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Manor have struggling Sauber in their sights


By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One backmarkers Manor have struggling Sauber in their sights and would be disappointed to finish last again this season, according to racing director Dave Ryan.

Manor finished 10th and last overall in 2015, without scoring a point, but there are now 11 teams on the grid following the arrival of U.S.-owned Haas.

Swiss-based Sauber, whose drivers collided with each other in Monaco last weekend, and Manor are the only ones yet to score points in 2016 with the former ahead on the basis of two 12th place race finishes for Sweden's Marcus Ericsson.

"Sauber are still a very strong team, they’ve got fantastic facilities but they’ve obviously got cash problems. If they are struggling as a result of that, that’s their problem not ours," Ryan told Reuters.

"The way we look at it is they are just another team we’ve got to try and beat. It just happens to be Sauber next door to us and to some people they are the obvious target," added the New Zealander.

"Well, maybe they are but we’ve got to try to be in a position to beat anyone who is in front of us really. I think we’d be very disappointed if we didn’t finish 10th, that’s for sure."

The former McLaren team manager and sporting director joined Manor last year when they were still known as Marussia and struggling with a car way off the pace.

Since then, they have switched to the dominant Mercedes power units with the world champions' German reserve Pascal Wehrlein, who finished 13th in Bahrain, racing along with Indonesian Rio Haryanto.

American Alexander Rossi, who won the Indy 500 as a rookie last weekend, is the reserve.

The team have big ambitions, despite their limited resources, and are determined to grow.

"I think we are still discovering ourselves, to be honest," said Ryan of the changes since the departure last season of principal and founder John Booth along with sporting director Graeme Lowdon.

"I’ve only been here for a short period of time, we’ve got great ambition, we know what we want to achieve and we know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there and we’ve got a lot to do.

"But we want to enjoy ourselves along the way if we can and that’s the message."

Ryan, who spent 35 years at McLaren until leaving the team and sport in 2009 after a controversy involving world champion Lewis Hamilton and the 'deliberate misleading' of race stewards, said the team aimed to do a lot better.

"We clearly desire to be a really solid midfield team...but we also know that’s a long game. We are not going to get there this year or next year. It might take four or five years," he said.

Marussia finished ninth in 2014, scoring their only points thanks to the late French driver Jules Bianchi's ninth place in Monaco, and then sinking into administration before an 11th hour rescue under new ownership.

Getting through last year was tough but the future looks brighter with the team of some 150 people now looking to expand and take on more staff.

"There is no doubt that this year’s car is a massive step on last year’s. But we are still nowhere near quick enough," said Ryan.

"This year we’re definitely able to be competitive with some of the cars around us and the performance gap we had to find to do that was massive. But we need the same improvement again.

"It’s not one area in particular, it’s everywhere."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Lovell)

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