In the midst of two seasons of utter Red Bull dominance, fresh controversy may be on the horizon in Formula 1 as reports suggest that three teams are set to breach the cost cap for the 2022 season, raising doubts about the effectiveness of the budget control measures.
Introduced in 2021, the cost cap aims to promote financial stability and fairness in the sport. However, last year saw Red Bull, Aston Martin, and Williams facing penalties for breaches, albeit of varying degrees. Most severe was Red Bull’s minor overspend resulted in a $7 million fine and a reduction in their wind tunnel time.
F1 CEO Domenicali says sanctions need to be sporting
Formula 1 teams found guilty of breaking the cost cap rules should face sporting sanctions rather than financial penalties, according to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. The FIA is currently scrutinizing the submissions for the 2022 season to ensure compliance with the cost cap, and has increased its analysis of teams’ spending to prevent any circumvention of the rules.
Last year, the FIA imposed sanctions on Red Bull for overspending in 2021. However, the $7 million fine and a reduction in wind tunnel development time faced criticism for being inadequate compared to the potential gains for the team. Red Bull’s dominant start to the 2023 season further highlighted the perception that the overspend did not have a significant downside.
Sanctions need to be faster
In light of the upcoming 2022 submissions, Domenicali expressed his preference for specific sporting sanctions in case of rule breaches. He emphasized the need for penalties to align with the three regulations—sporting, technical, and financial—and stated that infractions should be punished with sporting measures.
F1’s cost cap is governed by the FIA’s Financial Regulations, which outline the potential punishments for breaches. Sporting sanctions may include public reprimands, deductions of constructors’ or drivers’ championship points, session suspensions, reductions in aero testing, or adjustments to the cost cap.
“There are three regulations to be respected: sporting, technical and financial. Any infractions must be punished with sporting measures. You can’t go in other directions.” says the CEO
— James 🇬🇧🏁 (@James_UK7) July 17, 2023
Last year’s cost cap controversy dragged on until October, but the FIA aims to conclude the investigations earlier this time. While the timing of the investigations is not F1’s purview, Domenicali expressed hope for a swifter process to avoid speculation and negative comments. Indeed the Italian feels the FIA need to take a lead on the regulations.
“Control is in the hands of the FIA,” he said.
“Personally what I have asked is to anticipate as soon as possible the publication of the investigations made by the staff of the FIA.
“But I say this only because, in this way, it does not give rise to speculation and comments that are not good for anyone.”
Ultimately, the goal is to enforce the cost cap effectively and ensure a level playing field in the sport, with penalties that have a meaningful impact on teams’ competitive advantages.
The latest escapade will likely make such a concept a farce.
Three teams breached cap
According to an Italian report from Motorsport.com, there are rumours indicating that three teams will be found non-compliant with the cost cap for 2022 when the FIA issues certificates of compliance by the end of July.
The timing of the resolution of the 2021 cost cap disputes in October highlights the desire for a swifter resolution this time around. However, the prospect of further breaches raises concerns about the effectiveness of the cost cap system.
Red Bull continues to win despite sanctions
The dominance of the Red Bull team, currently unbeaten in all 10 races of the 2023 season, adds another layer of complexity. While their spending will be reviewed next year, their on-track success and the FIA’s response to any potential breaches this year could impact the future of the cost cap concept.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had previously suggested that the reputational damage from a cost cap breach would deter teams from non-compliance. However, Red Bull’s performance may make rival teams question the potential gains from disregarding the rules.
Despite the penalty imposed on Red Bull, it has yet to significantly impact their performance. With another title double on the horizon and resources already being directed towards the RB20 for 2024, the FIA may need to take a stronger stance if further breaches are confirmed, considering the outcomes Red Bull achieved despite their punishment. This would be crucial in maintaining the integrity of the cost cap regulations and deterring teams from flouting the rules for on-track advantages.