The Manor F1 Team has confirmed its driver line-up for the Australian Grand Prix. The team – who recently exited administration to make a surprise return to the grid – has revealed that Roberto Merhi will line up alongside existing driver Will Stevens in the “opening rounds”.
The Spaniard finished third in the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 championship taking three wins, six podiums, and three pole positions on the way. Fellow F1 rookie Carlos Sainz Jr was the eventual victor while Stevens finished in sixth place. Merhi also acted as a Caterham test driver last year. “I am incredibly excited to be making my Formula 1 debut with [the] Manor Marussia F1 Team in Melbourne,” he said. “It is a big responsibility but I feel ready to make this step in my career and to show that I can make an important contribution to developing a team.”
As well as the racing driver line-up, Manor has revealed that 2015 GP2 driver Jordan King will join as development driver. “I am obviously over the moon to be joining Manor Marussia F1 Team,” the Brit revealed. “This is such an exciting project, full of great people and with a real chance of success. This is another great step closer to my ultimate goal of racing in Formula 1.”
Team Principal John Booth explained why adding Merhi and King to the new driver line-up was so ‘rewarding’. “They have been ‘graduates’ of Manor Motorsport in the junior formulae, which is obviously very rewarding for us given that the development of young talent is an important part of our philosophy,” he said. “It is fantastic to welcome Roberto [Merhi] and Jordan [King] to the team. They are very talented young drivers with exciting futures ahead of them.”
The team has had a whirlwind few months after looking certain to have disappeared from Formula One at the end of 2014. Initial plans to run the 2014 car had been blocked so the team worked 24/7 to produce a car that met the 2015 regulations and they passed the crash tests just last week. They plan to introduce a new car later in the season using the designs initiated last year. With no testing completed and 2014 Ferrari engines the team face an uphill struggle but even just making the grid is an achievement.
Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon was quick to thank everyone for their support. “I want to thank all of the teams, the FIA, Formula One Management, our suppliers and staff and of course all of the fans for the support we’ve received over the past six months,” he said. “It has been a challenging period for all of us but we’ve come through it and now we just want to go racing again. With formidable new business leadership in Stephen Fitzpatrick and the board presence of Justin King we are now in a great place ahead of the new season. This is a fantastic and very rewarding moment for all those involved with the team.”