Marussia’s hopes of competing in Formula One this season appear to have been dashed after Bernie Ecclestone revealed their request to race with last year’s car had been voted down.
The team, who were named as Manor Grand Prix on the FIA entry list for 2015, wanted to race with last year’s model before building up their resources to make a more credible challenge in 2016.
For that to happen, their request had to be passed by a meeting of the Formula One Strategy Group on Thursday.
Had that taken place, former J Sainsbury chief executive Justin King could have pressed on with his proposed takeover, with the team scheduled to receive the $40 million US dollars for back-to-back top-10 finishes in the constructors’ championship.
But that money would only be awarded if the team were to compete this year and without it, it is understood King is unwilling to wait a year and effectively build the team.
“They wanted to come in with last year’s car and it didn’t get accepted,” Ecclestone told the Independent. “It needed all the teams to agree and there were three or four of them that didn’t agree.”
The belief is Marussia’s prize money will now be split among Lotus, Force India and Sauber, the three teams who lobbied Ecclestone and primary shareholder in private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for a greater share of the prize pot last year.
All three remain in financial difficulties, with Sauber’s car bereft of sponsors and Lotus missing the first day of this week’s pre-season test in Jerez due to the late build of the car, while they have only recently paid the FIA their entry fee for this year.
Force India appear to be the team most in trouble as they failed to show in Jerez, and are unlikely to run their new car until the final test in Barcelona later this month due to problems with suppliers.
“The money that they should have got gets distributed amongst the teams that are racing. That’s a pretty good reason I suppose,” Ecclestone added.
Marussia fell into administration towards the end of last season with owner Andrey Cheglakov no longer prepared to dip into his fortune to keep the team running around at the back of the grid.
It resulted in Marussia missing the final three grands prix in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and seemingly their fate was sealed.
Sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth, the initial founders, have refused to let the team die and have been in negotiations with various parties over the past few months in a bid to keep the team on the grid this season.
King, whose son Jordan is due to compete in one of the main feeder series of GP2 this year and who was once linked as replacement as F1 CEO for Ecclestone, was close to completing a deal but that now appears to be dead.