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There have only been three winners in the last twelve months in Formula 1—Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. That hasn’t been done since 1988 when Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won everything. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckons it is due to the lack of a cost cap or rampant spending that has created the rift and lack of “diversity” in winning…which is an interesting use of the term by the way.

All of this has man F1 pundits concerned over the future of the series and race promoters convened at the Spanish Grand Prix to let F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone know about it. As always, Ecclestone has a very frank and straightforward view of the situation regarding cost caps as The Telegraph points out:

“Tell me, what was the idea of the cap? To keep costs down,” he said. “So we put this engine in and it costs four times more than the other one, and costs the manufacturers a hell of a lot of money.”

How much money? According to the article, Ferrari and Mercedes spent $500 million developing the new power unit and the small teams are paying up to $25 million annually for their engine supply. The FIA are making a lot of noise about the cost cap idea and yet they are caught in their own web of sustainability and corporate social responsibility as they call it.

If Wolff is correct—ironically he is represents a team that is spending more than most—then the FIA’s dash to find a meaningful cost cap might bring parity back to the grid. However, FIA president Jean Todt’s grand scheme for reducing costs seems to simply be the act of firing employees at large teams with lots of staff. Is Wolff prepared to employ only 100 people on his F1 project? Would they leave the sport over a mandatory headcount quota or would they leave if the series moved away from the V6 turbo?

From Ecclestone’s perspective, the teams don’t need a cost cap:

“The teams can cut costs so why don’t they spend less? I don’t think they need a budget cap. The people who don’t need a budget cap will find their way round it,” said Ecclestone.

The notion of cutting costs is sitting on the table of the newly formed Strategy Group which comprises of the FIA, Ecclestone and six top teams. The top teams are perhaps less motivated to issue a cost cap and the FIA’s Todt even said their recommendations were a joke. The small teams aren’t represented on the group and Ecclestone explains why:

“There are four teams that are not in the Strategy Group and why not? Because the people that are have committed to racing in Formula One to 2020 and have put up sensible guarantees if they don’t.”

Ultimately something will have to be done to ensure the future of the sport but the politics are as large and galvanizing as the money in the series itself.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • rapierman

    I would posit that politics and money are one and the same in this case (ask your local congress-person who contributed to his or her campaign). The whole thing isn’t exactly a real democracy (yes, I know, that was obvious) but something that smacks of a combination of Machiavelli and “The Golden Rule” (He who has the gold makes the rules.) They want to keep the sport alive yet they’re willing to oppress the small because they like their spot in the sun and their amount of control that they have, which kinda defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Mind you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they completely kick them out of the sport, but, as you say, those small guys aren’t exactly at the table. As for those small teams, the only dog they’ve got in the hunt (and it may only be a tiny bit of truth here) is “The Man is keepin’ us down, an’ we gotta fight to get some respect!” (Never thought I’d be using 70’s clichés.)

    Speaking of which, if they’re trying to cut costs, yet they end up having to do something which is more expensive, don’tcha think that they shooting themselves in the foot with that?

  • charlie w

    With that last quote by Bernie about the 4 excluded teams, you’d think they would take up his advice and run into the Formula E series. Let’s see how long F1 survives with a grid of ten race cars.

    • Word !

      The LAST person the Formula 1 punters and future direction decision makers in Formula 1 should take input from is Bernard Ecclestone. “Out of touch and self serving and profit focussed”, as he entitled to be in his FOM role; but the last Octogenarian to ask about the long term health of the FIA series. Pffffft.

      So why do pundits and journos still ask the ‘ivory tower evil dwarf’ on these ‘real’ F1 future matters?
      Beggars belief really. JF

  • The response from Bernie is overly simplistic. It’s a fallacy in the sense that humans are smart and will always “do the right thing.” Obviously it’s not in the context of competition. Spending less is fine for an individual, but when doing so will result in stealing your food (losing spots in the standings), the idea seems ludicrous. Would it be fair that next year, teams must spend a percentage less than total expenditure of this year?