4 Things Ex-Ferrari Engineer Pat Fry Will Bring to Manor Formula 1 Team in 2016
The Manor Formula One team are yet to name either of their drivers for the 2016 season, but they've been busy behind the scenes building up a formidable backroom staff.
Ex-McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan joined the team toward the end of November last year, and he was joined in January by former Ferrari designer Nicholas Tombazis. Soon after, the team welcomed an even bigger name—F1 veteran Pat Fry.
In a career spanning almost 30 years, Fry worked at Benetton before moving to McLaren in the early 1990s. There, he acted as race engineer for both Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, before a promotion saw him work briefly in a tactical role.
Fry was promoted further up the ranks soon after to become chief engineer of race development. Per James Allen, he oversaw the design of a number of quick cars, including the 2007 MP4-22, in which Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on the title.
In 2010, after 17 years with McLaren, he moved to rivals Ferrari to become assistant technical director, and over the following years, he held a number of senior positions within the Italian team.
His final role with the Scuderia was director of engineering, but he was axed at the end of 2014 after the team's dismal year. Whether he deserved the chop or was simply a convenient scapegoat is open for debate; Tombazis, sacked by Ferrari at the same time, later told Corriere della Sera (h/t Grandprix247) that he felt blame was unfairly apportioned.
As is typical when a senior figure leaves a team, Fry spent the last year on "gardening leave"—paid by Ferrari to not work for anyone else. But this has now come to an end, and Manor have pulled off quite a coup by bringing him on board as their new engineering consultant.
He won't be a magic bullet for their problems, and the team will almost certainly remain near the back. But Fry's presence will have a number of small benefits to Manor in a number of areas, and even a tiny boost could be the difference between scoring occasional points and missing out entirely.
Here are four things the 51-year-old will bring to Manor next season.
In F1, as in every sport, experience can make or break a team. Whether they're involved in a title fight, a tense scrap over seventh and eighth or a battle just to survive, having people who have "been there and done that" can give a team that little extra advantage to get them over the line.
The new Haas team made no secret of their desire to land a driver with experience to lead their campaign, while Sergio Perez, for whom 2015 was something of a breakthrough year, was quoted by Crash.net as saying, "Every experience, every result in my career, my McLaren experience...everything has helped me develop as a racing driver."
And on the team side, that Lotus lasted long enough to be sold to Renault—while remaining somewhat competitive—owes much to the close-knit, experienced group of unsung heroes at their Enstone base.
Fry has certainly "been there and done that," and he has Benetton, McLaren and Ferrari t-shirts to prove it. He has been in charge of both the tactical and engineering sides of teams, has spent years managing people and knows the ins and outs of F1 politics like the back of his hand.
Manor look set to field a lineup of drivers with little or no experience of racing in F1; having strong figures like Fry among their senior backroom staff should go some way to offsetting this disadvantage.
Fry is not in the same bracket as someone like Adrian Newey or James Allison—his capture does not automatically lead observers to believe his new team will start to make incredible progress.
But no one survives long near the top of big teams like McLaren and Ferrari without being good at what they do—and Fry spent more than a decade as a senior figure at first Woking, then Maranello, picking up plenty of promotions and responsibilities.
Over the years he has been involved in the creation of several very quick cars, including the 2007 McLaren MP4-22 and Ferrari's title-challenging F2012. He also managed people, was a race engineer for six years and learned everything there is to know about the way F1 works.
Fry isn't going to transform Manor into race winners, but his knowledge and skill will undoubtedly enhance the team's technical and engineering departments. In a sport where every tenth counts, his input could make a real difference.
A Little Bit of a 'Big Team' Mentality
"Small team," "minnows," "backmarkers."
Since their formation in 2010 as Virgin Racing, the team now known as Manor have had plenty of labels stuck to them and few of them have been complimentary. They're seen as plucky underdogs—a team that is never expected to succeed.
In fairness to those passing such judgements and applying such labels, Manor haven't done anything to prove they're not deserved. They have only two points to show from almost 100 grand prix entries—with that kind of form, it's a wonder they've lasted as long as they have.
It would, therefore, be understandable if those within the team started to believe their own lack of hype and saw themselves as small-timers.
But Manor will use the field-leading Mercedes engine in 2016, and their uncompetitive, modified 2014 chassis will be replaced by a new and almost certainly quicker machine. They're also welcoming a host of senior figures with past experience at the larger teams.
Fry, along with Ryan and Tombazis, will bring something of a "big team mentality" to Manor—and hopefully, this will inspire those working beneath them to believe they're not just there to make up the numbers.
Respect and Connections
When Manor founder John Booth and long-term partner Graeme Lowdon left the team at the end of 2015, they took a large chunk of Manor's heart and soul with them. Both men were respected and known faces in the paddock, and without them, the top of the Manor team was somewhat devoid of big characters.
Owner Stephen Fitzpatrick and interim chairman Justin King—who ESPN reports also invested in the team—are heavy hitters in the business world, but both are relative newcomers to F1.
Manor needed familiar faces at the head of the organisation, individuals who could hold their own as equals with the other team bosses and who knew people the length and breadth of the pit lane. And internally, they needed leaders who could come in and instantly have the ears of their staff in the way the old bosses did.
The likes of Fry and Ryan certainly fit the bill.
Booth and Lowdon were always going to be difficult to replace, but Manor now appear to have a leadership team that can command the respect of the team's drivers, personnel, potential sponsors and their rivals.
Not bad for a team that, just one year ago, didn't look like they had a future at all.