Image: CanCatania.

WITH FEWER THAN EIGHT WEEKS before the 2017 Formula One rocks into Melbourne’s picturesque Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix, odds are the grid will be down one – to 21 fat-footed beasts.

Manor Racing – the team formerly known as Virgin, then Marussia, then Manor again – late last week entered bankruptcy protection, with FRP Advisory hired as administrators by Just Racing Services Ltd, the team’s parent company.

FRP was also appointed administrators at the end of 2014, when current team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick took over.

The 37-year0old Northern Irishman is a former JP Morgan trader and owns OVO Energy. He is a self-confessed F1 fan and who was named the ‘entrepreneur of the year’ in 2014, the year before he emptied to $60 million from his own coffers and bought the Manor Marussia F1 Team.

“The decision represents a disappointing end to a two-year journey for Manor,” Fitzpatrick said. “Unfortunately, time ran out before [the investors] could complete the transaction.”

Joint administrator Geoff Rowley admitted the team made significant progress under its new ownership since the start of 2015 the highlight of which, he said, included securing a constructors’ championship point in the preceding F1 season. “But the position remains that operating a F1 team requires significant ongoing investment.

“During recent months, the senior management team has worked tirelessly to bring new investment to the team to secure its long-term future, but regrettably has been unable to do so within the time available. Therefore, they have been left with no alternative but to place JRSL into administration.”

The battle has been on with investors in a so far vain effort to secure funding for 2017.

And scoring just a single point last season did not bode well for the future.

Manor currently employs 212 staff at its UK headquarters at Banbury, Oxfordshire, and their future is looking dimmer as each day passes, unless a white knight rides by with two wagon loads of loot.

“No redundancies have been made and all staff have been paid in full to the end of December,” Rowley said.

The team’s drivers in 2016 were Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon and Rio Haryanto.

And, while France looks set to regain its F1 race next year Britain’s famed Silverstone is looking at pulling the pin after 2019 – a consideration that absolutely horrifies Bernie Ecclestone.

Meanwhile, so far Renault leads the race for launching the first cab off the rank for the new season – February 21, followed by Force India February 22, Mercedes February 23, and Ferrari February 24.

Ends AC