Late hitches see Manor in race to make Melbourne grid

Manor have vowed to fight until the bitter end to ensure they compete in this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix after encountering last-minute issues.

BEING THERE: Manor driver Will Stevens poses for photographers ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne Picture: AP/Ross Land.

The team formerly known as Marussia have just emerged from a winter-long off-track battle for survival in Formula 1 after entering administration last October.

But in racing against the clock to make the grid for Sunday’s race at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the Dinnington-based marque face a number of technical challenges related to the car.

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Sporting director Graeme Lowdon said: “This team has worked incredibly hard over the past few weeks to build a car compliant with the current regulations.

“As you can appreciate we have had to overcome numerous hurdles, and we still face others given the complexities involved. But we are racers and fighters and we will do our utmost to compete for all our fans and the people supporting us.”

After exiting administration on February 19 via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – a deal aimed at paying off their debts with aid from their list of creditors – Manor have moved swiftly.

In the space of just over three weeks the team have somehow designed, built and are now looking to run a 2015-spec car that only last Thursday passed FIA crash tests.

The day before, Manor announced the saviour of the team in energy entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick, with assistance from the former chief executive of supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, Justin King.

Despite the strenuous efforts to then ship the cars and freight to Melbourne, Lowdon and team principal John Booth have continued to tackle problems.

One of those is understood to be engine software-related, but is just one on a list the team are attempting to tick off, with practice for the race fast looming on the horizon. As Manor missed all 12 days of testing, this weekend’s grand prix – should they make it – effectively serves as a test session, with new drivers Will Stevens and Spain’s Roberto Merhi.

Jenson Button, meanwhile, says he understands the reasoning why Fernando Alonso will not be making his second debut with McLaren this weekend.

Alonso is absent after sustaining concussion following a heavy crash on the final day of the second pre-season test last month.

And Button said: “With the incidents we’ve had, in particular with Jules (Bianchi in Japan last year), the medical people are going to be more strict, and so they should be.”