FIA interviewing non-F1 personnel to ensure cost cap compliance

The FIA has ramped up monitoring of team’s non-Formula 1 activities, including interviewing key staff, to ensure they are not getting around cost cap rules. 

Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1, on the grid

As reported by Autosport last week, the FIA has closed off a potential loophole that some teams may have been using in getting personnel outside of their main F1 team to help work on car design and development projects.

The fear was that some squads were employing staff outside of the cost cap to work on separate special projects, such as designing road cars, yachts and bicycles, but then making use of any extra knowledge they gained that could be of benefit to the F1 operation. 

Teams operating in this way could have a big advantage over squads that were accounting for all their activities, as their official spending would have been less because these extra staff were effectively working off-book. 

Amid fears from several teams that the use of non-F1 staff was being exploited in such a manner, the FIA responded with the issuing of a technical directive earlier this year to stamp out any knowledge being passed to F1 teams that is not accounted for under the cost cap. 

TD45, as it is known, has now come into force and makes it clear that, from January 1 this year, any IP passed from a technical division back into an F1 squad must be included in cost cap spending. 

The FIA is taking the matter seriously and, as part of a much more detailed analysis of team activities, Autosport has learned that it is being active in checking what non-F1 staff at teams are actually doing. 

It is understood that, as part of enhanced monitoring introduced since the first cost cap submissions were made in 2021, a deeper probe has been made to check on non-F1 activities. 

This now includes interviewing staff who were declared to be outside the scope of the F1 cost cap, to try to get a better understanding of exactly what projects they were working on. 

Furthermore, samples of work completed by such staff are being analysed to ensure that they are totally separate from the F1 team and that no knowledge is being passed across. 

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Beyond this, and as part of the rigorous analysis that the FIA is now doing on 2022 cost cap submissions, the top teams are being faced with a detailed list of around 100 questions that they must answer. 

Teams have welcomed the move by the FIA to hone in on areas where concerns had emerged. Early feedback suggests that some squads have had to change how they operate though. 

One senior source said: “People did not have confidence in the old whisteblower system, but it now looks like the FIA is on it. It appears to be working.” 

TD45 has been worded in such a way that teams can continue to operate their special technical divisions, rather than them being shut down completely. It makes clear though that while IP gained from the F1 team is allowed to be passed out and used in non-F1 activities, it cannot go the other way.

However, the behaviour of teams will continue to be monitored to ensure that they comply with regulations and do not find alternative ways around cost cap rules. 

Teams are having to introduce vigorous checks themselves to ensure that any spending they make does not fall foul of cost cap limitations. 

At the Canadian GP, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed how his squad had employed dozens of staff to check on how things were operating. 

“We have set up a huge organisation in our financial department of 46 people, that monitors the cost cap down to the last screw," he explained. 

"It follows the trend of spending during all of the year and what we've done is basically allocated resource to various projects. 

"We stayed below that line all year last year, and we've stayed below that line this year. Considering a normal development switch for next year, this is still pretty much on track.” 

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