Interview: How Manor has got its Formula 1 groove back

Manor's attention-grabbing start to 2016 has given the team its self-belief back, but race director Dave Ryan knows that its job is far from done yet.

After a winter of restructuring and a switch to Mercedes power, Manor has impressed in the first two races of the year, even though it has missed out on points.

In Australia, Pascal Wehrlein pulled off a sensational start to fight in the midfield before tyre degradation dropped him down the order.

While in Bahrain, his star performance in qualifying, and then a fraught battle for the top 10 on Sunday, grabbed media attention – and some radio comments from Kevin Magnussen who labelled his car 'a rocket.'

Winter change

It is a world away from a very difficult 2015 campaign that Manor endured, where it was pegged to the back of the grid with its year old car.

For Ryan, who joined the team at the end of last season, the early 2016 progress is hugely encouraging but there is no sitting back and expecting things to automatically stay like this for the rest of the campaign.

"We are not getting too carried away," he told Motorsport.com. "We have a lot of work to do yet. And the focus of everyone in the offices, and back at base: everyone wants to improve.

"It is like anything: if you can see a bit of light, a bit of improvement, then suddenly motivation increases and everyone understands there is an opportunity here.

"The team in its previous guise, it was hard work for them. But what last year enabled them to do was to go into a holding pattern and prepare for this year – with Luca [Furbatto] and John [McQuilliam] driving the design side, it has enabled them to put a pretty good car together.

"So now we have to operate that car to the best of our ability."

Room for improvement

Ryan, who spent 35 years with McLaren, is not the kind of man who will sit back and let any opportunity to improve go missing.

He knows that while a lot of progress has been made over the winter, there is still a mountain to climb if Manor is going to become a regular midfield contender.

Those improvements have to come from both updating its car and in lifting other operational aspects of its team.

"We do need to develop the car, but to get the best out of the car we do need to maximise the performance of what we have got – and the tools around it.

"It is things like pit stops. Our pit stops are pretty good but they are not where they need to be. If you look at that, we can gain a little bit of time there.

"We just need to be honest with ourselves and say: this isn't good enough, that isn't good enough, and we must work on them.

"We need the self belief that we can improve, and we have got that now."

Driver promise

Although Wehrlein has had a great deal of praise heaped on him after his starring performances in Australia and Bahrain, Ryan is not get over-excited about what he has seen.

For while acknowledging the potential that the young German has, he reckons there is still plenty of room for him to improve.

"Let's not label Pascal a superstar just yet," said Ryan. "What Pascal has brought to the team, as has Rio, they have bought a belief, a load of enthusiasm and a load of talent.

"They have learned, and certainly Pascal has learned, how to be humble and how to create a team around them.

"He is not the complete package but he has got all the ingredients. But he needs to develop as well. He has got a big task ahead of him, as has Rio.

"They are both very much a part of this team and they are going to be part of how we develop as a team. We will only be as good as the input we get from the drivers and the direction we get.

"That is a lot to ask of a couple of young guys, but so far there are all very good signs."

New challenge

Ryan admits that he too is relishing his new role in F1, both in terms of seeing progress but also in bringing on a new generation of engineers who will lead F1 in the future.

"It is different. But I am enjoying it," he said. "I never thought I would enjoy sitting down talking to the likes of you, but I am enjoying it. That side of isn't a problem for me...

"For me it is a great experience: working with young engineers and watching them be challenged, and see how they work around it.

"Also having good drivers on board, having the ability to get other people, bring them into the team and see the change they make. We are only as good as the people we have got.

"There will be peaks and troughs and times when it is not going to go well. So we are not putting all our eggs in one basket, and say we have cracked it.

"What we are saying is that there are signs of improvement. It looks like it is going to the right way, and everyone seems positive.

"We have got the best engine in the paddock and the support we get from Mercedes is unbelievably positive, and the Williams transmission is working really, really well. Everyone on that side is really positive. It is a win-win.

"We just have to deliver. And I think we can."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Rio Haryanto , Pascal Wehrlein
Teams Manor Racing
Article type Interview