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Alpine warns F1 against "baking in" top team advantage

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer has warned Formula 1 against "baking in" an advantage for its top teams by leaving critical infrastructure projects included in the current cost cap.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, leads Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, leads Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Mark Sutton

While the cost cap has been praised for bringing teams closer together and making F1 more sustainable, the traditional top teams continue enjoying an advantage with their existing infrastructure.

With most performance-related infrastructure projects included in the cost cap, there is little scope for teams that have to catch up without making drastic compromises elsewhere.

One exception is the construction of a new wind tunnel, which has specifically been exempted from the cost cap regulations and is something that Aston Martin has taken advantage of.

But other big-ticket items that are necessary for midfield teams to catch up do fall under the cost cap and its additional $36m capital expenditure allowance over a four-year period from 2022 to 2025.

Teams including Alpine and Williams have already brought up the issue in recent Formula 1 Commission meetings, with Alpine team principal Szafnauer urging F1 against "baking in an inequity" of infrastructure compared to teams such as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

"We just need to get the FIA to allow a certain amount of infrastructure that's required by all the teams to be competitive or have the playing field be even not counting for the cost [cap]," Szafnauer said.

"Because otherwise, what you do is you bake in an inequity of infrastructure, because we do have a capital expenditure cost cap."

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz / Motorsport Images

Szafnauer argued that certain projects are all but mandatory for all teams because of the new engine regulations in 2026.

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The change in hybrid layout, with a much more powerful MGU-K and the removal of the MGU-H system, will require Alpine to construct a new gearbox dyno. If that project stays under the cost cap, that would severely hurt teams' ability to develop their cars elsewhere.

"Some of that CapEx cost cap has to be spent on regulations," Szafnauer explained.

"For example, the new regulation for '26, we need a new gearbox dyno. The gearbox dyno that we have now won't handle it, so you must spend that money.

"And then once you spend the money on a new gearbox dyno, you don't have enough to do the other things.

"So, the FIA has to - and we're working with them - just allow some infrastructure that's required for all to sit outside the cost caps.

"They allowed it for Aston Martin's wind tunnel, otherwise you'd never buy a new wind tunnel. If your cost cap [allowance] is 36 million, a wind tunnel is 70."

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