After being rescued by OVO energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick, Manor sacrificed its 2015 campaign to focus on 2016.
A brand new chassis was built for the new season, with the team also, crucially, securing a supply of pacesetting Mercedes engines. A deal with Williams for procurement of gearbox and suspension was also considered to be a major step forward for the English outfit.
Several key hirings including that of ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan served as a statement of intent. Manor was no longer going to toil at the back of the pack, with the new owners keen to turn into a midfielder.
Indeed, Manor made a major step forward this season, but found itself still some way off the rest of the pack. Managing tyres became a key issue for the squad, with its struggles with Pirelli rubber evident from the first race in Australia.
Nevertheless, the team has been able to fight with Sauber at multiple occasions, often outpacing and outqualifying the Hinwil-based team.
And on the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix, Pascal Wehrlein successfully reached Q2, before scoring a point the next day. It was one of the finest days in the history of Manor - in any of its guise -, and one that reminded everyone of Jules Biachi’s score in Monaco 2014.
With this result, Wehrlein paid back the faith endowed upon him by long-term backers Mercedes, who consider him as a future replacement for its current drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
The German driver has maximised his machinery in the first half of the season and is certainly the best rookie driver of the year. Considering that he hasn’t raced a single-seater since 2013, nor has he driven at most tracks currently used on the F1 calendar, his results are truly remarkable.
Meanwhile, Rio Haryanto has done a fairly decent job in the other Manor seat, despite the paddock having little expectations from this pay driver. The Indonesian has had mixed results in his four seasons in GP2 and most were expecting him to b completely overshadowed by Wehrlein.
Yet, the 23-year-old has kept the highly-rated Wehrlein honest, outqualifying him at 40% of the races.
But with Haryanto running out of the funds, Manor has decided to replace him with 2015 GP3 champion Esteban Ocon. Although Haryanto truly deserved to see out the season and build up on his performances, Ocon’s incoming has led to an interesting scenario at Manor.
By placing two of its young drivers at Manor, Mercedes have effectively created their own version of Toro Rosso. It allows the German manufacturer to evaluate both their drivers in equal machinery.
A strong driver pairing also serves as a treat for Manor. Usually, in today’s F1 world, a team with limited resouces has to resort to pay drivers, who may not be able to make the most out of rare opportunities to score points.
But Manor is lucky enough to have two highly-credible drivers who can help the team retain 10th place in the constructors standings - and the extra FOM prize money that comes along with it. Moreover, in return for fielding two of its drivers, Mercedes has subsided its power unit to Manor.
by Rachit Thukral