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Challenges Abound For Manor

Having already survived to fight another season in 2015, challenges are abound for the Manor F1 team going into 2016, writes Matt Somerfield.

The structure of the team was dealt a blow late in the season with the announcement that John Booth and Graeme Lowdon. The pair who spearheaded the team’s rescue disagreed with the direction that Stephen Fitzpatrick, the current owner of the team, wanted to take. Meanwhile, Dave Ryan, best known for his time with McLaren, was announced as the team’s new racing director and will bring a wealth of experience to the team.

Financial stability is a must for a team like Manor, especially with the arrival of Haas, as they’ll now be vying for the FOM payment for finishing in the top ten. They’ll undoubtedly be looking at drivers who can bring direct sponsorship funding, whilst it’s important that those drivers also entice further sponsors as well.

It seems they’ll be taking advantage of a funding situation surrounding Rio Haryanto too. The Indonesian driver is well positioned to get a super license having finished fourth for Campos Racing in GP2, earning him 20 points toward the 40 required for a super license. As such, it’s likely he’ll use a budget supplied by the Indonesian government to partake in Free Practice sessions for Manor, preparing him for a possible 2017 race seat, providing he can get a good GP2 seat and accrue the remainder of the super license points he needs.

The team were lucky that the regulations weren’t significantly different for 2015 as the team re-purposed the MR03, using a bulkhead spacer to overcome the change to the nose regulations.

The regulations remain stable for 2016 and so the stillborn MR04 will have undoubtedly helped shape the design of the 2016 car. There are issues though with the team moving from the Ferrari power unit to the class leading Mercedes unit. Whilst dimensionally all of the power units are relatively similar, they have very different thermal footprints. This means that if they retained the sidepod design, for example, it would be far from optimal. Meanwhile they’ll have to make further cooling decisions, as unlike with their Ferrari supply they’ll need to select their chargecooling method. Whilst Mercedes use an air-liquid-air cooler sandwiched between the fuel cell and powerunit, those they’ve supplied have all used air-air coolers thus far.

Having previously taken supply from Ferrari, they shrewdly signed a deal with Williams, who will supply them with their gearbox and rear suspension layout. It’s something they could have took directly from Mercedes, just as Force India do, however, it’s likely that the Williams package cost a little less and is of exceptional quality in any case.

As Williams, McLaren, Force India and Lotus have already proven, although the power unit does bring an uplift in performance, aero and the chassis are still a differentiator and where big gains can be achieved. This is an area where Haas have had a leg up and so may initially find themselves ahead of the likes of Manor, Sauber and maybe even Lotus and McLaren.

Whilst I laud Manor for the structural changes they’ve made to take on 2016, I cannot get over the fact that they need their latest challenger to be at least three-four seconds a lap quicker just to join the tail of the pack. 

Matt Somerfield

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