McLaren demand change after discovering ‘unintended barriers’ to F1 cost cap

Zak Brown has called for crucial changes to be made to the cost cap rules to aid sustainability

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has called for crucial changes to be made to the cost cap rules to aid sustainability

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has called on F1 and the FIA to make major regulatory changes after discovering the cost cap has created “unintended barriers” when it comes to the drive for sustainability.

Brown’s comments follow on from the publication of McLaren Racing’s annual sustainability report which has underlined the progress being made by the team in numerous key areas.

McLaren, however, has encountered what it describes as “challenges…under the current financial regulations”.

It has found that “costs incurred for sustainability initiatives sit within the cost cap unless they are directly attributable to an existing exclusion” which means that “teams frequently need to balance investing in performance vs investing in sustainability within the confines of the cost cap”.

With the cap now at US$135 million, US$10m below the level at which it was introduced in 2021, Brown feels the current exclusions do not go far enough, despite the FIA’s establishment of a working group for teams to ensure sustainability criteria are incorporated into the 2026 regulations.

“We strongly believe in the cost cap and wouldn’t want to see anything that undermines its integrity, but current regulations have created some unintended barriers when it comes to investing in sustainability,” said Brown.

“It’s been fantastic to see so much support from F1 and other teams on this issue, and we’re delighted that the FIA has established a working group to explore next steps.

“But to unlock our sport’s potential to drive the development of more sustainable technologies that can spark positive changes on a global scale, we need a genuine step change.

“That requires a level playing field so teams can work towards achieving the same targets and no longer need to choose between investing in car performance and investing in sustainability.

“Our sport needs a clear regulatory framework with financial, technical and sporting regulations that better enable us all to innovate and invest in sustainability. We need to find better ways to share expertise and insights across our industry.

“Only true collaboration will help us drive meaningful change. And if we want to achieve a step change with the new set of 2026 regulations, then those decisions need to be made now.”

According to McLaren, the list of criteria that need to be covered in any exclusions are: diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and training; team wellbeing initiatives, and costs for intern and apprentice programmes to help provide pathways into motorsport and STEM careers.

Another key area is that the technical regulations should actively encourage the adoption of more sustainable materials and processes to support the research and development of a fully circular F1 car.

McLaren also feels there should be the introduction of clear sustainability criteria into the Concorde Agreement to cover core requirements for race calendars, the paddock, and motorhomes, and clear requirements for promoters and competition organisers to meet certain sustainability standards.

With regard to the four pillars of sustainability, McLaren has made considerable strides.

Its achievements include:

Net zero

▪ A 22 percent reduction of GHG emissions against the 2019 baseline

▪ A nine percent reduction in air freight emissions over two years as a result of transporting more race equipment by sea freight

▪ Converting lighting at the McLaren Technology Centre to LEDs, saving enough electricity to power 100 average UK homes for a whole year

Circular economy

▪ A 19 percent reduction in total waste compared to 2021, and zero waste sent to landfill

▪ Cutting single-use plastic: all disposable cups, plastic cutlery and sachets were removed from the MTC restaurant, saving almost 400 coffee cups every week

▪ Identifying 56 factory efficiency projects: eight are completed, 19 are being implemented to cut packaging, waste and cost

Diversity, equity & inclusion

▪ 33 percent of new starters came from under-represented backgrounds

▪ STEM ambassadors reached over 4,000 students across 36 events

▪ 200+ managers participated in inclusive recruitment and onboarding training

Health & wellbeing

▪ Six percent of the team are now trained as mental health first aiders

▪ 40 percent of the operations team took part in webinars on health and wellbeing

▪ Launch of a Social Media Community Code to enable fans to engage with McLaren and each other in a respectful, positive and safe environment

McLaren’s full sustainability report can be found here.

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