By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One could shrink to 10 teams this season after Manor, the sport’s smallest and least successful outfit, went into administration on Friday with more than 200 jobs at risk.
The British-based team, who entered Formula One in 2010 and previously competed as Virgin and Marussia, are now in a race against time to find new investors to stave off collapse.
FRP Advisory LLP said in a statement they had been appointed administrators to the team’s operating company Just RacingServicesLtd (JRSL).
Manor Grand Prix Racing Ltd, the sister company which holds the rights to participate in the championship, is not in administration.
“During recent months,the senior management team has worked tirelessly tobringnew investmentto the team to secureitslong term future, but regrettably has been unable todo sowithin the time available,” said joint administrator Geoff Rowley.
“Therefore, theyhave beenleft with no alternative but to place JRSL into administration.”
The team employ 212 staff at their Banbury headquarters. Rowley said all were paid in full to the end of December and no redundancies had been made.
The season starts in Australia on March 26, with the first pre-season test at the end of February.
“The team’s participation will depend on the outcome of the administration process and any related negotiations with interested parties in what is a very limited window of opportunity,” Rowley said.
Manor are owned by Stephen Fitzpatrick, who runs the Independent British energy supplier Ovo and rescued the team at the 11th hour in 2014 after they went into administration as Marussia.
Fitzpatrick said a sale to an Asian investment consortium had been agreed in December but that time had run out before they could complete the transaction.
“Not wishing to repeat events of the past, we resolved in 2015 not to start any season that we did not know for certain we could complete,” he added in a note to staff.
“It was imperative that the team finish in 10th place or better in 2016.
“For much of the season we were on track. But the dramatic race in Brazil ended our hopes of this result and ultimately brought into doubt the team’s ability to race in 2017.”
Manor were 10th overall until the race in Sao Paulo at which Sauber leapfrogged them with their first points of the season, a result that slashed millions off Manor’s future revenues and made them less attractive to would-be purchasers.
Fitzpatrick also stands to lose millions, with Manor costing between $40-50 million per season to run and any potential investor unlikely to offer much.
The failing Lotus team were sold to Renault for just one pound at the end of 2015.
Manor have no confirmed drivers, with French rookie Esteban Ocon moving to Force India at the end of last season and Mercedes reserve Pascal Wehrlein set for a switch to Sauber.
The team’s demise would spell the end for any hopes that Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, discarded by Sauber and Haas respectively, have of being on the grid in Melbourne.
The failure of the last of the three newcomers that entered the sport in 2010 would also reduce the number of Mercedes-powered teams to three.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)