Benjamin Disraeli is frequently credited as the first to say that, "There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics." Mark Twain added to this view with his equally sharp barb being; "statistics is the art of never having to say you're wrong."
The only reason each uses statistics as a touch-point for evil is that 19th century tax law was, to say the least, primitive, and the "Big Four" accounting firms that have made an entire industry appear out of thin air to the benefit of no one other than themselves did not yet exist.
Should Benjamin, or Mark elect to reframe their sound-bites today I proffer that, "Lies, damn lies, and corporate tax accounting", would bless their new rendition with profundity. For it is not a world, not a solar system, but an entire universe of alternate reality whereby not only can two, plus two, equal whatever number one dreams of, but you can respectfully prove, beyond taxable doubt, that two does not equal two. Indeed for the bold within the Big Four, proving two is an invalid number and as such un-taxable, is entirely within a fine day's work.
Which brings us neatly to our delightful cast of pantomime villains currently acting out the "Cost Caps Cost Lives" drama within Formula One.
Oh dearest of readers, this is shaping up to be a classic. I can only imagine that on the odd morning when his bank balance does not bring a smile to his face, Bernie eases from his slumber, looks at the latest release from the financial, ah, "geniuses" at the FIA forensic accounting department, and promptly needs to be rescued from convolutions of laughter on his finely hand finished kitchen floor.
Those of you born into the simpler Disco-times of the 1980's or earlier, like, wow, when you didn't make mix-tapes for the car, because cars only had radios in them (you know who you are...) then you will remember the delights of a simple puzzle frequently called a Magic Square, a Gem Puzzle, or rather more dryly the 15 Puzzle.
Originating as a mathematical concept in 1879, it was first realised as a wooden sliding puzzle by Noyes Palmer Chapman a New York Post Master in Canastota in 1874. Zip forward to the 1970's and 1980's and this chipper-chap was more usually realised as a square of dubious-quality plastic, a touch larger than the palm of your hand, with space within for sixteen small tiles, arranged, it being a square after all, in a four by four matrix. Except! The cunning plan was the designers removed one of the tiles, leaving one with fifteen tiles, in the space of sixteen... thereby allowing for the endless high-jinks of sliding those chipper rascals into numeric orders other than one to fifteen. Ah! The hours of joy it gave us sweet innocent children before Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and Gran Turismo went all digital on our butts!
Hence the cunning display of jungle intellect that was the ability of your average seven-year-old to slide jumbled numbers back into the socially acceptable order of one to fifteen in increments of one, that is most often considered a sign of basic numeric literacy.
Accept dear reader, that just as the Formula One Piranha Club, aka Paddock, is not an utterly fair, reasoned, and loving place offering quiet evening hugs of moral support, so it was with the Magic Square. One of the first joys for the jungle-wise was to remove, say, the "3" tile, and add either a "6" or a "9" tile. Then ask your brainiac class mates to solve it in under a minute... Ah the simple joys! (For the slower out there, that's because "6", and "9" can look very similar hence in a sliding Magic Square easy to confuse...)
Next up was the discovery that differing magic squares were fractionally differing sizes. So you'd swap any tile between two sets and... The one with the out-sized tile would now jam, and not move, while the one with the small tile would now explode, spilling tiles all over the floor!
Ah, sides were splitting from Plymouth to Clydeside with that one... Once these merry japes were exhausted the final chuckle was to re-order the jumbled start point of the tiles as, due to the wonders of group theory, certain start positions could not be solved. Your, by now somewhat testy classmates could slide away all day. The only way to solve a Magic Square doctored in this manner is to pull out the tiles, re-order them correctly, and then jumble them without being naughty.
Magic Squares could lead to many a joyful playground civil war for the unsuspecting.
"Enough deranged scribe!" I hear you cry, dear, exhausted reader. Not to worry, I hear you...
Let me provide some words to hold lightly front of mind as we proceed; FIA; statistics; forensic accounting; magic squares; gullible folk; and, smart bunnies. Now, between corporate tax laws that bend the laws of physics, make the Pope cry, and generally turn innocent accountants into either alcoholics, mad axmen, or worse case, alcoholic mad axmen, and the sleight of hand that is confusing your unwitting audience with a skilfully manipulated magic square... one can, as the old teaching aid so amusingly noted... have "Fun with Numbers."
Not just any old fun, but civil war in the playground, I'm telling your mum, taking my bat and ball home fun. The sort where you watch all those not in on the secret proceed to rip one another into very small pieces of lamentable babbling incoherent blubber.
Which brings me so neatly to Christian Horner, long may his larynx wax sweetly, Mr Stroll Senior, long may his wallet of plenty overflow, and the FIA, long may they not run with scissors, or be given pencils that are over-sharpened (Esteemed Editor Balfe - my theory is the FIA wear Blazers to protect themselves from both scissors, and sharpened pencils. Club Bar acceptable body armour if you will... possibly a future Pitpass exclusive investigation...?).
To listen to Christian you'd think that Lewis just blocked the Suez Canal when he punted V. Max into the river bank. It is going to cost seven times the GDP of Lichtenstein to repair the RB16B! Not to mention all those potential future gird penalties, the implication being they will ruin a close end to the season. Not to mention all the trauma counselling for all the boys, and girls back at the factory that built the dang thing in the first place.
Mark my eccentric-typing well dear reader. This is a strategic long play to box the FIA into a corner on the cost cap killing great seasons. The funny thing being all the teams are already in on it, but the FIA are simply too slow-witted to notice a nod-and-a-wink approach to, well, anything. There is no team collusion here! They all know where they need to go, and they are all smart enough to go in that direction without any secret "Team Principles Star Chamber" to work out how to be smart. Trust me dear reader. These people are already alarmingly smart...
...which brings me neatly to Mr. Stroll senior, long may his Joe Biden Aviators sparkle in the rising sun of a perfect new day (I admit I own a 1980's pair of Randolph Aviators which I can now wear for irony, amusement, to irritate others, and if necessary to keep bright lights out my eyes... but I really, really do digress...)
Mr Stroll? Oh yes. Some napkin-bistromatic-maths coming right up.
The King of the Magic Square is making the finest job of reforming a Formula One team in many years. Paul Stoddart was the last Man of Money, that I really wanted to see succeed in Formula One. Eddie Jordan is actually an alien, so he is an exception in many more ways than one. Frank Williams, Bruce McLaren, even Max and Bernie in the early days, and dear lord do not get me started on the insane delights of Lord Hesketh! They made it on a range of no-money-at-all, through to a modest pile which I set fire to in less than two seasons.
Let us examine that factory expansion...
So, Aston Martin F1 is currently at 535 workers, according to Otmar Szafnauer, and wants to expand to 800.
Ok. So $150m divided by 800 is $187,500 per staff member. Now those manic accountants from a few paragraphs ago can quibble with me if they wish, but a general rule is that salary is around 50% to 60% of the cost of running a staff member. This is because of the business impacts of paying for rent, insurances, IT infrastructure, buildings, and depending on how you structure your business, it also needs to cover research, and development, marketing, and corporate overhead costs recovery. Yes, I am making this a simple model so that this article can remain shorter than Australian Tax Law, so please, let us ease down the road on this musing.
We will split the difference and say that 55% of that figure is salary. That implies Aston pays a typical staff member around $103,125. A quick conversation to UK pounds makes that a figure of around £75,200. Which, given the UK average salary is currently stated as £29,600, looks like a jolly fine deal for all those chaps at Aston!
Oh. Hang on. We pay all of 800 people the same amount? Nope me neither. Ok, let's ignore that for a moment, and keep moving.
Engines are $20m a year. Christian is saying a couple of car park scratches came to $1.8m. And last time I checked senior members of teams tended to make more than the national average. Oh... And we are assuming the 45% left over will actually cover operating costs, travel costs, testing costs, simulators, wind tunnels, COVID-19 tests, car park dent removal, and new tubes of super glue to repair broken carbon fibre... Not to mention a free flowing supply of new carbon fibre. Which, as any reader who skis, fishes, cycles, or generally partakes of a sport that can use light, quality items will know, is always alarmingly expensive.
Let's revise our salary pool down a fraction (breaks out vintage abacus, and uses sleeping cats paws to carry the ten...)