The bar has been raised. It was Christian Horner who came out, and this is not a real surprise because for several weeks the Red Bull team principal has been the most active spokesperson of the group of teams that has raised the alarm on the budget cap front.
After arguing the concern with the risk of having to stop the development of single-seaters in order not to risk going beyond the spending limit of 140 million, Horner has increased the dose, stating that there are about seven teams that risk having to skip the last few. four races on the calendar due to lack of funds.
Horner and Binotto discuss Budget Cap
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
The motivation of the six teams that have turned the spotlight on the matter is linked to inflation, which has risen dramatically in recent months, affecting above all the energy sector. “I think there will probably be around seven teams that will have to skip the last four races to get back within the budget limit, and it’s not just the top teams because now there are also the mid-table teams who are struggling with the rate. ‘inflation. And everything could even get worse in the second half of the year “.
The bomb that Horner dropped has divided the paddock, as it is not the first time that Red Bull has used very aggressive communication strategies to deliver its messages. On several occasions Horner and Helmut Marko have threatened to retire, in 2014 when they were struggling with the bankrupt Renault power unit, in 2019 when they clamored for the engines to freeze, until the aftermath of the Abu Dhabi events in controversy with the FIA for the prolongation of the investigations after the events of Yas Marina.
Top teams don’t want to give up on the development plan
There are those who took Horner’s shot seriously, and those who believe it is the usual Red Bull strategy that aims to put pressure on the FIA.
“It would not be bad news – commented Otmar Szafnauer with a smile – because we would have the possibility of recovering some positions in the Constructors’ classification! Do we really have to hope or was he kidding? “.
The Alpine team principal is in the group (together with Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams) who voted against the proposal for an extraordinary budget concession (in the order of 10 million) to offset the surge in costs.
“We have set our budgets in advance – Szafnauer explained – if we read the inflation data for December, in England the index of the increase in retail prices was already at 7%, and most of the teams approve the budger right in December. So for us it was not a surprise, we had taken it into account, and in fact we are still under the limit despite the surge in transport costs that we are suffering. And if we can do it, then surely the others can do it too “.
Szafnauer goes further: “This year everyone has budgeted important figures for development, dealing with completely new projects. It is true that transportation costs have grown from $ 2.5 million to $ 3.5 million, but if the development budget is $ 20 million, can it be reduced to $ 17? I think so, but probably the teams that can afford an extra-budget prefer to play their cards in the battle with the FIA and hope to get a bonus, so as not to change the development program ”.
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 in the paddock
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
A ‘targeted’ concession is being studied
The FIA has not yet officially expressed itself on the matter, also because if the extra budget proposal finds the approval of eight teams, it would in fact be overruled. The International Federation is still very cautious in this regard, and if it is called into question it is to be expected that it will try to mediate between the two factions present at the moment in the paddock.
Such as? According to some sources, the FIA could propose granting an extraordinary budget to compensate for those budget items (such as transport) that have grown unpredictably.
Any additional figure should be usable by teams only and exclusively on the fronts deemed critical, while so far the teams that ask for an extra-budget aim to have an unconstrained figure that corresponds to the exact increase in the inflation rate. In reality, the “financial regulations” approved by the FIA already provide for an adjustment index linked to inflation, but only if it is higher than 3% in September, the date chosen to decide on the budget for the following season.
But there are those who are also worried about this possibility. “Let’s take for example that we find ourselves at some point with inflation at 10% – explained Szafnauer – well, it would mean that next year instead of the 135 million foreseen by the regulation we would end up with a spending ceiling greater than 145. And what would happen if in September 2022 we were in the same situation? Another 10 million would be approved, and at this rate we would quickly return to the spending ceiling that was used before the budget cap “.
Szafnauer, and not only him, fears that once an exception is granted, he may lose control. The real goal of those who are currently reluctant to accept the proposal of the top-teams is not so much to prevent the concession for the 2022 season, as the fear that the situation could get out of hand.