After months of analysis and delays, the FIA must finally announce the results of its audit of the finances of the Formula 1 teams from last season 2021, and that crucial moment will define whether or not each of the teams complied with the budget regulations. limited to 145 million dollars [about 128 million euros at the time].
However, rather than that being just a moment of standard procedure, rumors in the Singapore paddock that two teams may have broken the rules have left the series on edge for what could be a very important announcement. As the cost cap has been one of the main components of Formula 1’s future plans for a more even grid in the long term, the international federation faces a difficult balancing act in dealing with potential problems.
If she’s tough on teams that have pushed the limits, they risk causing huge controversy in a 2021 campaign that remains sensitive for many fans, but if they hide the infractions and let it slide, or impose too light penalties, you risk opening the doors for others to feel that overspending is not something to worry about.
No wonder Ferrari spoke so openly in Singapore about the importance of the cost cap, with sporting director Laurent Mekies saying: “That’s a vital test for the cost cap, and if we don’t pass it, it’s probably going to be the end of the game.” game, because the implications are huge.
What has made Mercedes or Ferrari so concerned about possible excess spending by other teams is that they know they are missing out on some of the performance they could achieve if they exceed the budget ceiling.
His fear is that if others have found ways around the limits or are happy to overspend and take the penalties, they will be forced to change tactics, and that could open the door for more teams to ignore the regulations.
Defense of Red Bull on the accusation of exceeding F1’s cost limit
Despite all the spotlight in Singapore being on Red Bull, and suspicions that its upgrade spending had been sidetracked, team boss Christian Horner was very clear that its 2021 budget was under the cap. .
In fact, pundits have suggested that their accounts were several million below that ceiling, and have been unaffected by the spending clarifications the FIA has issued in recent months reviewing audits of each outfit.
“It’s way down,” the Red Bull boss said. “With the clarifications, we should be even more so.”
Thus, the final judgment of the FIA , like that of the rest of the fiscal authorities, may not always agree with someone’s self-assessment, only the governing body can decide the value of the expenses, and the amount of work that its subsidiaries, such as Red Bull Technology, should be added to the budget.
In addition, the federation has to decide which costs are allocated to 2021 and which to those of the current course, and that is why there is so much interest in knowing what the result will be on Wednesday, by the teams that consider that some have not complied with the normative.
As Mekies put it : “I think the concern is that if you think about the level of restrictions that have been placed [on the big teams], then you realize how many laps there are going to be if you don’t strictly enforce it.” .
“We were very limited and, therefore, any million, any expense, is going to be converted into a few tenths per second in the car,” said the Ferrari sporting director.
However, the situation is not only important for the leaders, because if the cost cap situation turns into a ‘Wild West’-like scenario, where all the teams decide they can be fast, and that undermines the whole goal of leveling the grill.
The risk is that the most powerful teams accelerate their spending and take penalties in the future, knowing that the end result is a much faster car. For this reason, the way in which the FIA manages the budget ceiling and the transparency with which it judges each team is of interest to both large and small.
The secret deal the governing body struck with Ferrari over its 2019 power unit remains painful for many. The FIA will not have an easy task in coming up with a response that makes all parties happy if teams are found to have broken the rules, and if everyone is given the go-ahead it will serve to trigger unrest in the paddock if not explained. the reason.
As Haas boss Guenther Steiner put it: “If there is no violation, I would say we have to make sure we are informed. If there were gaps, what do we think they are, everyone understands them, and obviously the gray spaces create different opinions on the rules, so it needs to be clarified.
Retain F1 cost cap plan
Whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s announcement, the message from the teams is clear: Formula 1 must not abandon the cost cap just because it hit its first hurdle.
Alfa Romeo boss Frédéric Vasseur explained: “We knew from the beginning, when we voted for the limit, that it would be difficult, first to put it into practice for the big teams, and then to keep an eye on it.”
“But now that we have made the decision, we have to go for it, there is no going back, and we cannot stop it,” said the Hinwil-based team’s chief executive officer.
Despite the pain it has caused leaders, who have had to lay off people to stay within the limit, they also agree that the budget ceiling was the right thing to do, and that the key is to ensure it works fairly.
Mercedes director Toto Wolff said: “We have decided to go the way of the limit, and that we want to give the smaller ones a chance to fight with the big ones, so we have been forced to restructure our businesses and take out dozens and dozens of of millions to adjust to the budget so that they are more competitive”.
“I think the whole purpose of it was for us to be under the same umbrella, and not become a financial championship where we try to look for gray areas. It goes against what we’ve all committed to,” Wolff continued.
Even for Red Bull, which has been angry to see that its rivals point to it, it has doubts about how everything develops from now on, since it is also necessary to take into account all the sacrifice that the team made.
Austrian chief executive Christian Horner said: “I think what is happening in Formula 1 is a positive thing, and it has had a direct impact on costs.”
“I have heard figures of up to 40 people laid off in some of our rivals. In Red Bull, we have done it with more than 90 people, and the cost control that has been carried out has been very strict throughout the organization.”
“I think it’s something the FIA can keep an eye on, but we’re going to learn, and we’re seeing clarifications that are coming out, even after the filing has been made, which could have an impact on what was done in March. assured the British. “So of course there will always be a learning process, both for the judges and for the contestants.”
For this reason, Formula 1 is anxious to know what comes out of the FIA headquarters in Paris on Wednesday.
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