Capito: Cost cap breach more serious than cheating on track

Williams team principal Jost Capito says that a Formula 1 cost cap breach should be deemed a more serious offence than cheating on track.

Capito: Cost cap breach more serious than cheating on track

Other team bosses have agreed that any such breaches should trigger appropriate punishments from the FIA.

Red Bull and Aston Martin are both understood to have overspent last season, with the former believed to be a potentially more serious case of a “material breach”.

The penalty for such a spend – in excess of 5% of the 2021 cap limit – could extend to exclusion of the team concerned from last year’s world championship.

Capito stressed that a breach in 2021 would also have fed into development for this season’s cars.

“I think there's no way around not staying in the cost cap,” the German told Autosport.

“And if somebody doesn't stay in the cost cap, it has to have serious implications. Because not having stayed in the cost cap last year is most likely development for this year's car.

“For this year's cars, you have an impact for the whole season. So it has to have a sportive impact on this season. It doesn't make sense to have any financial penalty on top that you spent the money.

“That would be completely contradictory to work to the rules. And for me, it's a more serious breach than cheating on the car on the track.”

Capito also stressed that a retrospective punishment, for example exclusion from last year’s championship, wouldn’t necessarily affect performance gains earned through development for 2022.

"I don't think it should be for last year, because most of the more impact is on this year. I think it would be completely wrong to do it on last year, because the books are written, everything is done, the PR is done, the marketing is done.

“So if that would be the case, then I think nobody would stay in the cost cap anymore, because it has an impact on the past. It has to have an impact on the actual year. And that's why I think the FIA, if there is a case, they have to be quite fast.

“I don't have any other choice, they have to react because the majority of the teams was in the cost cap. And they can't be penalised for being in the cost cap. So I'm pretty sure they will react appropriately.”

Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur is adamant that any financial transgression should be treated as seriously as a technical infringement.

“I think, from my point of view, the cost cap was crucial for F1,” Vasseur said.

“I know it was a great achievement to put it in place. But now that it's in place, the most important thing is to police it. And for sure there is no room for flexibility.

“I think that we have to be very strict with this. You can be disqualified from a race for 0.9mm of front flap deflection, as we were two years ago. If you are 300g under the weight, you are excluded.

“And, on the other hand, if you can spend millions for updates for X races, it's completely unfair. If something like this happened, for sure the FIA will have to take action.

“You have to understand that sometimes with €200,000 you can bring a big update. And if you overshoot the budget by this, it's a couple of tenths for more than one race.”

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer, who ran Aston Martin last year but left before its final budget numbers were submitted, agreed that overspending teams can reap significant benefits.

Alpine boss Szafnauer believes teams should be

Alpine boss Szafnauer believes teams should be "appropriately" punished

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

“At the margin, any spend above the margin is spent on performance,” Szafnauer added. “And once you start spending on performance where others don't get a chance to, because they've actually stuck to the budget cap, that's serious.

“And I think the FIA have to appropriately punish those who have gone over. You have to first understand how big the breach was, and then what an appropriate penalty is.”

Szafnauer stressed that Alpine had made big sacrifices to stay within the cap.

“The team here made some significant decisions on letting people go, not hiring other people, before the start of this year, based on last year's spend,” he said.

“And that's significant. And, once you let people go, it's hard to get them back and attract the same people.

“And once you stop development, because you're going to be over the budget cap, and you stop it so that you assure yourself that you're under, getting that development and that learning back in a quicker time than others are learning, it's nearly impossible.

“So that's what I mean by we have to understand the gravity of the breach, and have appropriate ramifications.

“If, for example, you've gained by doing more windtunnel testing, then you should have perhaps an appropriate punishment, like restricting their windtunnel testing the following year. It's that kind of stuff.”

Haas boss Gunther Steiner also insisted penalties need to be tough, even if the 2021 world championship was concluded over nine months ago.

"When we had to turn in our accounting, that was one of the things which was discussed,” Steiner told Autosport. “So how do you deal with it, if someone breached it, a year after?

“It was always going to happen. But in the end, if you now take the world championship result away from last year, who cares?

“The only thing will be the financial benefit they had by being in a certain position. If they are disqualified, everybody else who is behind them will be laughing. And that's where we are.

“I mean, if you breach it, and the regulations say that the penalty needs to be this one, that needs to be this one, because in the end we are talking about money.”

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