Just a couple of days after speaking bullishly about hoping to challenge the F1 midfield this season, Marussia has been forced to concede that it considered merging with back-of-the-grid rival Caterham.
An article in the UK's Times
newspaper quoted F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone as saying that the two minnows had considered the drastic move in a bid to ensure their survival into the 2013 season, citing the talks as a reason why Marussia had yet to sign its option on the new Concorde Agreement. However, while Marussia president Graeme Lowdon concedes that there were meetings to discuss the possibility of joining forces with Tony Fernandes' equipe
, they came to nothing and are unlikely to be resurrected.
"I can confirm that discussions took place, [but] I wasn't involved in them and, as I understand it, the conclusion was unacceptable to our shareholders, so nothing happened," Lowdon told Sky Sports Online
The best of the three teams to join the grid in 2010, Marussia and Caterham – which originally appeared as Virgin Racing and Lotus Racing – have fought it out to secure the estimated £10m in prize money for tenth place in the constructors' championship ever since, with the green-and-gold of Caterham coming out on top each time, albeit by the narrowest of margins last year. With HRT (nee Hispania Racing) having folded over the winter, the British-based pair are left to fight once again in 2013 where, ironically, Marussia appears to have the upper hand after the opening round in Australia last weekend.
Caterham has not commented on the merger rumour, but chief executive Riad Asmat has responded to separate suggestions that the team's interest in F1 may be waning by claiming that 'Caterham is staying this year, next year and for many more years'. Team owner Tony Fernandes has been spending more time with his other sporting interest, London-based Queens Park Rangers FC, in recent weeks, as the club attempts to escape relegation from the Premiership.