Alex Shnaider, owner of the Midland Group, had been flirting with the idea of setting up a Formula One team since 2004. However, due to the then entry bond needed to launch a new team into the series being so high ($48m), Shnaider started to look at buying an existing team. Originally it had been thought he may purchase the ailing Jaguar squad from Ford, but in the end it was Eddie Jordan who sold up, selling his pride and joy for no less than $60m. What the Irish businessman undoubtedly didn’t realise at the time though, was that he started a trend of his team being bought and sold as new investors failed to make it into the success it once was as Jordan.
2005: The Jordan Name Fades
In 2005, Midland finally had their team, writing a large cheque to Eddie Jordan and taking over the Silverstone-based facilities. The team was re-branded into Midland, although they officially raced in 2005 under the Jordan name. Many people stayed with the new team and the promise of renewed morale and vigour excited the personnel and media alike.
The 2005 season was one of change for the team. Results weren’t necessarily expected as the British-based Russian-registered team went about preparing for 2006. The only note of interest came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix. Due to problems with the Michelin tyres, only six cars entered the race; Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello for Ferrari, Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher for Minardi and Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan for Jordan/Midland. As a result, all six drivers finished in the points, Tiago Monteiro taking the third step of the podium.
At the end of 2005 though, despite claiming some points from the United States fiasco, several key team members left the squad. Team principal Trevor Carlin and Chief Engineer & Designer Mark Smith all moved on, suggesting that all was not well with Midland. The media had been buzzing around the squad as well with reports that Midland weren’t entirely happy with the purchase; it had been suggested that the group wanted to get rid of the team even before they had raced under their own name.
2006: The Midland Name Fades
Despite all of this though, the team plowed on and over the winter of 2005-2006 received a full re-branding and renaming. The team finally became Midland F1 and along with a new name came a new livery; black, red and white, heralding the colours of Shnaider’s Midland group and also the colours of new engine partner Toyota.
The team, although on a considerably smaller budget than that of it rivals, managed to produce a car that could compete well enough with the bottom of the midfield for 2006. The team continued with Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro and ran ex-Minardi driver Christijan Albers in the second car. Monteiro had become the driver with the most reliable season in the sport’s history the year previous, finishing in all of his races for the year. However, towards the end of 2006 his retirement frequency increased.
Although improved over their 2005 form, the performance in 2006 hadn’t been what Midland expected and before the season was over the rumours of a sale had crept back into the media. Sure enough by the time the Chinese Grand Prix had arrived, Alex Shnaider was no longer involved in Formula One, the sale to Spyker having been completed in the previous week.
The remaining three races of the year were run as Spyker MF1, the name of the team not being allowed to change due to the FIA regulations. Instead Spyker chose to become, on paper, the team’s title sponsor until 2007 when the name could be changed. Aside from a major re-branding exercise nothing of note changed for the team at the Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian Grands Prix, the team continuing their form of finishing in the best of the rest positions.
The end of the Midland team had been quick, although not entirely unexpected. It seemed as though the squad were expecting too much from their small-scale operation and the project no longer became financially viable. The only good thing to have really come from the sale was to Shnaider himself, who sold the team for just over $105m, almost doubling his money in two years and at the time, earning the title as one of the shortest terms as a team owner.