfit were reflecting a wider mood amongst their fellow teams. The FIA, meanwhile, wanted unanimity on the matter for the application to pass.
“The FIA recognised that it was a very serious matter," SSNHQ's Craig Slater reported. "They were prepared to countenance possibly one of last year’s cars entering this year’s championship, but they wanted very stringent guarantees on the safety of that car and for the integrity of competition they wanted unanimity with the other competitors and the stakeholders.
“So although Force India did vote against this, they were by no means sailing against the wind of opinion.”
Force India's Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley has since issued a statement defending the decison, saying that Marussia's application "lacked substance" and that it was instead decided to support the grid's remaining smaller financially-struggling teams.
"The strategy group was faced with an application for Marussia's 2014 cars to compete in the 2015 championship. During the meeting it emerged that there were compliance issues and that the application lacked substance," he said.
"Equally, the speculative application submitted contained no supporting documentation to reinforce the case for offering special dispensation. For example, no details were supplied of who the new owners would be or the operational structures that would be put in place.
"Given the lack of information, uncertain guarantees, and the speculative nature of the application, the decision was taken that it is better to focus on ensuring the continued participation of the remaining independent teams."
However, while the news is an undoubted blow to Marussia's 11th-hour bid to return for 2015, it is understood that the team don't have to be in the first race of the season in Melbourne to qualify to enter the championship and would be allowed to re-appear as late as the fourth round of the season in Bahrain on April 19.
The team would still though face an uphill task to build a 2015-spec car by then, with Marussia's former base in Banbury having been sold to the Gene Haas's new F1 outfit and their employees having been made redundant. Manor Racing, which had competed in GP3 up until the F1 team's demise, do still have their original base in Dinnington.
Marussia fell into administration towards the end of last season with Russian owner Andrey Cheglakov no longer prepared to dip into his fortune to keep the team running around at the back of the grid.
It resulted in Marussia missing the final three races in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth, the initial founders, have refused to let the team die and it's understood that the management will continue to hold political discussions with F1's stakeholders over the coming days.
Marussia fell into administration within days of Caterham doing so last October and their perennial rivals' own comeback hopes appear doomed after it emerged that their assets are to be sold in an online auction on March 11.
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