FIA’s cost cap policing should deter future ‘cover ups’, says Ben Sulayem

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is hopeful that the way his governing body handled last year’s Formula 1 cost cap breaches will stop any ‘cover ups’ in the future.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President FIA

Both Red Bull and Aston Martin were found to have broken the 2021 cost cap during investigations last year, as new spending restrictions in grand prix racing were enforced for the first time.

While Aston Martin’s offence was a procedural breach, Red Bull’s was more controversial as it was found to have overspent by $1.8 million. It was handed a $7 million fine and a 10 percent reduction in aerodynamic testing.

The way that the FIA handled Red Bull’s offence was viewed as a huge test case for the success of the cost cap, and in the end the punishment was viewed by most teams to have been a good compromise.

Reflecting on what happened, and the fact that FIA was so open in its handling of the affair, Sulayem is optimistic that the budget limit rules will remain fully respected by teams.

Speaking to media at the Dakar Rally, he said that the cost cap was a much easier way of levelling out the playing field than constant tweaking of Balance of Performance as happens in other categories.

“It’s not an easy task, to do equivalent of technology or the Balance of Performance,” he said. “The one thing that I can say, and I can see is that it’s working and we have to police it, is the cost cap.

“I was very clear with what happened with Red Bull and Aston Martin. We made sure that nothing was hidden, and we were very transparent.

“We did the team [investigation], did the check up, went through the whole process and we cleared it publicly to everyone. I hope nobody can use the cost cap and try to cover up things. The teams now are very clear that the FIA is there as the governing body. They are there watching, and that is our beauty, that is our responsibility."

Red Bull was handed a $7 million fine and a 10 percent reduction in aerodynamic testing after having overspent by $1.8 million in 2021.

Red Bull was handed a $7 million fine and a 10 percent reduction in aerodynamic testing after having overspent by $1.8 million in 2021.

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Ben Sulayem believes the cost cap is an essential element of the new era of F1, and he hopes it can act to help make smaller teams more competitive.

“When it comes to the cost cap, there is one thing, it has to work,” he said. “Yes, the gap is big, but we just have to push more into it to make sure the other teams come up to the level of the big teams.”

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Aston Martin winners

Ben Sulayem believes teams that are investing, like Aston Martin, now have an opportunity to be able to go and win in the future because big spending manufacturers no longer have an automatic advantage.

Asked if he believed a competitor like Aston Martin would be winning within two or three years, he said: “They should. And the way the investment is going, and then having a smart guy like Fernando [Alonso], I believe yes.

“Performance first is important. Winning is very hard. You can talk about Ferrari, but Ferrari did not win. But was it because it is slow? No. It’s maybe the reliability, the management, the whole thing mixed together.

“I think Aston Martin is not short of the finance. It maybe needs a different way of [doing things]. And the changes that Mr Stroll is changing now into it, bringing another driver, bringing a new discipline to his team, new personnel, that is very important also.”

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