Formula 1 cars will depart from Yorkshire tonight bound for Australia after John Booth’s Manor team confounded the critics to make the 2015 season opener.
The team reborn from the ashes of Marussia will take the grid alongside McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari in Melbourne next Sunday following a winter in which they emerged from administration to fight another day.
Given the time constraints they have had to work under, they could have opted not to return to Formula 1 until the fourth race of the season.
But for Booth, the proud Rotherham man who has been at the heart of the team since long before its inception into F1 back in 2010, making the grid for Melbourne was about issuing a statement to those who had written off his team.
“It’s very significant that we are back and it was important to get back for Australia,” said team principal Booth, whose small band of designers and mechanics have prepared a car to 2015 regulations at Manor’s old workshop in Dinnington, Rotherham.
“We need people to start believing in us again and people need to know what a tremendous achievement this is to get a 2015 car on the grid for the first race in such a short space of time.
“Most people didn’t think we could do it, but we’ve shown them we can.
“It’s a tall mountain we have got to climb again, but it’s definitely worth trying.”
The team will be known as Manor Marussia, a fusion of Booth’s old team and the chassis they have retained from the past four seasons.
As well as the £26m in prize money they will unlock for last season’s ninth-place finish in the manufacturers’ championship, they have also been significantly aided by a rescue package from energy entrepreneur Stephen Fitzpatrick, a 37-year-old Northern Irishman who founded Bristol-based energy company Ovo in 2009, the primary rival to the ‘big six’ of British Gas, Npower, SSE, Scottish Power, e.on and EDF.
Main investor Fitzpatrick has been assisted in the rescue package by Justin King, the former CEO of supermarket Sainsbury, who will initially serve as interim chairman.
Booth’s long-time partner in the venture, Graeme Lowden, said: “It’s important to say we’ve had a huge amount of support from the FIA, FOM, Bernie (Ecclestone), our suppliers, partners and staff, with many of them back on board.”
Loyalty the key: Page 21.