Marussia’s ‘slim hope’ vs Caterham’s ‘nil’ chance…race to the end?

As a fan of Marussia and the terrific folks that work at that team, I am nonplussed by their fate late in 2014. With some of the teams assets being auctioned off last month, it looks unlikely that they will mount any sort of challenge in 2015 and that’s a real shame as they would leave approximately $60 million on the table that was earned via their 9th place in the constructor’s championship.

The grave situation involving Jules Bianchi, the driver who effectively delivered that 9th place with his performance in Monaco, also adds to the emotional impact of a grid without Marussia come the Australian Grand Prix.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the team is still clinging to a “slim hope” of fielding a challenger for 2015 and claiming their prize money. Team boss John Booth said:

“There’s still a slim hope, but it’s getting extremely late,” Booth told The Yorkshire Post.

“We’ve got two weeks to complete something by. So there’s still a chance.

“We are talking to investors and they are positive talks.

“What we are finding is there are a lot of people making positive noises about it but it’s actually getting across the line and taking it on that’s the big question.

“There’s a hell of a lot of hard-working, good people in this team and we are trying to keep as many staff as possible in work.

“The ironic thing is we won’t be able to get that £40m in prize money if the dream does die. But that is the attractive element for potential investors.

“We managed nearly five years without that money.”

And that’s the shame of it, the team managed to compete for nearly five years without any Formula One Management prize money. On the other side of that argument, those five years have amassed quite a debt according to our friend Christian Sylt at Forbes. A debt that is leaving 200 unsecured creditors holding the bag for $48 million.

Marussia were nearly present for the last race in Abu Dhabi in 2014 but contrary to rumors about F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone putting a stop to their efforts, it now seems that a key supporter changed their minds at the last minute leaving Marussia with another $45,000 in brake bill.

“On Tuesday 18 November 2014, I received a commitment by a prospective investor to inject sufficient cash into MGPR to enable the team to race in Abu Dhabi,” said FRP administrator Geoff Rowley. “To enable this to happen, the race team had to be reformed and arrangements made to travel to the race. A significant amount of work was carried out over a 24 hour period by both MGPR’s staff and the joint administrators; however, ultimately the prospective investors were not able to provide sufficient funds. The prospective investor agreed to pay the costs of the staff (and ancillary costs) in this period, although at the date of this report, these total £29,443 [$45,129] and remain unpaid.”

It also strikes me as odd that Ferrari didn’t seem compelled to help the team as they run the Italian team’s power units but as an unsecured creditor—they might have interest in helping the team get the prize money to pay off engine supply debt—the money would go to the administrators and not directly to Ferrari for what is owed them.

Marussia’s debt load alone would hoover the prize money completely and this leaves the team back on level ground to try and make a go of it. If the prize money was clear of any claims against it, which might make their potential sale more digestible to possible investors.

It is a sad state of affairs as the team is chalked with great folks who work very hard and have poured their souls into trying to become the 10th place team they are on merit—which they did and yet F1 will still stand over the grave of Marussia (Manor) and say, “huh…that’s sad”.

For the rest of us? It’s not sad, it’s tragic and a sign of F1’s current hybrid oppression and attrition as Caterham are most likely following suit in the next few weeks. Administrator Henry Shinners told the BBC:

“Talks with interested parties continue, but if a buyer is not found before the test, we will not put up the money to go,” Shinners said. “I wouldn’t rule anything out but if we reach the first race in the same position, the chances of saving the team are virtually nil.”

I’d bet on “Nil” for this team as well. Caterham, equally, have great folks working hard to save the team but the history of that team and the actions of its previous owner, Tony Fernandes, have left me without the emotional attachment that Marussia have earned through their hard work and determination. That’s a personal opinion but one that does not intend to marginalize the plight of Caterham employees creditors that tried hard to make a go of it.

Ultimately these two teams were competing fiercely against each other for 9th place, now they are in a race against time and each other to see which administrator will throw in the towel and claim that it is definitively over—a race to the end as it were.

Hat Tip: Forbes, Yorkshire Post, BBC

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