Hope for Manor’s return to F1 grid receives timely boost

Manor F1's John Booth.
Manor F1's John Booth.
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The team formerly known as Marussia stands on the brink of a remarkable return to Formula 1 after entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement that will see them emerge from administration.

The CVA, agreed yesterday at 3pm, is effectively a deal agreed with the creditors of the team – now called Manor F1 – that allows for control of the company to be passed back to the directors.

The move is a major step forward for Manor in a bid to return to the F1 grid this season less than four months after London-based restructuring and recovery firm FRP Advisory was called in to oversee the administration.

Marussia collapsed towards the end of October with debts of just over £60m, of which £31m was owed to trade creditors, including power-unit supplier Ferrari to the tune of £16.5m.

But Graeme Lowdon and John Booth, former sporting director and team principal of Marussia, have refused to let the organisation die.

Lowdon has worked tirelessly to attract fresh investment these past few months after Russian venture capitalist Andrey Cheglakov pulled out of financially supporting the team.

The main man on board is now former Sainsbury chief executive Justin King, whose backing has resulted in the CVA deal with the creditors.

Despite the setback at a recent Strategy Group meeting in which a vote was taken against Manor competing initially this season with a modified version of last year’s car, Lowdon has pressed on. The team vacated their rented premises at Banbury and have returned to their old base in Dinnington.

Work is being conducted by a modest group of staff – bearing in mind 200 were made redundant when Marussia entered into administration – and is ongoing with this year’s car.

Lowdon has been embroiled in countless meetings with the FIA, rival teams and suppliers in a bid to smooth the waters for a return.

Under the regulations, and with the permission of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, a team is allowed to miss three grands prix in a season.

Theoretically, Manor could sit out the opening races in Australia, Malaysia and China and be back on the grid for the fourth event of the campaign in Bahrain in mid-April.

It is understood numerous hurdles remain in Manor’s way, but they are making progress, with hopes still high they will again be racing this season.