LONDON (Reuters) - Marussia’s hopes of rising from the dead to race in next month’s Formula One season-opener in Australia have suffered a setback after rivals rejected a proposal to let them compete with last year’s car.
“It needed all the teams to agree and there were three or four of them that didn’t,” Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said after a Strategy Group meeting.
“Maybe the other teams would have liked to use last year’s car. The trouble was that you can’t do these things for one team, you have got to do it for everybody,” the 84-year-old told Friday’s Independent newspaper.
The strategy group, which currently comprises champions Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and Force India plus the governing FIA and commercial rights holders, met in Paris on Thursday.
The response to Marussia’s request will do little to dispel the notion of the hugely expensive sport being a ‘piranha club’ whose members are primarily focused on their own interests.
However, Force India’s deputy principal Bob Fernley, whose team joined Sauber and Lotus last year in calling for more help to struggling teams and a greater share of the revenues, described Marussia’s application as ‘speculative’.
“During the meeting it emerged that there were compliance issues and that the application lacked substance,” he said.
Fernley said no details had been given about the potential new owners or how the team would be run and the application lacked supporting documentation to support Marussia’s case for special dispensation.
“Given the lack of information, uncertain guarantees, and the speculative nature of the application, the decision was taken that it is better to focus on ensuring the continued participation of the remaining independent teams,” he said.
Marussia went into administration and ceased trading last October, missing the last three races of 2014. They still finished ninth overall and ahead of Sauber and stricken Caterham.
That position put them in line for some 30 million pounds ($45.97 million) in prize money.
Marussia have paid their entry fee for 2015, as Manor Grand Prix, and plan to come out of administration on Feb. 19 via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) agreed by creditors.
Media reports have indicated that former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King is part of a consortium seeking to revive the team.
Being allowed to use last year’s car would have helped but the refusal may not be a deal-blocker since teams can miss three races.
That would give them until mid-April to satisfy the 2015 regulations, which differ mainly in nose height, and pass crash tests.
Marussia’s Banbury factory has been sold, with the U.S.-owned Haas team planning to use it as their European base when they enter F1 next year, but Manor have a facility in Dinnington, northern England.
($1 = 0.6526 pounds)
Editing by Patrick Johnston/Sudipto Ganguly