Prior to the Summer Shutdown for Formula One, the sport had seen some large scale incidents bringing about a lot of damage to a host of cars in recent weeks. As such operating within the cost cap era has been met with criticism by a host of F1 teams. Now, Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski has claimed the FIA is "backing out" and "coming back to something more sensible" with regard to the policing of F1's cost cap.
Valtteri Bottas’ now infamous late braking at the Hungarian GP created a concertina effect for so many other teams. Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner has commented how unfair it is that in the cost cap era, the team not at fault has to foot the bill alongside a sanction of being pushed further back down the grid. Recently, Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto stated that the team of the driver responsible for causing a crash should pay for damage incurred. This comment came when Binotto revealed that the Italian team’s 2021 repair bill now runs into the millions.
2021 has been a record breaking year and the prospect of more records to come should Sir Lewis Hamilton claim an 8th F1 Drivers’ Championship – although Max Verstappen may have something to say about that. However, F1 has also made history in that for the first time in its history, it has to race within its means, $145 million to be precise.
The $145 million budget (excluding driver salaries) does not stop there as this amount will steadily reduce over the coming years.
For 2021, the cost cap will be set at $145m but that will reduce to $140m in 2022 and then $135m from 2023 onwards. A three-year time period to acclimatize to the new way of doing things was decided so that it allowed additional time for the larger teams to adjust the size and scale of their operations to ensure they keep to the cost cap.
So, how does a Formula One team demonstrate that they are abiding by the rules? Alpine Executive Director Marcin Budkowski shed some light on the matter in select media press conference which included the publication GPFans Global.
Budkowski explained that the FIA requires all Formula One teams to log every spare part and account for everything.
"There is a fair amount of admin associated, and some of it probably has got a little bit over the top, and the FIA is backing out of it because it was a little bit too complicated," Budkowski stated. “Part of it is necessary, unfortunately, because it's policing of the regulations."
The cost cap was implemented as a result of having been approved by all teams of the F1 grid but that does not mean that they are necessarily happy about it nor does it mean that they are not looking for ways around it – a point highlighted by Budkowski in his remarks:
"Part of it, dare I say, is maybe some of the top teams that are not that happy about the cost cap have tried to complicate it so much that it becomes unpoliceable or demonstrate that it's not going to work…I think the FIA has realised that and is coming back to something more sensible…It's a learning process for the teams, it's a learning process for the FIA. We are building this in a way together. Sometimes we get it right straight away, sometimes we don't.”
As shown from the 2008 Singapore GP and Crash-gate; McLaren’s Spy-gate saga of 2009 or most recently 2020’s Tracing Point - Formula One is no stranger to controversy in its time. As such, teams are always keeping an eye on whether the other is playing by the rules at all times and this is a concern shared by Marcin Budkowski.
“All teams are suspicious, we all look at each other and say 'Okay, I'll comply, but I want everybody else to comply as well.' We're all for policing, it just needs to be at the right level, so it doesn't become a contest of accountancy."
A contest of accountancy is an appropriate choice of words because there is already the worry that drivers may consider moves on track for fear of the financial ramification on their team. Therefore, one certainly hopes that Budkowski is right and that the FIA are ‘coming back to something more sensible’. Otherwise, what could have been a spectacular 2021 F1 season may fizzle out into a battle of numbers and percentages and that is not in the DNA of what Formula One is meant to be.