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Liberty seeking budget cap

NEWS STORY
18/12/2016

It's a subject which has almost torn F1 apart and one which has frustrated some of the finest minds to grace the sport... budget capping.

On Planet Paddock, as in the real world, there are the haves and have nots. And just like their real life counterparts the inhabitants of Planet Paddock find that the gulf between the two grows ever wider.

As in most sports, success leads to financial reward, both in terms of prize money and sponsorship. Add in the support of a car manufacturer and it is not difficult to comprehend the vast sums of money available to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari compared to Force India and Sauber.

More money means one can have the best of everything, the best facilities, the best engineers, the best drivers and the best research and development programmes, and while the wealthy teams can throw money at any problem that arises their 'rivals' at the other end of the pitlane are restricted at every turn and therefore never likely to close the gap instead relying on the occasional freak result.

Aware of the growing chasm Max Mosley worked tirelessly to talk sense into the teams, not only in terms of the vast difference in spending power but also the fact that much of the money was spent on things that meant virtually nothing to the fans in the stands.

While some of the measures he introduced were accepted, such as a reduction in testing and the eventual limit on certain components such as engines and gearboxes, the move to enforce a cap which would essentially level the playing field saw a number of teams, led by Ferrari, threaten to form a breakaway series.

Several recent attempts have proved similarly fruitless, the grandee teams seeing no reason why they should come down to the level of their financially frustrated rivals, unable to see that the situation cannot continue forever.

Indeed, it was the promise of a financially level playing field that saw three new teams enter the sport in 2010, along with Cosworth, with Manor (nee Virgin) the only outfit just about surviving to tell the tale.

Now, where Mosley and the FIA failed, Liberty Media is aiming to succeed, believing that a level playing field will not only benefit the teams but the fans and thereby the sport.

"It makes no sense to have teams spending the better part of $400m (320m)," 'a senior source familiar with Liberty's plans' told the Telegraph. "That money is not doing anything good for fans. It is just wasted on competing on technology. That has not been driven by logic and it has created a two-class society in terms of what is spent on teams. You should have an opportunity for the underdog to win."

Those teams singing the praises of Liberty's buy-out of F1 just a couple of months back will go into the Christmas break positively bristling at the thought of having their budgets capped, being told where and how they can spend their money.

While spending in F1 is at a more sensible level than at previous times it is still quite ludicrous to think about the vast resources needed to field two cars... especially if one aims to be fighting for podiums.

While such a move will be welcomed by the smaller teams their bigger rivals will want to maintain the status quo and that will always be the case while manufacturers are involved.

Furthermore, as was always going to be the case, setting a limit on how much a team is allowed to spend is one thing, policing that spending quite another.

"The biggest thing we've got to change is culture," said the Telegraph's source. "Right now, nobody trusts anybody."

According to the newspaper, Liberty boss John Malone is the driving force behind the budget capping proposal, while Chase Carey is seeking to meet with team bosses early in the new year to discuss other issues that are of concern to the sport's new owner as it seeks maximum bang for its buck.

Among the issues Carey aims to be addressing is the simplification of the rules and an end to the sport's habit of endless tinkering with them.

Other than wondering if the budget cap plan is Ross Brawn's remit for Liberty, one cannot help but feel that for some of the teams, the honeymoon with Liberty will soon be over.

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1. Posted by mickl, 21/12/2016 0:41

"I've said before, ground effects should be allowed back in, get rid of power steering and semi auto gearboxes and rev limiters. That would bring driver skill and endurance back into the fore again without much change to the overall look of the car and clear out the dirty air issue. The skill of coming up to a corner and timing a heel/toe gearchange seems to have been lost. Can you imagine them doing a season with just 3/4 manual gearboxes. Cheap to implement too if they go with a standard gearbox and steering box. Remember back in the 70s/80s where you see drivers climb out of the car looking absolutely shattered. Everyone these days look like they've just had a brisk jog or just stepped out of the shower when they finish a race."

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2. Posted by Stitch431, 19/12/2016 9:57

"At Tokyo Aussie: I agree on a couple of points but not all. Yes I'd like to see slipstreaming and consequently getting rid of supermariocart DRS to get back real fights on track. Of course F1 teams have to be able to devellop their own stuff but by limiting the cost (if possible because hard to police) the field would grow closer to one another with the possiblity of an outsider (talented driver in an average car) hopping on the podium and thus making the show more attractive. And yes, that is in the interest of the sports promotor, so if they find a way of doing this, by all means as it is also good for us fans. "

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3. Posted by TokyoAussie, 19/12/2016 3:51

"I'll take the role of contrarian here.

Tinkering of the rules, I believe, is a very necessary part of the process. I don't want to see the same cars for the next 30 years. I think the formula should always be evolving. My beef is not with the FIA changing the rules, per se, but with the rules that they change. Yes, there have been many rule changes over the last umpteen years, but none of real consequence when it comes to aerodynamics, wings and winglets and such (sorry, sponsorship surfaces). And by consequence, I'm talking about the effect on the "racing," not the effect on costs. There have been many changes affecting aerodynamics, but none that resulted in the resurrection of the word "slipstream." All we ever get now is "dirty air."

As for budget cutting, I mostly agree with the article. It is needed, and I don't know necessarily what form that should take, and then there is the issue of policing it. All tough to do. But I am opposed to standardised components. Each common component takes away from the team's ability to do something different, it takes away the potential for unreliability that comes from developing new bits. The sport needs to have mechanical unpredictability, otherwise Mercedes just starts at the front, drives off into the distance, and does so nearly every race. My favourite era was Keke's championship year, when you never knew if the turbo-engined cars would reach the flag. I am not suggesting anything that dire in terms of unreliability, but the possibility of failure has to exist. Cars are too reliable now.

My most-reviled rule of recent years? The fuel flow rate limit. Just get rid of it. The teams are already capped on fuel. Let them burn the stuff at the rate they want and when. If they burn too much too early, tough. I see no reason why even the rate at which the capped fuel load is used should also be capped. Let teams boost their fuel rate usage to attempt passing manoeuvres. And then suffer later when they have to conserve. Teams already do something similar, but limited, with "engine modes" anyway. Cost to the teams: Zilch.

I am not sure I understand what Liberty is up to here with its cost-cutting drive. Sure, they see that team's costs should be capped, but what is their angle on this. That is surely within the purview of the FIA, not the promoter (sorry, commercial rights exploiters). Of course, the F in FIA does appear to stand for "feckless" of late, but it's still the FIA's role.

OK, rant over."

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4. Posted by ryanhellyer, 18/12/2016 16:44

"I don't see why a budget cap is needed across complete teams. I think they just need to force the engine manufacturers to supply their engines at a lower rate, and to add more standardised components to the cars to reduce spending on extraneous crap that none of us care about."

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