As AUTOSPORT said and we discussed earlier this week, Formula 1 has tabled the notion of instituting a cost cap for teams participating in the series. This has been met with some concern from Force India and Sauber as the magazine revealed today.
The challenge for any cost cap was always going to be the policing or management of controlling those costs and having complete confidence that no team was gaming the system. Without comprehensive access to a team P&L, it would be difficult to manage for the FIA. AUTOSPORT quotes Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn as saying:
“As a smaller team, I fail to understand why we are going this way when every sport has to be responsible with the way you handle and work your business,” Kaltenborn said.
“I think those times have long gone where you say, ‘if you don’t have the money, don’t do it.’
“The costs we are reaching here, nobody can understand. So we have to be responsible, because in the economic times we have it is important to show a responsible way of doing business.”
Color me reactionary here but I am getting a little dog-eared over this phrase, “important to show a responsible way of doing business”. I hear this refrain quite a lot lately. It is important to show that we are doing business more (insert current cause). It is important to show we are this or that.
The last time I checked, the only thing you really should be “showing” is a competitive car for your sponsors in order to keep their interests and the interests of fans engaged. These days it seems that simply saying that we are or will is as good as being or doing and to be honest, I find that line of thinking a bit strange.
Showing whom? I’ve never thought less of Sauber because they couldn’t spend the same as Ferrari or McLaren. I’ve never thought less of the sport because there are smaller teams with smaller budgets. Have you? Does this give Formula 1 a black mark for improper business acumen? Some companies have more resources than others, that happens. That has always happened.
What we do see is a technology level that has been ushered in by the bigger teams that the little teams cannot afford. Technology is very expensive and to compete on this level, one has to have the resources to afford the kinds of technology it takes to be competitive.
Having said that, regulations could be used to curtail costs and Force India’s Bob Fernley agrees but suggests that both regulations and cost caps would be optimum:
“I think that we have to continuously put pressure on for it to happen because as Force India has proved, you don’t have to keep spending to put on a good show,” said Fernley.
“You need both,” he explained. “I think you need regulation to help, but you also need cost control. And I don’t think we will change our opinion on that because we have to get the teams viable for the sustainability of the sport.”
So it is important to show a sustainable way of doing business? In the end, you can produce good racing at a lower cost. Karting would be an example of that but the struggle between privateers and manufacturers has always been present in F1. The Have’s and the Have Yachts.
The notion of a cost cap was always going to be difficult to control but perhaps the regulations could be used to keep costs lower. “It is important to show an entertaining way of running a series”. If companies and teams would spend less time trying to “show” some aspect they feel people will judge them by and more time making great race cars, maybe they would have more money to spend.
I am all for being good stewards of the resources you have and the sport balancing their economic model but Sauber isn’t inspiring me by showing me how responsible they are, they inspire me by punching above their weight and finding drivers who become great in the crucible of F1. I love Sauber and it’s eternal privateer character. There is such a history there to sell to potential sponsors and that should be the main initiative instead of limiting what Ferrari can spend. When Monisha says she wishes the teams who threaten to leave F1 over cost caps would do so, she does understand she’d lose her engine right? Does anyone have Craig Pollock’s number at P.U.R.E or Cosworth’s number?
Racing, by its very nature, is not about finding equality, parity justice or limits. It’s about winning. Finding ways for the sport to thrive is certainly something that should be paramount but as for “showing” the world how responsible you are or sustainable you are or thrifty you are is not really a component of racing. Getting your backside handed to you for making a less competitive car is…just ask Ferrari.