It’s been one of the more contentious issues in recent times for Formula 1 – the ability to spend money on cars, research and development, and does not include any changes to the payments made to drivers. The figure agreed to is still a substantial amount at US$145 million for teams next year and will continue to try and tighten that for future seasons.
It’s a figure that Ferrari had declared as a point to not go below and vehemently had opposed any figure lower. The budget cap had been set initially at US$175 million but some teams had wanted a limit closer to US$100 million. The reasoning would be a lower spending limit means a bit more in the bank to ensure the sport survives the crisis.
F1 CEO Ross Brawn points a finger firmly at reducing costs of a sport seen as a high spender. “The budget cap initial objectives were a more competitive field and I think with the situation we have now the sustainability, the economic sustainability, of Formula One is a priority,” he said. Brown also insists that it applies to all teams equally, making for a more level playing field. He also says it wasn’t an easy agreement to reach a figure of $US145 million. “We started at $US175 million, that was a long battle to get it there, and with the current crisis we are now going to start at 145 and the discussion really is how much further down we can drive the next few years,” he added.
The cars themselves haven’t been overlooked. Brawn says 2022 has been firmly locked in for the delayed debut of the new chassis designs, and it’s here that Brawn points out a critical observation: “The cars we have now are so complex that the more you spend, the quicker you will go. We need to level off that slope and create a situation where the money is not the only criterion for how competitive you’ll be.” By tying down a maximum spending limit, he hopes that this brings each team closer to a real parity.
It’s something that Renault’s F1 head agrees with. Cyril Abiteboul is into his fifth year with the team and agrees that cost-reducing measures have to be employed. “It’s like playing at the table of poker, without knowing how many chips you have,” he said. “We need to be conservative, we need to be prepared to brace ourselves for the worst, expect the worst to a certain degree, plan for the worst and in that respect, be a bit conservative on budget cap figures.”
Abiteboul also alludes to the fact that Renault was on track to be in a position to challenge Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull as a result of what came from the pre-season testing days. “I need to manage expectations but it is true, at the test we generally had a good feeling.” He laments that the season has been disrupted by COVID-19, saying that the Melbourne race would have been a real test of the cars after pre-season. He goes on to say that this season would have seen at least two major upgrade packages brought to the cars by races three in Vietnam and race five in the Netherlands and would much prefer the changes that have been pushed to 2022 to not be further delayed.
He mentions a team he considers to be Renault’s nearest competitor, Racing Point, and the team’s boss, Otmar Szafnauer, as being one that may have a hidden card to play. Racing Point has also been improving and by pushing for the regulation changes to be delayed, could use this to further improve their cars before the changes. “The new regulations have been developed and that’s the first time we are developing a set of regulations with one objective,” said Szafnauer. “Usually, it’s more the consequence of the regulation and I really want to see that happening.”
The current mooted restart is July in Austria.