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FIA's tougher stance will catch F1 cost cap cheats, says Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the FIA's tougher probing of Formula 1 team spending this year will be enough to catch any cost cap cheats.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Autosport revealed recently how motor racing's governing body has been ramping up its investigations into teams cost cap submissions.

FIA representatives have been visiting teams to check on their cost cap figures, and some squads have been handed questionnaires demanding more than 100 answers as clarification is sought over their spending.

The FIA has also begun checks into the use by teams of any non-F1 activities.

This comes in the wake of a technical directive, TD45, which outlines that any IP transfer from a team's non-F1 elements to their grand prix teams needs to be inside the cost cap.

It was prompted by suspicions that teams were funding non-F1 staff and projects to help find performance gains that were not included as part of their F1 cost cap allowance.

Asked by Autosport if he felt teams had been exploiting this area, Wolff said: "I think so. Yes.

"But the work that the FIA has put into auditing us was big work and big effort, and I have no doubt that they are going to do the same with the other teams. If someone has been cavalier or has cheated, then they're going to find out."

The impact of TD45 has prompted some teams to make infrastructure changes to ensure they fully comply with the new interpretation of the rules.

McLaren boss Andrea Stella said his squad had set up a new company, McLaren Advanced Projects, to ensure any non-F1 work was totally separate from the grand prix team.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"We welcome very much this approach by the FIA, and we think that a strong policing is absolutely necessary," he said.

"There's quite a lot of complexity in how teams are structured, which can create opportunities or sometimes lack of clarity, and there could be some exploitation, let's say.

"What we have created very recently is McLaren Advanced Projects, which is an engineering unit that is completely separate to the activity of the F1 team.

"It's been created in light of what we knew was coming from a regulatory point of view, and we are working together with the FIA to, if anything, make the policing and the regulations even stricter here, because the cost gap is the fundamental element of creating a level playing field, which would make this sport and racing much more exciting."

Red Bull found itself punished last year for having breached the spending limit during its title-winning 2021 campaign.

Team principal Christian Horner said that the FIA getting tougher was a good thing as the increased clarity would help avoid teams accidentally exceeding limits.

"We've had a very constructive period with the FIA and, as an organisation now, we have a huge amount of process in place regarding compliance," explained Horner.

"As the regulations and things like TD45 firm up and become regulatory, it actually just creates more clarity. I think the problem in the early days is in the ambiguity of a brand-new set of regulations. As the regulations mature in many respects, it becomes more straightforward."

Asked if TD45 had forced any changes within Red Bull, Horner said: "No, we haven't had to make any changes as a result of TD45.

"Obviously all the business structures are very different. For example, Ferrari act as one company with the entire road car business. So, their submission is somewhat different to the teams that are just purely focused on F1.

"At Red Bull, we have Red Bull Racing, we have Red Bull Powertrains, Red Bull Advanced Technologies and we have Red Bull Advanced Services. So, there's a series of companies that all have to interact with each other. But we've worked closely with the FIA, and they've done a very thorough job."

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, in the Team Prinicpals Press Conference

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, in the Team Prinicpals Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Wolff added that the demands being placed on teams by the FIA to check their compliance with the cost cap were not easy to fulfil.

"The audit, the questions that we've been asked, and the way that the audit was going, was tough and diligent and a lot of effort," he said.

"Whilst it's difficult to make these cost cap regulations stick, it is great to see how much effort is being put into policing them.

"I think we saw something like 100 questions that came back for more detail. So, for me, it seems there is a right approach."

But Wolff was clear that there had been no consequences to its organisation triggered by TD45.

"We have one entity, and that same entity does all the F1 work and does some of the non-F1 work, where America's Cup is the biggest activity for some of our non-F1 customers.

"All is transparent. All the books are open. We haven't created any subsidiaries or any other companies, and there are no cross-shareholdings. All is on the table.

"In that respect, we have nothing to hide. Every detail of our non-F1 work is being put open to the FIA, and I hope we can be a role model to other teams."

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