Ferrari now concerned they may fail cost cap limit

This weeks rolling Formula One story is inevitably about the FIA’s annual teams spending limit launched in 2021. The original limit was agreed to be $175m however the global Coronavirus pandemic brought a rare unanimity amongst the F1 teams who agreed to drop the maximum spend to $145m. 

This was allegedly to protect the smaller teams going under. Cynics may argue the huge losses Formula One had taken during 2020 may also have been a factor as the total prize purse for the teams is calculated on the number of races completed.

The war of words between Mercedes Toto Wolff and Christian Horner over the Singapore GP weekend has been well documented with the former revealing to the world the “massive” overspend in Milton Keynes.



Ferrari slid under the radar

Yet Ferrari slid under the radar this weekend as the noise from Horner and Wolff drowned out their comments on the matter. It seems there are some concerns in Maranello that Formula One’s most historic team may have breached the cost cap limit.

The issue has been ever present this season even as early as Miami Mattia Binotto has previously questioned how Red Bull can afford the upgrades they have brought to the car.

Following the Miami GP the slightly despondent Ferrari boss observed,  

“It’s true that Red Bull have improved their car since the very start of the season, and they introduced upgrades”

“If I look at the last two races, maybe they have got a couple of tenths per lap faster to us.

“Now, I have no doubt that in order to keep the pace, we need to develop ourselves and introduce upgrades.

“I hope, because there is as well a budget cap, that at some stage Red Bull will stop development: otherwise I will not understand how they can do that.”



Red Bull upgrades questionable

When there were rumours of a new lightweight Red Bull chassis in the pipeline in Zandvoort, the Ferrari boss again raised other teams ability to deliver the upgrades similar to Red Bull.

“Now I cannot judge on the Red Bull for the lightweight [chassis], because as you said, maybe not. As Ferrari, we will never be capable of introducing a lightweight chassis or a different strategy through a season, simply for budget cap.

“I will be very surprised if other teams would be capable of doing it.”



Ferrari upgrade spend not small

However, on the whole Ferrari have remained competitive with Red Bull this season. In Singapore we saw Charles LeClerc’s 9th pole position in 18 races. Of course Carlos Sainz scored one pole at Silverstone and George Russell claimed his first in Hungary.

This means Red Bull have only 7 pole positions in the 2022 season to date.

So Ferrari have maintained their advantage of being the quickest car, and much of their race day woes have come from power unit failures {not in the cost cap), strategy errors and a few driver errors.

It is far from a convincing argument it is Red Bull’s development spend that sees them close to taking both constructors’ and drivers’ F1 championships.



Ferrari hypocrisy over transparency calls

Interestingly this weekend Ferrari’s sporting director, Laurent Mekies the cost cap itself is in danger if it appears the FIA do not police it properly and issue appropriate sanctions where necessary.

“It is a very vital test for the cost cap,” Mekies told reporters. “And if we don’t pass that test it’s probably game over, because the implications are huge.”

Mekies added that Ferrari are “very much looking forward to having the clear, transparent evaluation of what has happened” and expects “severe measures taken if there is a breach”.

When asked whether Ferrari were concerned about how breaches would be handled by the FIA, Mekies replied, “Have we been worried? Yes.”

“The worry comes from if you think about the level of constraints that have been imposed on the big teams, then you realise how much lap time there is going to be if you don’t strictly enforce it.

“Because we were massively constrained – therefore any million, any leak you allow in the budget cap will turn into a few tenths of a second on the car.”

“This is pretty much one of the main reason why we are banging [on] about transparency and severity because if it is… if it turns out to be something that a team can bet on in order to gain a competitive advantage, then the whole system collapses.”

Ferrari calling for transparency following their behind closed doors over their ‘irregular’ power unit a couple;le of years ago does appear iron ic.

That said it would suit Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes in particular if the cost cap fell into disrepute given maybe it is only they together with Aston Martin and McLaren who can actually afford ton spend up to the budget limit.



Ferrari minor breach rumoured

So if Ferrari are – as paddock sources suggest – in a minor breach while Red Bull are in major breach, the row over penalties will run and run.

Of course exclusion from events and even a championship are sanctions the FIA have at their disposal. Yet the rather clumsy manner in which each minor and substantive breach penalties have been merely bullet pointed tie no indication as to how breaches can properly be graded.

Maybe like English Law this will evolve by principle of precedent. It would then suit the FIA for a number of teams to be in some kind of breach to give them a graded range of punishments that can be argued as the basis for future transgressions.

However, it appears likely the sanctions for a 5% overspend are likely to be minimal and teams in future will push that limit taking the hit from the FIA the following season.

READ MORE: No FIA budget cap penalties now due before Japan

Below Ferrari summary of Singapore weekend

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