Formula 1 cost cap plan scrapped, but was it ever on?
The sport’s governing body announced last December that it intended to introduce cost-cutting measures for next season.
An agreement was scheduled for June 2014 but Todt – who attended his first F1 race of the year in Bahrain – has now confirmed that the six team representatives on the F1 Strategy Group (Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren and Williams) are now against the plan.
“Most of the teams were in favour of the cost cap, but I understand that all the teams that are part of the Strategy Group are against it now,” he told reporters at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“So clearly, if the commercial rights holder, and if six teams, which means 12 of 18 are against, I cannot impose it. It’s mathematics. So in this case, no more cost cap.”
Teams have proposed that cutting costs through the regulations would be a better option than introducing a cost cap, but Todt admitted that he was disappointed to see the plan fall through.
“In a way I am disappointed because it may be more difficult to achieve the reduction which I feel is needed.
“But everyone says we are all in favour of reducing the cost, and through sporting and technical regulations.”
SMITH’S VIEW – WAS IT EVER REALLY VIABLE?
The idea of a cost cap in Formula 1 has been banded about for years, with teams struggling to stay afloat amid rising costs.
The simple fact is that the compete in the sport, you need money. Lots of money. That’s why we regularly see the same set of teams fighting at the sharp end of the table.
For the manufacturers with works team – now just Mercedes and Ferrari – it’s a quite simple thesis. Being automotive companies, a good chunk of their funds go into promoting motorsport and taking part in Formula 1. It’s the principle of “race on Sunday, sell on Monday,” which might be more applicable to the World Endurance Championship than Formula 1, but the increasing move to hybrid technology is shrinking this divide ever so slightly. If you’re a major manufacturer, it’s never a worry about going under, but instead of whether it’s still profitable. Keep winning, then yes, it is. For Honda and Renault, that was the problem at the end of 2008.
McLaren can also be considered to be a ‘semi-manufacturer’ thanks to its supercar division, and again, there isn’t a concern of going under. Even without a title sponsor in 2014, Ron Dennis claims that the team is financially better off than ever before.
Red Bull is in a different class compared to its rivals. Forget the Infiniti link for the time being; the team is funded by, well, itself. These little silver and blue cans that keep us awake and aren’t very healthy sell by the bucketload, and fund all of Mr. Mateschitz’s wacky ideas. Heck, he sent a man into space for him to jump right back down. Again though, it’s not a problem.
For the ‘privateer’ teams that lack backing from a source such as a manufacturer or a product – we’re talking Sauber, Lotus, Caterham, Marussia – funding is more of an issue. They require investment from businessmen looking for some kind of return, or pay drivers (something that all four teams named have) in order to stay afloat. These are the teams that a cost cap is designed for.
However, just one of these teams is within the F1 Strategy Group (Lotus), and that will only last until the end of the year unless it can finish sixth in the championship. Therefore, it’s a five-to-one majority that will be against the cost cap.
Ahead of the race on Sunday, Sky Sports broadcast an interview where Martin Brundle asked Bernie Ecclestone about the possibility of customer cars: 12 teams, 6 parents, 6 customers. However, this seems to be an even more illogical option. Teams want to stand tall and not be chained by the shackles of their parent teams (the Red Bull/Toro Rosso partnership is a bit different, of course), so this might not work.
The humdrum in the background was a political psychodrama of no significance in the hours following the race. Montezemolo had taken his taxi out of the circuit, and the fans were happy.
But never fear. We’ll be talking about a cost cap once again in 12 months’ time.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic and Williams F1 Team.
Jack Leslie and Luke Smith