Manor could have "punched above" its weight in 2017 had the team not folded ahead of the season, according to two of its key technical chiefs.
The Manor team collapsed in January after failing to secure new investors, with owner Stephen Fitzpatrick saying its fate had been sealed when Sauber scored two points at last year's Brazilian Grand Prix, denying Manor FOM prize money for finishing tenth in the championship. Though a rescue package was still being worked on as testing began in February, Fitzpatrick withdrew the team's entry from the championship to end any chance of a return.
Manor's collapse came as it was about to sign off its 2017 car, images of which soon circulated online. Nicholas Tombazis, the ex-Ferrari designer who was Manor's head of aerodynamics in 2016, believes it would have been competitive.
When asked what his thoughts were watching the Australian Grand Prix from home, Tombazis told Italian website Formula Passion: "My feelings were those of a missed opportunity. I believe we could have punched above our weight with the 2017 car, and that we could have secured the long-term future of the team. Everyone at Manor had worked very hard and we were all looking forward to seeing the results of this effort."
Technical director John McQuilliam agrees the car would have been competitive in the midfield.
"It was only the second time in 30 years that I watched the first race of the year not being part of an F1 team," McQuilliam said. "I was just sad that 210 people had spent six months designing and partially building a car that would have been a worthy contender, but circumstances beyond our control meant it was a wasted effort."
McQuilliam thinks Fitzpatrick's actions in the weeks and months leading up to the team's demise helped to seal its fate.
"At the time the team entered administration we had over 90 percent of the components of the 2017 car and we were on track compared to the overall car plan. The main issue is that the owner had stopped with the procurement of car parts since late November. This decision ultimately resulted in the inability to attract new investors as the team could not guarantee to be on the grid in Melbourne with a 2017 car.
"After the company entered administration we switched focus on a program to legalise the 2016 car for the start of the season, buying us time to produce and complete the 2017 car for race three [Bahrain]. This activity extended well into February but stopped when the owner withdrew the entry for the 2017 championship."