There are times in life where discretion is the better part of valour. Understanding this in future may stand Bob Fernly in good stead.
Having outperformed Lotus in 2014, Force India took their seat around the F1 Strategy Group table and at their first meeting the Silverstone based team were credited with blocking the former Marussia F1 from returning to the grid this year.
It is not clear how the topic of Manor/Marussia (new name) made the agenda for that Strategy Group meeting, however, Bob Fernley admitted he had vetoed a return for Booth and Lowden’s team because, their application was “a really poor show” and lacking in “substance”.
In fact, on December 17 last year, Manor Marussia had made a request to the Strategy Group before Force India joined, to be allowed to race during the early part of 2015 with their 2014 car. Subsequently, they were informed early in January by letter that they would in fact be permitted to race with their 2014 car.
The letter clearly stated, the car should comply with all of the 2015 technical regulations, with the exception of four articles which relate to the front impact test and frontal bodywork.
TJ13 has been led to believe, Bob Fernly and Force India were in fact aware prior to the Strategy Group meeting, of the dispensation granted to Marussia. At that time, Force India were themselves suffering from significant difficulties. Seemingly their millionaire owner had no more cash to support the team and their 2015 chassis – which TJ13 exclusively revealed had been fabricated by Formaplex Ltd – was being held ransom until payment for the work done had been made.
Graham Lowden responded to the news emerging from the strategy group meeting as follows.
“We did not make any application to yesterday’s Strategy Group meeting, and nor were we asked to. Instead, we are proceeding with our clear process regarding compliance and building our operation. We are doing everything possible to adhere to the process set out for us to return to the 2015 grid”.
Predictably, Force India and Bob Fernly received a backlash both in the printed and social media for their actions which were interpreted as self-serving and motivated by a desire to get their hands on a share of the Marrusia 2014 prize money.
Fermly had claimed they were not the only team who wanted Manor/Marussia barred from returning to the 2015 F1 grid. Yet one by one teams’ Strategy Group representatives came out in support of Manor/Marussia, and none admitted they were also in agreement with Fernly and Force India.
Meanwhile, Manor/Marussia have since resolved the financial problems with their creditors, exited administration and built and passed the 2015 crash tests with a modified 2014 chassis, which is now compliant with the regulations the Strategy Group had exempted them from.
Today, Bob Fernly has wished Graham Lowden and John Booth well, though unfortunately in the process he decided to re-hash his reasoning for blocking the Manor/Marussia return in the first place.
Speaking to Autosport, Force India’s deputy team principal had this to say. “The money is irrelevant. Even if that money was distributed, it would be a minor sticky plaster on the problems. And it had nothing to do with the way we voted.
“The first thing is Manor was essentially asking the teams to make a concession of safety. The regulations changes between 2014 and 2015 are entirely safety based, so what you’re saying is, ‘I would like to bring my car in which is technically unsafe, will you make a concession for me?’
“The second thing is the teams are saying we are supportive but we need a credible presentation that says who is behind the team and what is the sustainability of it. And how long does it want the concession? Is it two races, four or six? It can’t be a whole season because we would all run 2014 cars in that case.
“Not a single piece of information was forthcoming. That’s why it was turned down.”
Yet Fernly surely now knows that due to the need for confidentiality, at the time Manor Marussia had revealed to both the FIA and FOM prior to Force India’s first visit to the Strategy Group exactly who their investors were and the finance plan they had in place. The plan was clearly of substance because Manor/Marussia have not since requested a $10m advance of their prize money, as have Force India, Sauber and Lotus.
Fernly concludes: “We have to respect the process and governance of Formula 1 because it is there to protect us all. Safety cannot be compromised and if it is going to be compromised, there has to be a damned good reason for doing it.”
Mr. Fernly’s latest attempt at an explanation for his actions designed to banish Marussia into permanent exile, has the ring of righteous self-justification; and in the words of Queen Gertrude, rather sounds as though – he “protesteth too much”.