Formula 1

F1 politics at forefront again as Marussia return hits a roadblock

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On Wednesday F1 was greeted by the news that Marussia may have been saved at the last hour, with the team set to exit administration later this month.

On Thursday, however, that return was thrown into doubt as a request by the team, now running under it's entry name of Manor GP, to use modified 2014 cars at the beginning of the season was rejected by the Strategy Group.

With unanimous support required, the very first team asked to vote on the matter, Force India, voiced its opposition to the proposal meaning there was no need for the remaining teams to do so.

Force India's decision purely financial?

Their position has caused a major uproar among fans who believe their stance is purely financially based, following recent reports that the Silverstone-based team are also lacking funds, and that by denying Marussia's attempted comeback they will benefit from a part of the $30 million plus that the team would receive for finishing ninth in last year's Constructors' championship.

While deputy team boss Bob Fernley admitted there was a financial aspect to their decision, he insists that instead the key reason for rejecting Marussia's request was because he believed their application wasn't adequate.

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Manor application "lacked substance"

"During the meeting it emerged that there were compliance issues and that the application lacked substance," he told Autosport.

"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."

"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"

Fernley later claimed that if Marussia was to re-apply and provide a more persuasive case to the them and the other teams then Force India's position might change.

Lowdon "surprised" at comments

However, under the name of Manor GP, the team's sporting director Graeme Lowdon, hit back at Fernley outlining the timeline for what the team had been asked to do.

"I was surprised to hear some of the comments made today, particularly regarding an application we were said to have made to yesterday's meeting, which I can confirm was not the case," a public statement read.

"We did make a request on 17 December last year and we have been working since to satisfy the requirements subsequently communicated to us, specifically complying with all the regulations, aside from the exempted articles.

"The comments also mentioned that issues of compliance were raised, that it was felt that our application lacked substance and contained no supporting documentation to reinforce the case for offering special dispensation.

"Again, we did not make any application to yesterday's Strategy Group meeting and nor were we asked to."

2015 project continues

Lowdon continued saying that following the request made in mid-December the team had been given the impression that a modified 2014 car to meet certain new regulation would indeed be considered permissible for dispensation, and that the company now has a large workforce working on both an updated version of last year's car and a 2015 design which would be ready to race "as soon as possible".

He also addressed the issue of the lack of information regarding the new investors, saying at this stage such information remains confidential.

Lack of collective spirit hurting F1

In the very tangled web that is the behind the scenes politics in F1, this is just the latest example of a lack of collective spirit between teams and a sense of 'every man for himself'.

It has been the same ever since the former FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) group broke up in 2013 and can be considered to blame for a lot of the misdirection in terms of team's responses to certain issues ever since.

While there is no saying which way the other teams would have gone, a report by Germany's Sport Bild reporter Ralf Bach quoted Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko as saying both of Dietrich Mateschitz's outfits would block the move along with Sauber, Lotus and Force India.

Different stories make for suspicion 

Again, for the smaller teams the financial argument would likely be considered the motive, but while it does have some grounds I don't see it as being quite the issue some have made it out to be.

After all, given the sum of money Force India would gain from Manor's failure to race, maybe a few million pounds, that would not being large enough to make much of an impact if the team are in major debt.

Instead it is the large indiscretions between Fernley's comments about a 'lack of substance in Manor's application' and then Lowdon's reply that Manor were 'not asked to put an application in at Thursday's meeting' that asks the major questions about Force India's motivation.

After all the request was 'Can Manor start 2015 with modified 2014 cars?' rather than 'Is Manor's proposed comeback viable?' so to deny their request based of business grounds rather than the more weighty argument of the 2014 cars not being suitable doesn't really make sense. 

Fernley also spoke about how his decision was based on maintaining the survival of F1's independent teams, well how does denying another independent team a way back onto grid do that? After all it was he who led the band after Marussia and Caterham left the grid last year deploring the lack of fairness in F1's commercial structure so is it the thought of less teams equal more income?

Well if that's the case then that won't work because Bernie Ecclestone would more than likely just take the money for 10th and 11th placed teams in the Constructors' championship and use it elsewhere.

A roadblock that can be overcome

There was no legitimate financial or business reason for Force India or any other team to deny Manor GP a chance at making a comeback; this is a team that has built itself as one of the most respected on the grid and given the grounds for administrators to pass the team on via a CVA it also means it is no short-term patch up. If there were concerns over when the team could run a full 2015-spec car then they should be addressed differently.

As it stands now Manor can miss the first three rounds in Australia, Malaysia and China before starting in Bahrain if a new car can be completed by then. While this rather inexplicable roadblock stands in the way for now, it far from means one of the most welcome returns in recent years is over yet. 

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