Former Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer (of Alpine) explains the F1 budget cap loophole that is very likely being used by the top teams in Formula 1. Szafnauer’s explanation corroborates information sent to this website from our source within Aston Martin which describes a similar tactic being employed at the Silverstone based team.
Some Formula 1 teams have had to lay off some staff because of the budget cap that came into force two years ago. Alpine team boss and former Aston Martin team principal, Otmar Szafnauer believes that the top teams can gain an advantage within the cost cap by spreading their staff over various other projects. The former man who was part of Aston Martin senior management appears to corroborate information TJ13 has been sent some time ago about similar practices being used by Lawrence Stroll’s operation in Silverstone.
Staff moved off team pay roll
In some ways, this loophole is rather an unsurprising and often known but not acknowledged tactic by big teams. Indeed, the said big teams have other racing programmes or technology departments outside motorsport to which they shift staff in order to comply with the cap. For instance, Red Bull as several other subsidiaries that some senior staff are paid from, such as team boss Christian Horner taking a big wage from the new Red Bull Powertrains.
It appears that some teams are prepared to go further as some staff pawned off to other businesses can be returned to Formula One team as and when, if needed.
While Szafnauer admits that Alpine initially benefited from already being the right size to operate within the budget cap. Therefore, there was no need to cut staff. But the larger competitors quickly learned how to work more effectively within the rules.
“I think some of the other teams, the bigger teams, are now trying to exploit loopholes or understand better where there are loopholes or organisational changes you can make to get more people under the budget cap.”
“They’ve got to the point where they say, ‘I got rid of 100 people, but now I want to hire them back.’ Because I’ve managed to find jobs for them within the cap where they’re either not counted as a whole person, or they’re doing marketing or whatever,” Szafnauer explains.
At Alpine, he says, that is not (yet) the case. The company has a technology department that works outside Formula 1. But it is still in its infancy. “We have started it. We have a group, but it’s tiny, about two people. There are three projects, including parts for the Alpine car.”
Could Szafnauer also include his old team with this cheat ‘theory’?
“We don’t use our design resources, but we use some of our manufacturing resources to make components like the Alpine rear wing,” the team boss reveals.
“We do some CFD work, some laminating work, but not much. Then external companies come in to help us with the design.”
This department came into being rather by accident and not with the ulterior motive of circumventing the budget cap, Szafnauer stresses.
“We had some people who retired. And we could use them to help us.”
“So that’s what we did. But we didn’t set it up to put as many people in there as possible from a budget constraint perspective. There are, but like I said, we have two people, not hundreds.”
Aston Martin whistleblower
It is very well known that Aston Martin has invested hugely into their F1 programme. The former Force India / Racing Point operation has transformed significantly in the last couple of years.
Indeed this website has a very reliable source from with the team who has been a whistleblower on numerous occasions, the last such being the disaster the team faced this time last year with an poorly designed car that barely made winter testing.
The source describes a system put in place to negate the budget cap by having AMR employees paid by different companies outside the racing team.
“168 members of AMRF1 staff were moved over to a company called Formtech,” says the insider,
“…they are all still in the same jobs wearing AMR uniform with all the job perks and bonuses but not on AMR F1 budget. They also all received a £5000 “bonus” which was paid at the end of October 2021, another £5000 will be paid at the end of October 2022 to anyone who has stayed on for the 12 months.”
As to how true the details are in this communication, nobody will ever know. But it would be unlikely to be a huge surprise to many within the paddock, and even the fan base, that this kind of loophole was being employed.
“Fast forward to 2022 more staff were moved again but this time to “Aston Martin GP Services Limited” again same job roles etc etc but without the £5000 “bonus”…” claims the disgruntled employee of Aston Martin,
“In total this is around 200 people doing the exact same jobs, wearing the AMR F1 green uniform, the only difference is the bank account they’re paid from…”
If this is endemic within the Formula 1 establishment, it is difficult to see how the FIA and FOM would successfully police it, and puts a big question mark over the effectiveness of the budget cap going forward.