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Marussia burns up £140m of losses in just three years

NEWS STORY
26/05/2014

Marussia has lost more money than any other UK-based Formula One team over the past three years according to new research which reveals that its total losses have accelerated to £140.6m since it joined the sport in 2010.

As the following list shows, Marussia's deficit comes to nearly half of the combined £320.2m of losses burned up by the nine teams which file publicly available financial statements. Eight of them, including Marussia, are based in the UK with Toro Rosso being the only foreign team to file public accounts. Swiss-based Sauber is not obliged to do this and the finances of Ferrari's F1 team aren't subject to public scrutiny as they are included within the car company itself.

The huge losses made by F1 teams are driven by the lack of a cap on spending. It has led to annual team budgets accelerating to an estimated £125m last year as their owners pump in funding in a bid to outspend their rivals and win on track.

The smaller outfits struggle to keep up if the investment doesn't yield results and at the end of 2012 Spanish minnow HRT closed its doors. Marussia's mistakes began before the team had even hit the track.

The accounts of the team's operating company Manor Grand Prix Racing for the year ending 31 December 2009 show that it made a £1.3m net loss after paying £8.9m to WR Technology, the design business owned by its former technical director Nick Wirth. He took a big gamble by creating the car entirely using computer simulations rather than by testing physical models as all the other teams do. It was a step too far.

Despite the bumper payment for his services Wirth made an astonishing mistake by building a car with a fuel tank that was so small it could not even finish most of the first five races at full speed. To make matters even worse, the team signed up to F1 when a £40m budget cap was due to be introduced. This would have levelled out the competition but without it the gulf between the top and bottom of the grid has widened. Marussia is now one of the smallest teams and has 168 staff compared to 612 at Mercedes which is the biggest employer.

As Pitpass has revealed, Lloyds bank bailed out of the team in April last year when it sold its 25.3% stake in it to the Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia which the outfit is named after. It gave Marussia a majority stake but it has also been trying to attract new investors.

In 2012 Pitpass also revealed that Marussia F1's chief executive Andy Webb said he was in "active discussions with potential new investors in the business" and late last year he confirmed that there are still "on-going discussions with a number of interested parties." Last month the background to this became clearer as it was reported that Marussia has suspended its car manufacturing operations.

A team spokesperson said that this would not affect the team financially since it "has been an independent operation for some time." According to the team's accounts, it is ultimately owned by the family trust of Russian entrepreneur Andrey Cheglakov who was an investor in the car company. However, as Marussia no longer makes cars it raises the question of whether the team has lost its purpose as a vehicle to promote it.

Although Marussia is F1's worst-performer financially, it has done far better on track. It finished last year in tenth place but currently lies one place higher after scoring two points thanks to a storming drive from Jules Bianchi at the Monaco Grand Prix. If Marussia finishes the year in that position it would give it an estimated £28.5m of prize money, up from the £8.3m it received for last year's results. It could be just the boost it needs to prevent it from ending up like HRT.

Business news from @formulamoney

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