Formula One is returning this weekend to its now spiritual home in the USA. The Circuit of the Americas US GP was sold out months ago and will host the largest global spectator sporting event this year. However, given the FIA announced their findings into the 2021 F1 budget cap audit the day after the last race in Japan, we can expect team bosses bitching and moaning about Red Bull for most of the weekend.
Mercedes power unit customer Zak Brown of McLaren wrote to the FIA this week in an attempt to persuade them to apply the harshest possible penalties for Red Bull’s “minor overspend” in 2021.
Yet despite the howling and gnashing of teeth in the paddock the FIA are likely to agree a settlement with Red Bull Racing over the coming weeks and probably following the final F1 event of the season in Abu Dhabi.
No decision on Red Bull penalty before season end
The who-ha over Michael Massi’s race decisions at the 2021 finale in the UAE were less vociferous than they may have been because Formula One is in the off season following the race in the desert. This is probably how the Red Bull cost cap budget breach will play out this year too.
Despite the FIA regulations being clear over what constitutes a “minor overspend” and a “major overspend” under the new financial regulations brought in last season, Red Bull’s competitors have been piling on the pressure for the FIA to hit the Milton Keynes squad hard for their misdemeanour.
Lewis Hamilton even claimed had Mercedes spent just an extra $300,000 last season, that upgrade would likely have seen him finish the year as champion instead of Max Verstappen.
FIA refuse to be badgered by F1 team bosses
Yet the all new FIA under Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s presidency has been slow to act this season and calm in response to criticism, even when the objections raised have been over FIA officials conduct primarily in race control.
Formula One’s CEO has been silent on the cost cap breach matter until this week, preferring to concentrate on the success Formula One is having around the globe.
Even though the drivers’ title was concluded with 4 F1 races to go, something Lewis Hamilton never achieved, Dominicali is bullish about the excitement and interest in F1 for the remains of the season.
“It’s clear that a championship with such large gaps between first and second will not end in the same way as last year,” Domenicali told Italian reporters cites Motorsport.com
F1 sold out despite title race over
“But despite this, we are already sold out for the remaining grands prix. I think from a technical point of view it’s important to understand how quickly certain performance gaps can be closed, and that’s one of the points the regulations were designed around.”
Stefano appears a little surprised that the drivers’ title race was concluded so early adding, “We also need to understand how much of the cars’ performance has been influenced by the regulations or by reliability and management [issues].”
Given the FIA have the ability to change the car design regulations from year to year, Dominicali appears to suggest this may be something for them to look at for 2014.
“We need a thorough analysis to understand what caused such a gap between the frontrunners and the others. Because if we look at the ranking as a whole, we see that behind the leader there are closer fights than in the past.”
“I want to interpret this in a positive way. I think that in the next few years the regulations will further reduce the gap that currently exists between the leader and the others.”
Dominicali relaxed over Red Bull breach
Turning to the uproar over the Red Bull breach in the financial regulations, Formula One’s CEO appears benign over the matter.
“We have to make sure that whoever is overseeing compliance with the Financial Regulations is making sure that everything is going well,” Domenicali stated.
“I know the FIA is working hard, this is an important step because we have to make sure that all the teams have spent the same amount of money on developing their cars.
“Everything has to be checked and verified. That will be the central theme over the next few months and that’s where the credibility of this regulation will also come from.”
F1 Budget limit has worked beyond belief
Stepping back from the paddock high rhetoric of the past few weeks, the budget cap regulations have already been a success as Dominicali implies.
Mercedes were believed to have spent around $1bn on developing their all dominant V6 hybrid power unit and the racing team’s budget has at times been estimated at $500m a year.
The fact all the F1 teams are there or there about in terms of the restricted spend of $145m is clearly exceptional.
There were the naysayers who claimed the cost cap would never work. Yet even had Mercedes spent an extra $10m this season, their car would have been little more competitive given the fundamental design flaws their chief technical officer admits the W13 has inbuilt.
Red Bull penalty will be decided after the final race of the season
Of course the FIA need to sharpen up their act and get the 2022 audit done by the time they set themselves in June. This then allows any penalties for following year reduced spending allowance to be enacted before the season is almost over.
Dominicali’s relaxed view on the development of the F1 budget cap regulations over the next few years, suggests the Formula One management always expected this to be a work in progress.
The Red Bull breach will set a precedent for how certain allocations of spending should be treated and the appropriate penalties teams are likely to see if they fall foul of the rules in the same way that Red Bull Racing have.
As next weekend we are going back to COTA, let's remember 2015 race, when a wheelspin mistake by Nico Rosberg not only handed Lewis the lead, but also resulted in him winning his 3rd #F1 championship. It also gave us the infamous boomerang cap scene 😅 pic.twitter.com/0CN6THE7eK
— Simon Dau (@there_is_no_if) October 15, 2022