2015 was very much a year of simply surviving for the Manor team, after being brought back from the dead at the eleventh hour last year. Running with a year-old car (albeit modified to satisfy changes within the regulations) and with a year-old power unit last year, it was unsurprising that Manor were some way off the pace at every event. However, the team has managed to secure a highly coveted 2016 Mercedes power unit for this year, as well as the services of personnel who used to work for the likes of Williams, Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren. However, the team has lost John Booth and Grahame Lowdon, the former founding Manor Motorsport, both leaving to take part in the World Endurance Championship following disagreements with team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick. The Manor F1 2016 team appears to be becoming more of a Mercedes b-team, and as a result of all this, there is a complete overhaul in the driver line-up of last year.
2012, 2015: Marussia (test driver)
2015 GP2 series fourth placed driver
Despite not having the required superlicence points for F1, Rio Haryanto will become Indonesia’s first F1 racer. Haryanto qualifies on the basis that he has tested for Manor recently, and thus qualifies through the old methods which still apply for now. Haryanto took three wins and five podiums in GP2 last year (in addition to two other podiums from his three seasons prior) however all bar one of these podiums and wins came in sprint races where he finished the preceding feature race no higher than fifth. Haryanto secured the seat after apparently outbidding popular American Alexander Rossi and British driver Will Stevens. Haryanto has chosen 88 as his racing number.
2014-: Mercedes (test driver)
2015 DTM champion
Pascal Wehrlein enters F1 as the reigning (and youngest ever) DTM champion. He will become the first driver to do so since Paul di Resta back in 2011. Wehrlein is very highly regarded by Mercedes and has been their reserve driver for a number of years now, deputising for Lewis Hamilton in testing last year after the Briton felt unwell. He also tested for Force India. However Wehrlein has not raced a single seater now for three years, and the style of racing that occurs in DTM is very different to what we see in F1, and arguably it is not as well regarded as a stepping stone into F1 compared to junior categories and as a result of this Wehrlein also does not have the sufficient superlicence points. Wehrlein comes in with a rumoured $6 million for Manor, as well as some windtunnel time at Mercedes. Wehrlein will pilot the car with the number 94, which he did when he took the DTM title last year.
Manor has quietly gone about things in testing and it is clear already that the car will be significantly closer to the front of the grid than it was in 2015. Whether the new Mercedes power unit will elevate them off the back of the grid or not is yet to be seen. They did not complete anywhere near as much mileage as the more established teams and they had a few reliability issues and a few spins from Haryanto but they completed a lot more mileage than they did in testing last year. The car was by no means the slowest in testing but they did use the new Ultra Soft tyre to achieve such a lap time.
With effectively a completely different team to last year, it would be safe to assume that Manor could struggle in the early races. However I think points may certainly be possible at various points throughout the year and the drivers must take their chances where possible. Manor are highly unlikely to be joining the midfield this year, but they will almost certainly be more competitive than they were last year, and perhaps in 2014. They will be one of the teams towards the back, but they could find themselves tenth at the end of the year.