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F1 ready for talks to revise cost cap rules

Formula 1 chiefs are lined up for discussions with teams about potential changes to the cost cap rules to help smaller squads catch up, Autosport has learned. 

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, Al

While the introduction of a cost cap since the start of 2021 is widely viewed as having been a success in closing up the field, there are some areas where its scope is felt to be too restrictive. 

It has helped in not allowing the bigger teams to spend their way to a huge advantage, but there are aspects to it that have prevented smaller outfits from making the gains they want. 

One of the issues that has gained traction in recent months is the fact that teams are strictly limited on capital expenditure – so there is not much freedom to improve infrastructure back at base. 

While teams can build new factories, and a specific exemption has been allowed in the cost cap rules for new wind tunnels, any other investment needed to improve equipment has to be included in the generic cost cap limit that teams battle to stay under. 

This means that teams which had the best infrastructure in place at the start of the cap have a locked in advantage, and those whose investment had fallen behind face the prospect of needing to divert money away from car performance if they want to improve their facilities. 

It has emerged, however, that preliminary discussions have taken place about teams being given greater freedoms in terms of capital expenditure – so they do have the ability to improve facilities at their factories. 

Autosport understands that the matter was discussed at the most recent Formula 1 Commission meeting, with Williams team boss James Vowles particularly keen for there to be changes to the rules in this area. 

With a number of rivals supporting the basic idea, plus the FIA and FOM open to the prospect, it is understood that a more detailed analysis of potential changes to the capital expenditure allowances is being prepared for further discussions in the next few weeks.

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Photo by: Williams

Speaking about the matter, Vowles said it was essential for the future of F1 that small teams were given the means to improve its facilities if it had fallen behind. 

“I personally think if we want a meritocracy, we need the ability for my team to be given the chance to catch up with some of the big teams and have the same resources,” he explained. 

Vowles said that one of the surprises he found when joining Williams was that it lacked a number of systems that are found at bigger squads – and which cannot be upgraded without it eating in to the yearly cost cap allowance. 

“There are some what I would consider basics, which are in place in other teams and have been since almost 15 years,” he said. 

“For example, there are software systems that allow you to properly understand where all your parts are, and they simply don't exist [at Williams].  

“As a result of that, what impresses me is that before I joined, they've built the car you see in front of you, 15,000 pieces coming together fitting, working, and seemingly going around the track fairly quickly. That's an incredible accomplishment.  

“But clearly, it’s not how we can move forward. So we need systems in place and structures in place.” 

While the idea of more freedom for capital expenditure would help the smallest teams most of all, bigger squads are understood to be in favour of it, pending the final details. 

For a rule change to go through for 2024, it would require six of the current teams to back it – a level that appears to be possible to reach. If eight teams support it then the rules could change for this year. 

Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine F1 Team Principal, Pat Fry, Alpine F1 Team Chief Technical Officer

Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine F1 Team Principal, Pat Fry, Alpine F1 Team Chief Technical Officer

Photo by: Alpine

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer agreed that the current capital expenditure limits were unfair. 

“What a cost cap does is it solidifies some inherent inequities,” he said. 

“If you were a small team and didn't have a great wind tunnel, for example, and you couldn’t build one, you're screwed forever. That is why there's dispensation for new tunnels. 

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“And I think there are other infrastructure and tools underneath the tunnel that should be treated the same. Things like brake dynos, and full car dynos, that the big teams have and a small team doesn't.  

“If you don't allow that expenditure, then that inequity is there forever. That means you're screwed forever and I think that's wrong.” 

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