Triumph and disaster: a few days define a season

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team celebrate wining the F1 Constructors' Championship in Russia NNL-141014-084708002
The Mercedes AMG Petronas team celebrate wining the F1 Constructors' Championship in Russia NNL-141014-084708002

The season may be over but in the space of just a few days this week the sharply contrasting fortunes of two of Banburyshire’s Formula 1 teams were thrust back into the spotlight.

On the one hand there was yet more celebration for the all-conquering Mercedes AMG Petronas team when Lewis Hamilton was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday evening.

At the glittering event in Glasgow, in front of an audience of sports stars past and present – and broadcast to a massive audience around the country – Hamilton joined a who’s who of sporting greats who have lifted the sports personality prize in the event’s 61-year history.

He has twice been runner-up, to Joe Calzaghe in 2007 and Sir Chris Hoy the following year but took pole position this time after his triumphant season.

Hamilton took 34 per cent of the public vote, well clear of second-placed Rory McIlroy, who got 20 per cent.

Two days later and well away from the glitz and glamour of this annual TV celebration, the very different season of the Banbury-based Marussia F1 team entered a final, decisive phase when its assets went up for auction online.

Images of those assets appeared at the end of last week showing that what was once a bustling, dynamic factory was now deserted, waiting for buyers to pick up what’s left.

The team went into administration back in October, before the end of the season, though there was still optimism the team would find a financial backer to maybe let them finish the season or rejoin the grid for 2015.

But it was not to be and when they finally closed the doors on their factory in Overthorpe Road for the last time, it marked a sad end to a relatively short chapter in the team’s life.

While Marussia could not fund drivers such as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the fact they fielded two inexperienced but very talented racers in Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi showed their ambition despite having made up the numbers for their first few years.

Their season was overshadowed by the serious injury to Bianchi. His fight goes on – see story, right.

Mercedes, meanwhile, had made the return to Formula 1 in the 2010 season, with the team principal Ross Brawn keeping their base and its workforce in Brackley.

Originally starting with Rosberg and seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, Mercedes finished fourth in their first season back in Formula 1.

Hamilton was to join Mercedes from McClaren ahead of the 2013 season and with Rosberg, the pair helped the Brackley team finish second in the FIA Constructors’ Championship behind Ferrari.

But it was the season just gone that turned out to be a dream as they went on to dominate, winning the constructors’ title alongside Hamilton taking the drivers’ title.

The success of the team was welcomed by everyone in South Northamptonshire, with the team organising an open-top parade through the town’s High Street earlier this month to celebrate their achievements.

Councillor Mary Clarke, leader of South Northamptonshire Council, said: “There are hundreds of employees at the factory in Brackley and many of them also live in this area.

“Mercedes AMG Petronas certainly puts south Northamptonshire on the map. Not only are the team investing in our district, they are investing in Formula 1 and high performance engineering which is a key sector in our local economy.”