James Pozzi recently toured Marussia F1's Banbury facility, the nerve centre of the team's plans to climb the fiercely competitive grid.
Marussia F1 is a team proving life can be tough at the top. Despite utilising readily available technology such as CFD tools and ERP to bridge the competitive gap, it remains the smallest team on the grid and its investments are often met with meagre returns.
But despite working within such modest means, Marussia continues to think big. On a recent visit to its site in the Oxfordshire town of Banbury, I was given an illustration of this.
The facility has all the hallmarks of the sophisticated F1 HQ, albeit on a much smaller scale. While the site holds its modelling shop, R&D centre and destructive and non-destructive testing facilities, around 95% of its car is assembled through sub-contractors. Most notably Ferrari supplies its engines, while essentials such as wind tunnel testing are carried out at McLaren’s Woking site.
Also factoring significantly into the Marussia operation is the 2014 regulation changes. Essential to doing this is focusing on areas such as composite materials, which make up 60 per cent of the car. This sees its on-site R&D team working to the millimetre on parts such as the wishbone suspension to ensure Marussia complies with the rules.
Despite the challenges, the lure of the sport and Marussia’s evidently close knit team ensures it manages to attract skills, with the team expanding from 70-200 employees in just three years. Last year saw the team finish tenth – it’s best ever standing – and sees them going into the new era of Formula 1 focused on increasing car reliability.
Kevin Lee, operations manager at the site, believes being based in Motorsport Valley aids the team’s competitive aspirations. “The biggest advantage of being based here is the access to the skilled workforce, and also the wide range of subcontractors around the region,” he said. “That support infrastructure basically allows us to race.”