Long linked to a potential deal to bail out Manor Racing, Formula One promoter and organiser Tavo Hellmund admitted this week that the result of the final race of 2016 proved the deciding factor in why the plans - and the team - collapsed.
“At one point we had agreed to terms,” revealed Hellmund, who was in talks to buy the team for a year and a half. "We made two stabs at it. We offered 22 million pounds a year and one-half ago.
“The first go-round, we were even going to involve Anthony Hamilton, Lewis’ dad.
“We were looking to form a partnership with one of the big manufacturers, Mercedes or Honda. We had conversations with both," he added. "That way you can get motors — discounted motors — and get a driver."
Hellmund said that the team's consistently improving form, its single ownership, small operation of around 200 employees and relatively small debt load had made the deal attractive to potential buyers in 2016, but that as time rolled on with no deal the team became less appealing to investors.
The final blow came with the Brazilian Grand Prix which saw rivals Sauber pick up two points and demote Manor to last place in the constructors championship - with big repercussions for prize money payouts for the team.
“They were starting to come to our terms, and then Brazil happened,” admitted Hellmund, saying that the rain in Interlagos on race day had been crucial to the outcome. "In the dry, Manor was the faster car."
Hellmund explained that Manor would have made around $15 million if it had held on to tenth place in the standings - and potentially make another $34 million from a different pot of money if it had gone on to achieve that feat twice in a three-year period.
Hellmund noted that the protracted negotiations led to 'investor fatigue' in which it was difficult to maintain the interest and enthusiasm of potential partners. Manor’s operating company Just Racing Services Ltd went into administration on January 6 and the team formally wound up at the end of the month.
"We felt we had reached critical time in the development of the car for next year," he said of the final decision to end negotiations without agreement. "It’s a shame those people are now out of work."