These are critical days for Manor. The team needs to make some progress if it is going to be on the grid this season, but it seems that talks over the ownership are stuck over the price that the current owner Stephen Fitzpatrick wants for the company. He has no intention of spending any more money on the team, but does not want to give it away. The reality is that he is facing one of two possibilities: a big loss, or a very big loss. If he holds out for too much and the buyers walk, he will have to take a bigger hit, but he doesn’t want to settle for less than he thinks the team is worth. Right now, it’s not worth much. It has around $27.5 million coming in prize money for 2016, but that will not be enough to run the team for the season and cash flow will be a problem. So a buyer must be willing to put in money up front in order to get the prize money.
The company in question is Just Racing Ltd, the holding company. This has two subsidiaries: Just Racing Services Ltd, which is the operational company; and Manor Grand Prix Racing Ltd, which owns the F1 entry.
Just Racing Services Ltd is in administration with FRP Advisory trying to keep the business alive. The word is that there is a potential buyer out there, called GF Capital, which is reckoned to be an Indonesian investment company. There are, however, a lot of GF Capitals around in different countries. This entity, whoever it is, made an offer for the group late last week. This offer was rejected by Fitzpatrick as not being enough money. There is no obvious alternative plan so Fitzpatrick is walking a knife edge here because if the team is not sold it is worth nothing – so at some point he is going to need to make a decision about much he is going to lose. Perhaps if the price comes down further others will come into the bidding again, but by the time that all happens there will probably not be a whole let left at the Manor Technical Centre in Banbury.
The key requirement for the business to have value is for there to be cars for 2017. These were well-advanced until the end of November when Fitzpatrick stopped funding the team. The major structural parts of the 2017 chassis are already manufactured, but they have not yet assembled the monocoques because the money stopped before all the parts were made. However, the necessary work could be done in three weeks if the team gets the go-ahead and money.
The problem is that we are now getting into a period when logistical commitments need to be made for next season and no-one can make those commitments unless they know the future is secured. The option exists to modify two 2016 chassis for the first races of the year, which has been agreed with other teams, but there is no money to do that either.
The staff numbers are starting to dwindle as people give up hope and the word is that the team which used to have 210 people is now down to about 140, although many of them could return to work if a deal is struck and money arrives. The team is frustrated because they believe that with a Mercedes engine supply and an improved chassis, the team could be a midfield runner in 2017 – or could have been.
The administrators cannot do much until Fitzpatrick and the potential buyers sort out the ownership.
Obviously, if this is an Indonesian bid, the likely is that Rio Haryanto would be involved, but his sponsorship package is not as strong as it was, although in theory there is plenty of money in Indonesia.