Teams argue over F1 cost cap
By Mat Coch
Wednesday 4th August, 2021 - 8:56am
The Formula 1 paddock is quietly being divided into two camps as the effects of the sport’s new financial regulations start being felt.
Teams this year are limited in terms of what they can spend, with some exceptions, with those at the pointy end all having had to trim down their operations.
That’s seen staff laid off or repurposed, and decisions made with financial considerations as much as car performance.
However, the risk of racing is that teams cannot account for every dollar they may need to spent, with crash damage a prime example.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner has claimed that his team took a $1.8 million hit as a result of Max Verstappen crashing out on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix last month.
Rubbing salt into that wound was the fact both his cars were involved in the first corner stoush at the Hungarian Grand Prix last weekend.
Aside from the sporting impact, which looks likely to see both Verstappen and Sergio Perez take engine-related grid penalties later in the season, the financial burden has been heavy.
Earlier in the season, Mercedes experienced a similar scenario when Valtteri Bottas and George Russell came together at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
With team’s inability to control that aspect of their potential spend, while operating under a cost cap, Horner has called for the FIA to get involved.
“Is he going to pay the bill?” Horner quizzed of Toto Wolff when asked on Sky Sports if he expected an apology from the Mercedes boss following the Hungarian clash.
“It’s racing; Toto wasn’t driving a car, the driver was driving a car.
“I’m sure he didn’t tell him ‘crash into the Red Bull’ – I’m sure he wasn’t that sorry to see the result, but I’m sure he didn’t tell Valtteri to do that – but the consequences of that for us are brutal.
“In a cost cap environment, that needs looking at by the FIA.”
“Obviously you’ve got to look at what’s within the cap,” Horner added in a subsequent interview.
“It’s spare parts and it’s the engines as well, which is particularly concerning.
“I think we need to revisit this with the FIA because ultimately it’s something that can affect all teams, not just Red Bull.”
Ferrari holds a similar, if not more extreme opinion.
The Scuderia’s team boss, Mattia Binotto, does not believe an allowance needs to be introduced for repairs; he does suggest a user-pay model.
“I think there is value for discussions in the near future with the other team principals, FIA, and F1,” he said.
“Obviously if you’re not guilty, having such damage in the budget cap is something which is even more of a consequence now.
“Should we add exemptions? I’m not sure that’s the solution, I think it may be very difficult to be policed.
“But I think that what we may consider is that if a driver is faulty, the team of the driver should pay at least to the other teams for the damages and repairs.
“That will make the drivers more responsible.”
However, not all teams subscribe to that philosophy, with those currently operating under the budget cap having faced those constraints for a number of years.
McLaren’s Andreas Seidl, whose squad does operate at the cost cap and had two cars damaged in Hungary, believes the system is fine as it is.
“No, not at all,” he responded when asked if the cost cap needed to be reviewed.
“I definitely will not go in the direction Christian is going, mentioning in every second sentence the cost cap and how much you get hurt by it by every accident on the track.
“In the end, that is part of the game we are in, it is down to us to manage the budget in the right way.”
Teams are currently constrained by a $145 million cap, which will slide to $135 million for 2023.