Friday, 27 January 2017

R.I.P the class of 2010

Today it was announced that Manor Racing would not be participating in the 2017 Formula 1 season.

After failing to find a buyer following their second brush with administration, the British minnows have shut up shop, leaving the 100 staff retained just two weeks ago redundant.

Manor previously entered administration at the end of 2014, only to be rescued by energy magnate Stephen Fitzpatrick. A sad irony is that along with 2016, 2014 was the only other year that Manor scored points. Seasons that should have been a boost to the team ultimately ended up being their darkest hours.

However, unlike two years ago there is no 11th hour rescue for Manor, leaving F1 with 10 teams and 20 cars for this season - the lowest since 2005.

Manor was one of four teams granted entry to the sport in 2010. Brought in with the promise of a £30 million (later £40 million) budget cap that never materialised, the 'class of 2010' were the first all-new entrants into F1 since Super Aguri in 2006 and Toyota in 2002 - who funnily enough were regarded as F1's biggest ever spenders during their eight-year spell in the pinnacle of motorsport.

USF1


USF1 were the first of those 'new' teams to disappear. In fact, they never even made it to the grid.

They seemed serious enough to begin with - A base that used to house the successful Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR outfit, plans for a second headquarters at Motorland Aragon in Spain, and they had already secured the signature of the highly-rated Jose Maria Lopez to drive for the team during their first season with James Rossiter also thought to be on the team's books.

That would be about it for them though. A nosecone was made, that much is certain, but that was about it. The team shut up shop before they could go any further.

HRT


Next to fall was HRT. They too had a turbulent time before they even turned a wheel. Originally called Campos Meta 1, the team was bought by businessman Jose Ramon Carabante and rebranded as Hispania Racing Team before their first race in Bahrain.

That first race was a troubled one for the Spanish team - with no pre-season testing and both cars being finished at the circuit, they only managed a handful of laps in practice and neither car made it to the end of the race. It was a similar story for the rest of the year with both cars finishing the race only seven times out of 19. The team had a revolving door of drivers that year too with Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok, Sakon Yamamoto, and Christian Klien all featuring.

The following season also had a number of driver changes, with Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi starting the year with the team, with then-Red Bull Junior Daniel Ricciardo being drafted in later in the year. Reliability improved in 2011, but speed didn't.

The 107% rule returned in 2011 in a bid to combat the new teams' lack of speed and Hispania weren't permitted to compete in Australia, but made the grid for each of the other 18 races.

Midway through 2011 Thesan Capital bought the team from Carabante and in 2012 the team was again rebranded, this time as HRT, emitting the Hispania moniker of Carabante's business interests. Unfortunately for them, the purchase of HRT wasn't a sign of a new beginning for the team; 2012 was much the same.

As well as another driver change - this time Pedro de la Rosa came in to partner Karthikeyan who returned after half a year on the sidelines - the team again ended the seasom without a point. That year the team were put up for sale, but a lack of interest saw them disappear before Christmas.

Caterham


1Malaysia, Lotus Racing, Team Lotus, Caterham - the 2010 entry that fielded green cars had several names during their time in F1.

Formula 3 squad Litespeed intended to enter F1 in 2010 under the Lotus moniker but ultimately failed to obtain an entry. Meanwhile, Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes did. Both sides then teamed up, with Fernandes' 1Malaysia F1 team adopting the Lotus name.

A lot was expected of the team in their first year - an iconic name, two race winning drivers in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, but ultimately the team didn't impress, although they did finish the 2010 season as the best of the new teams.

2011 was no different. A switch to Renault engines and Red Bull gearboxes promised much but, despite much improved reliability, the team again failed to score a point. 2011, however, will be remembered for the spat over the team's name rather than their on track performances.

After competing as Lotus Racing in 2010, using the name under licence from the British car company's Malaysian owners, the team acquired the legendary Team Lotus name from David Hunt. At the same time, Lotus withdrew from their agreement, instead giving their name to the Renault team. There were two Lotuses on the grid in 2011. That would all turn out to be meaningless in the long run as Fernandes bought Caterham, another British maker of lightweight sports cars, in 2011 and his team adopted that name for 2012.

2012 ended up being the team's best year in F1. Just three retirements and one non-start, plus an 11th place finish in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix left them again finishing the year in 10th place, it was starting to look like the class of 2010 were beginning to close the gap to the more established teams.

Unfortunately, the following season would see the beginning of a steady decline for the team that, of the 'new' entries, looked most likely to succeed. A slip to 11th, plus their inability to match rival Marussia's points scoring exploits in 2014 saw them bow out at the end of that season.

A botched sale in the middle of the year signalled the beginning of the end for Caterham, who entered administration in October 2014. A crowdfunding effort briefly brought them back to life for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but they were not to be seen after that.

Three teams down, just one remained, but only just.

Manor


Like Caterham, Manor also suffered from a constant identity crisis during their time in F1. Originally Manor, they entered in 2010 as Virgin after inking a title sponsorship deal with Sir Richard Branson who backed the championship-winning Brawn team the year before. A purchase from Niche Russian car maker Marussia saw the team called that for a few years, before reverting back to Manor in 2015.

Manor's longevity in F1 was somewhat surprising. For their first two seasons, they finished rock bottom of the standings and in 2012 the only team they beat was HRT. However, in 2013 they enjoyed an upturn in form. They beat Caterham, and finished only five points behind former champions Williams. Scoring points of their own though remained an ambition rather than a reality.

That was until midway through 2014 when Jules Bianchi took a memorable 10th place for the team in the Monaco Grand Prix, a race of attrition which saw eight cars fail to finish and only four end on the lead lap. That would prove to be the high point for the team that year. Bianchi was to suffer a tremendous accident at the Japanese Grand Prix, an incident that would later claim his life; while administration saw the team miss the final three rounds of the season.

A last minute rescue deal saw the team return in 2015, this team under the Manor banner (although for legal reasons the team was still officially known as Marussia). It was to be an anonymous year for the team as they ran a modified 2014 car.

The future looked bright for the team though, as they brought in a number of high-profile technical staff including ex-Ferrari men Pat Fry and Nicholas Tombazis, and former McLaren manager Dave Ryan. They also secured a customer Mercedes engine deal, giving them access to the dominant powerplant of the 1.6 litre V6 Hybrid era.

Points even came again in 2016, this time on merit after Pascal Wehrlein qualified in 12th place and finished in 10th in Austria. For much of the year that single point saw them sit in 10th place in the constructors’ standings - the final place in the championship that would guarantee a significant financial windfall. However, Sauber's two points in the Brazilian Grand Prix allowed them to move off the bottom of the table, leaving Manor without the money promised by their 10th place finish which until that point had seemed a certainty.

Unfortunately that would prove to be the final nail in Manor's coffin. They had been looking for a buyer on the down-low throughout 2016 and a deal with an investor was thought to be in place until it fell through at the end of the season. Despite having a strong engine package and an impressive lineup of backroom staff, Manor officially shut up shop on January 27 2017.
The last of the class of 2010 were no more.
Manor do live one in one respect. Following Fitzpatrick's takeover of the team in 2015, the original management duo of John Booth and Graeme Lowdon eventually parted with the team, setting up a Manor team in the FIA World Endurance Championship. They participated in the LMP2 class in 2016 and are expected to move up to LMP1 in 2018 with Ginetta.

After Manor's demise in Formula 1, and discounting 2016 newcomers Haas, Sauber remains the most recent startup team to remain in F1. Their first season was 1993.



Images: Dominik Wilde

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