With the COVID-19 pandemic, F1 found itself in a difficult situation. With the lack of racing, every single team noted a loss related with the races being either cancelled or postponed, with voices that some of the teams might not survive financially and eventually go bankrupt. This situation led to a more serious debates over the budget cap that was announced last October as a way to make F1 more sustainable. With the budget cap to come in force next year, it has been reduced to $145 million, but there are still discussions over the increased cost control.
The Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul spoke about the fact that discussions over driver salaries are a part of the ongoing debates between the teams in regards to the cost control, which apparently many are hopeful of resolving soon. Driver salaries have been one of the exclusions from the original budget cap proposal, but some bosses were pushing for those to be included, to prevent them from spiralling.
Abiteboul said in an interview with Sky Sports F1 that he believes it is important for the future of F1 to get the drivers salaries under control in the budget cap era, but it wont be easy due to complexities related to the legal side of the contracts and length of the deals.
As Abiteboul said: “It’s part of the debate, part of what’s on the table, [but has] an additional complexity of legality, because we need to make sure that it’s legal, in the sense that we need to make sure that it’s forceable. And also the extra complexity that you have some drivers that have already very long-term contracts - so congratulations to Max [Verstappen] in that respect”
He added: “But I think if we need to make exceptions for systems that will be healthy, and important for the sustainability of the sport, I think we still need to do it. We should not have one given individual, one given situation, in your current case Max’s contract or Charles [Leclerc’s] contract with Ferrari, to block a process if it is a right process. We think bringing a bit of rationale on driver salary when a number of people will be laid off because of the budget cap would make sense.”
It has been recently announced Daniel Ricciardo will leave Renault F1 with the end of 2020, and from the season of 2021 he will represent McLaren, with Lando Norris as his teammate.
It has been said Ricciardo is one of the highest paid drivers in the sport. According to some sources, his salary was set on $55m for the two years he signed his contract with Renault. Allegedly the French team also promised him £100k worth of physiotherapist and medical expenses per annum along with a massive $10m year end performance bonus.
The information that Ricciardo will leave Renault by the end of this season was not taken lightly by Abiteboul, who spoke about the Australian before as of a driver who the team “wants to build their future around”. The performance of the team continued to be average thorough the 2019 season, for number of reasons. After the news broke out, he took a dig on the Australian in a statement released by the team. As we can read: “In our sport, and particularly within the current extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team.”
In addition, Renault as a car manufacturer has been facing huge problems in the light of the COVID-19 and beyond. Out of many things happening with the company, one of the most notable ones was the information that broke out in the end of April, namely the fact that the company was forced to put one of its historic buildings up for sale (the one in Boulogne-Billancourt, which has been called the “birthplace” of the company) to cut costs. If Renault both as a team and as a manufacturer will like to stay afloat, they will need to undertake serious steps in that direction.
This entire situation will set the team into interesting dynamic. So far we only know that Esteban Ocon, who’s supposed to partner Ricciardo this season, has his contract till the end of 2021, leaving one seat vacant after Ricciardo’s departure. There has been a lot of speculation on who will take the second seat, yet no information has been confirmed as of yet.