One of the biggest surprises of the FIA's announcement on Friday of the entry list to 2010 was the inclusion of Manor Grand Prix. The successful F3 team had never been mentioned in any of the speculation about new entries – but has been quietly working away on its plans.
AUTOSPORT was the first to speak to team principal John Booth after the announcement, as he revealed why he had kept a low profile, how the team came about and what his ambitions for the future are.Q. You kept this quiet...
"It was always our intention to keep under the radar, so if you think something is going to happen and then it doesn't, you don't look like such a pillock!"Q. How did Manor Grand Prix come about? JB:
"It's a project we've been working on for quite a while. The opportunity came up about four or five months ago after chatting to Nick Wirth and that's the key to the project in all honesty. He's a brilliant guy and has the skill and talent to design and build the car, whereas we've got the nous to run it. Manor Grand Prix will run to Yorkshire values – as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Nick is a partner in Manor GP and I've got every faith in his people."Q. What made you want to get into F1? JB:
"I always said we'd never go further than F3, because I believe that's the pinnacle outside of F1, and until the recession and the budget cap it was never going to happen except for a major manufacturer with £100million to spend.
"The way the FIA has decided to cap budgets and bring it all under control has opened the door for new teams. Originally we planned under £30 million ($50m) and the willingness to get costs under control."Q. If the budget limit goes up, will you still be able to enter F1? JB:
"Even if it creeps up to £100million, it's better than £500million. If the cost goes up, we will still be working within our parameters – I have every confidence."Q. Is Manor Motorsport big enough to take on F1? JB:
"Our current premises are oversized for F3. It's about 8,500 square feet, but we do need to expand for F1 and have planning permission for another 6,000."Q. How far advanced is the car? JB:
"The design is pretty much finalised and we intend to have a car running in January with an FIA-spec customer Cosworth engine. We wanted to be independent of a manufacturer because we don't want to be used as a political pawn – it was a conscious decision not to approach them."Q. How do you expect to fare? JB:
"I'd expect it to be a good car straight out of the box. I don't expect to win races immediately, don't get me wrong, but I expect to surprise a few people."Q. How will the F3 team be affected? JB:
"Manor Motorsport will continue, maybe as a two-car operation, but it will continue for sure. Once the season is over, my focus will be the F1 project, but I'll give the F3 team my best efforts until then."Q. Do you have any potential drivers in the pipeline? JB:
"It's to early to talk about drivers, but it's unfortunate that Roberto [Merhi] isn't a year on from where he is because I have every faith he will be the real article."