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How the budget cap is damaging F1


Under Liberty, F1 has the budget cap that the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley were unable to impose. However, rather than levelling the field it is doing the exact opposite, thereby frustrating the teams and fans.

Ignoring, for now, the plights of Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, and the potential for silliness at Red Bull, the real feelgood story of 2023 has to be Aston Martin.

How many fans switched off in anger and frustration on Sunday when Fernando Alonso appeared to have been robbed of his second successive podium due to the over eagerness of one of his crew? Then came the news that the Spaniard had been reinstated... Teflonso strikes again.

The success of Aston Martin in the opening races has been good for the sport, for it shows a true underdog - are you listening Toto, Christian? - can win through.

Then again, wasn't that always Lawrence Stroll's plan, to create a team that could challenge for titles?

The foundations were laid with Racing Point, as the Canadian sought to put the dark days of Force India and just about every other incarnation of the old Jordan team firmly in the past.

Stroll has big ambitions for Aston Martin and, unlike some of the more vocal elements of Planet Paddock, has put his money where his mouth is.

However, as for challenging for titles, he can forget it.

In the 'good old days', buoyed by what he has witnessed in the opening two races, Stroll would have dug deep and found the money needed to take his team forward those precious few extra steps.

However, the budget cap won't allow that.

Imagine that the podiums continue, by mid-season Mike Krack will be (understandably) moaning that if it wasn't for the budget cap the team would be challenging for race wins, possibly the championship should the Bulls continue to squabble and Mercedes and Ferrari play catch up.

And speaking of Mercedes and Ferrari, both have to make major changes, but like Aston Martin are limited by the cap and therefore, unlike days gone by, are unable to spend their way out of their respective holes.

Meanwhile, Red Bull, which started with the dominant package last year, because the regulations are locked in until 2026 seems set to stay in the lead.

Now other teams may well be able to get to grips with the regs over the next few years but they won't be able to devote additional resources to this because of the cap. At the same time, Red Bull is likely to get to grips with the regs even better so its lead is likely to increase.

This is actually the biggest flaw with the cap - the FIA/FOM foolishly thought that limiting spending was all it took to put the teams on the same level when actually it doesn't address the biggest discrepancy between them.

Red Bull hasn't won all its titles over the years just because it had a blockbuster budget but because it had Adrian Newey designing its cars.

Yes, Red Bull has to pay Newey a fortune and he has access to the most advanced facilities in F1 but this was all bought during the decades of unchained spending.

Newey, who has designed championship winning cars for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull... and let's not forget IndyCar, amassed his vast knowledge when there was no cap on spending so he could use the best facilities in the business.

The second the budget cap was introduced, this knowledge didn't disappear because it's in his head, think Horner and Marko's recent comments regarding Dan Fallows.

The real value in any business is in its people consequently it is somewhat insulting that the FIA/FOM thinks that capping spending is all it takes to put teams on a level playing field.

And let's not forget, Newey's salary, vast as it no doubt is, will be one of those excluded from the cap.

Of course, the staff at Ferrari and Mercedes have also retained all the knowledge they gained during the decades of unchained spending. Those teams are still at the sharp end of the grid (even though they aren't winning races) because they were the biggest spenders before the cap.

In other words, the cap has changed nothing. The only exception being Aston Martin, but as explained above, it doesn't have a hope of catching Red Bull because of the cap.

So what does this all mean? You have Aston which has no hope of catching Red Bull and Mercedes which can't spend its way out of its hole.

In short, the cap is preventing competition because it has reduced the chances of Red Bull being challenged.

Yes, there have been plenty of seasons of dominance in the past, think Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, however there was no cap to prevent rivals from catching up.

Sadly, nobody in Planet Paddock will publicly agree with this, instead insisting that all moves under Liberty have been positive, but privately they'll agree with every single word.


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1. Posted by trackrecords, 27/03/2023 7:33

"A sideways thought. If Dan Fellows is really the total reason for Aston Martin's success, then how does it explain his F1 career starting in 2002 for Jaguar?
When Justin Wilson 'transferred' in mid-2003 season from Minardi to Jaguar [into a Fellows car], I can't recall him and Webber running 1-2 as in 1978 with Andretti and Peterson in the Lotus 79.
Does it show that no matter how good a design, the destructive power of empire-building within a large organisation - whereby the team was hindered by the various engineering groups at Jaguar F1 being more inclined to stab colleagues in the back thank work together for team success - can easily throw away an innovative advantage?
What Aston Martin's transformation does show is why Lawrence Stroll is a billionaire: by having the insight and knowledge as to how to improve a business - and World-class catering (for those that remember his 2022 launch speech...)"

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 25/03/2023 18:41

"It was so obvious from the very inception of the cost cap but none of this big picture thinkers thought of it? Highly unlikely. But they sold the simplified idea to the commentators and journalists to sell it to the masses: money equals speed (and keep that black tarp over Toyota, nothing to see there).

I don't know the true reason for the rules but it could be as simple as short term profiteering by team owners by limiting reinvestment. If that be the case look for Liberty to look to sell in the next couple years."

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3. Posted by Ras, 23/03/2023 13:51

"It seems obvious, but I'll say it anyway. The group benefiting most from the budget cap, is the one that ignores it."

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4. Posted by Chester, 22/03/2023 13:38

"Editor, so spot-on. It was a reality check for me. Thank you"

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5. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 22/03/2023 9:07

"Lance could always offer Adrian a package even he could not refuse, I wonder what formula Mr Newey knows that no-one else appears to know."

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6. Posted by didaho, 22/03/2023 5:47

"A lot of cake eaten and yet it remains.
If it takes long years of unchained spending, how would the green buoyant billionaire accomplish it any time soon? (Particularly when he's unlikely to put two of the best drivers on the grid in his seats).
Or if the IP is in the heads of people outside the salary cap (Newey etc) then salary cap isn't an issue - attracting that talent is."

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7. Posted by BigJack, 22/03/2023 0:04

"While I agree that the budget cap has it's limitations, I don't think it's the only factor. The cap does not affect most of the teams anyway, so we're only talking the top 4 or 5 teams. Those are the teams that always emerge on top, cap or not.

I think the problem with Formula 1 is that it has lost interest as it's as close as it will get to a one make championship. The rules are so restrictive and complex that it appears there is only one solution to building the fastest car. Hence all the teams are following Red Bull.

Throw away the rule book and start again and we might get back to innovation and technical advances!"

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8. Posted by Tardis40, 21/03/2023 18:52

"Adrian has really hit it out of the park with this car. Shades of Ferrari 2004."

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9. Posted by Mad Matt, 21/03/2023 16:20

"Looking at this from a different point of view we might say that Aston Martin have still got more wind tunnel time than Red Bull so it may be that this won't be about money but about the ability to develop. In other words Aston Martin should have enough money to take advantage of the extra aero testing they're allowed compared to Red Bull and therefore be able to catch up. The corollary of that should be that Red Bull development is to some extent stifled by their limited aero testing.

I doubt this will be a night and day thing but I think it will have some effect over this season and next.

Just to give an alternative opinion :-)"

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10. Posted by Spindoctor, 21/03/2023 15:36

I hadn't really thought the Cap through in this way & you've really laid it all out!
The Newey factor is almost 100% of RBR's success. Even during Merc's "dominance" RBR's car was probably the most efficient. At various tracks its superior aerodynamics and good chassis grip gave it a distinct edge. As soon as RBR had a competitive and reliable PU (2021) it was demonstrably fastest.

I think worse than almost any other aspect of the Spending Cap is the restraint on in-season testing. Schumacher's dominance wasn't solely down to Brawn (much as he might like us to think so). Michael tested, tested, trained, then tested some more. I suspect this development work alone lifted a some pretty mediocre Ferrari cars to a level where his talent could bring them home 1st.
Other Drivers & teams did likewise & it showed. In most seasons that a team dominated early on, the others caught up, often by half-season. As is so eloquently explained in this article that simply won't happen under current restrictions (I was going to write "rules") and I see no reason for Newey\RBR to lose a championship between now & 2026"

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11. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 21/03/2023 14:37

"Maybe it's because I'm a died in the wool free-marketer, but I've always hated the excessive regulations of F1. Well, to be fair, Europe in general. Not like America is totally free by any stretch either.

With Aston's performance they can attract additional sponsorship money. The cameras will be following them more than even the Red Bulls because they know it's a fan interest story happening. Sponsors will pay a premium for that exposure. But they're not allowed to spend more money so it doesn't matter if they bring in additional sponsors (other than lining Stroll Sr's pockets).

If they really want to effectively level the playing field (meaning Williams and Haas could actually catch up to the RB's) they would have to basically assess a performance penalty in terms of budgets for the top 3-5 teams in the Constructors Championship. Because otherwise, as mentioned by the article, the top teams just keep building from the success of prior, unrestricted spending, years. I hate the concept, but in a budget capped world it's the only thing that might bring that levelling of the field."

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12. Posted by ToeKnee, 21/03/2023 14:02

"yeppers, and Indycar becomes more and more and more appealing. Along with sportscar racing where the Ferrari team can actually think. They seem to be off to a pretty good start. "

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13. Posted by Endre, 21/03/2023 13:10

"I can never forget about that. In my opinion that is when F1 lost its way and started manipulating the game more and more. Before then, if you could attract the right talent and raise the required funding, you had chance to catch up with the competition or dominate. Since 2014 it is also about what lady luck brings you."

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14. Posted by Editor, 21/03/2023 12:26

"@ Endre,

Very, very tempted to ban you for reminding me of the token farce which I had almost totally forgotten about.

God knows what the Drive to Survive mob would have made of that."

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15. Posted by Endre, 21/03/2023 12:19

"It shows that F1 never learns from history. The token system had a very similar effect and lead to many years of Mercedes domination as other manufacturers were no allowed to catch up due to very strict limitations on what can be developed. "

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