The dram heading into he Singapore Grand Prix is centered around the team budget cap the FIA enforced for the 2022. The rumors began to spread that two teams were over the budget cap with one of them being substantially over the cap.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff seemed to lead the drama and was squarely focused on Red Bull. Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, said that the team’s submission for the 2021 cap was below the defined $145M limit.
Wolff wasn’t buying it saying:
“It’s funny Christian says that because it’s been weeks and months they’re being investigated, so maybe he doesn’t speak to his CFO,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“As a matter of fact, we all of us have been investigated diligently. And as far as we understand, there’s a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another team that is fundamentally massively over and that is that is being still looked after.
“So that’s an open secret in the paddock.”
Perpetuating this “open secret” would imply that Red Bull is not in compliance and Wolff took time to paint a picture of Mercedes as a team struggling to remain under the cost cap:
“We’re using used parts. We are not running what we would want to run, we are not developing what we could be developing.
“We have made more than 40 people redundant that are dearly missed in our organization, and it was a huge mammoth project to make the cap.
“I don’t know how many tens of millions we had to restructure and reprocess in order to be below the cap. And if someone has been not doing that, or pushing the boundaries, every million [you don’t spend] is a massive disadvantage.”
Now, while that seems to be a story of woe from the Mercedes boss, the FIA audits the team’s submission of expenditures and issue an all-clear certification. There are a host of fines that can be leveraged against teams that have breached the cost cap regulation.
The intent of the cap was to level the field between top teams and smaller teams by limiting the amount they can spend on their program. The challenge is the homologation of their cars and if Mercedes is behind the curve, they are locked in to a homologated car and you can understand why Toto is concerned.
“The crucial part is that if you’ve been over in 2021, then you’ve been over in ’22,” he said. “That means you have an advantage in ’23.
“If it’s true that they’ve [Red Bull] homologated the lightweight chassis this year, they may use it next year. So it’s a really a cascade of events that can be influential in all of the three championships.”
The budget cap limits the budget to spend trying to catch up with the faster teams and this would apply to Mercedes for sure but also refers to many of the teams on the grid. The cost cap was a concept that has been boiling for several years and this issue could prompt a larger conversation about how to tweak the regulation to fit the sport as it stands today.