Structuring a budget cap in Formula 1 is a thorny problem. The biggest sticking point is the bigger teams' reluctance to make the mass redundancies that would be necessary to get them down to the capped figure. At the same time, F1 should not be making itself even more vulnerable to the whims of stockholders and board members of entities that are only incidentally involved in the sport - especially in the midst of an economic depression.
Something has to give, and negotiations continue between the governing body and the teams about that yawning gap between the two conflicting aims: drastically reduced budgets; minimal redundancies.
You may think those aims are mutually exclusive. But two interesting ideas have been floated, suggesting that need not be the case. One of them comes from Alex Wurz, currently spearheading Superfund's attempt to break into F1 as a team.
He points out that, with the cost-cutting regulations, some of the bigger teams are now running at 50-60 per cent of their capacity. Why not, he argues, allow new teams to share their facilities? That way, the start-up pain for the new teams is eased, and the big teams get to reallocate a big chunk of their staff without making them redundant - and get a rental income into the bargain. The new team gets an accelerated learning curve, benefiting from the vast experience of those reallocated from the major team as they, in effect, contract hire the expertise in.
It's an elegant idea, but there's a fine line to be trod with customer cars, of course. Regardless of who wins the current FIA/teams power struggle, in all likelihood there is going to be a big standardisation of components that are not performance differentiators - from wheelhubs to brake callipers to gear trains.
But the gap between that concept and customer cars will still be stark, as it now seems to be accepted by both sides - thankfully - that F1 should always be about technical as well as driver competition. Sharing facilities will pose some tough challenges about information transfer, unless some limited form of the customer-car concept is accepted.
There are bound also to be colossal logistical problems to be solved, but this is a sport filled with brilliant imaginative minds.
Then there's the suggestion that, because marketing costs are excluded from the budget cap, teams can convince sponsors to use redeployed race-team staff to build and operate demo cars from the marketing budget.
Imagine the crowds that would turn up for Karun Chandhok doing a demo of a McLaren in Chennai, or Takuma Sato in Tokyo, Robby Gordon in Kentucky, Valentino Rossi in Rome. That way no-one gets made redundant, the racing budget is drastically cut down to the required level, F1 gets massively enhanced reach, and the sponsors don't pay any more than they are currently.
Such fresh ideas indicate that the cost challenge facing F1 is far from insurmountable. But whether the current hostile environment between the teams on the one side and the governing body/commercial rights holder on the other is able to incorporate such ideas is a moot point.
There is so much ill feeling that any number of issues seem to just serve as trigger points for more arguments. Underlying this ill feeling is the one fact that all the arguments keep returning to: it's all very well controlling costs, but why are we allowing an outside entity (CVC) to remove so much of the sport's income for its own ends?
No matter how many brilliant cost-cutting proposals are made, the rancour from that single structural problem is overwhelming. If that anomaly was addressed, every other cost-related problem would dissolve into thin air.
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