In a recent interview with Red Bull boss Christian Horner, you can probably imagine that the BBC asked the team boss about his boss’s recent comments regarding a camp for their drivers where the COVID-19 virus was welcome in order to move past the situation.
As you would also imagine, Horner said that Helmut Marko’s statement was a throwaway comment and not well received internally. He insisted the comments were made before the severity of the virus was truly known. He the moved on.
As much as the press centered on this comment and the comment that begat Horner’s dismissal, I found the rest of the interview most informative. A few key points I found most interesting.
“There will be a discussion during the break weekly, and I can only see it being extended,” Horner said. “I can see it being extended to the end of April, beginning of May and then reviewed again. There will be a discussion among the team principals, FIA and FOM in the next few days.”
Like many organizations, tracking recovery rates, infection rates and other government mandates is key and he sees this extending beyond the initial 15-day window and for the month of April, if not May.
“F1 is a very strong business and it’s got enormous heritage,” he says. “F1 will survive this. Whether all the teams survive this is another matter, and it is the responsibility of all the team principals to act with the interests of the sport and all its participants (in mind), to do our best to ensure all 10 teams come out the other side.
“The difference in 2008 was we were still racing, there was still a calendar, there were still events. You could see the issue more clearly, whereas here we are more blind,” Horner says.
An interesting point as I have made similar comparisons to 2008 but he is correct in that the teams were racing and generating revenue nonetheless. Team are not racing and the series isn’t generating promotion revenue at the same rate.
I also do worry about the smaller teams and their ability to remain a going concern in F1. I do wonder how much the larger teams are working together to protect the small ones?
“The most fundamental and important thing is taking away the necessity to spend in order to be competitive,” he says. “So, freezing parts of the car. The monocoque’s already agreed.
We’re looking at front suspension, uprights, wheels, all the associated parts for that, gearbox internals, probably 60% of the car other than its aerodynamic surfaces and that being frozen for this year and next year.
“We’re also talking about pushing back a further year the new regulations, because in my mind it would be totally irresponsible to have the burden of development costs in 2021.
“There seems to be reasonable agreement but it needs ratifying by the FIA to push back those development costs into 2022 for introduction in the ’23 season.
“The most important thing we need now is stability. Because the one thing we know is that whenever you introduce change you introduce cost, and stability right now and locking down as much of the car as possible is the most responsible way to drive those cost drivers down.”
This is a big issue. We have discussed the regulation changes for 2021 and how unlimited budgets in 2020 would tilt the scales in favor of the large teams. With 2020’s virus lockdown, the FIA and F1 are correct to delay the new regulation changes that were slated for 2021.
Here’s a counter argument in that I agree with Christian about seriously anemic budgets on the back of this virus and the impact it has had on the 2020 economy—I definitely agree with him—I also think the previous model of allowing teams to spend with impunity would give the big teams a very strong advantage. There is a part of me that thinks having limited budgets to develop might benefit the mid-cap and smaller teams.
To that point, I asked if the regulations should wait until the teams are under the cost-cap plan first, then change the regulations and this would limit the development. Certainly Christian doesn’t feel that way and I would agree with him but here is the real kicker.
Horner wants to delay the regulation changes longer than the FIA have initially decided. The FIA moved the changes from 2021 to 2022 but Horner wants to delay them a further year and make the changes in 2023 when the teams have had a year to recover from the COVID-19 virus impact.
Horner says the cap isn’t as important now that the cars are limited and 60% of them will remain unchanged for 2021 and that in itself will reduce the costs involved.
I enjoyed Andrew benson’s interview of Horner and you can read it in its entirety right here.
Hat Tip: BBC