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Red Bull warns of “race to the bottom” with salaries under F1 cost cap

Red Bull’s Christian Horner admits that Formula 1’s cost cap is obliging teams to rethink their staffing strategies, especially with regard to high-paid employees.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

He cautioned that teams should be wary of trying to replace experienced team members with cheaper personnel in order to stay within the cap.

The cost cap excludes the salaries of each team’s top three employees – typically the team principal and technical director plus one other – and includes everyone else with a direct involvement in the design, manufacturing and operation of the cars.

Several teams have moved senior technical people out of F1 operations and into other projects so that they don’t come under the cap, unless some of their work days are specifically allocated to the racing programme.

Big name examples include Andrew Green, who was moved into technology projects at Aston Martin earlier this year, and Geoff Willis, who is currently focussed on an America’s Cup project at Mercedes.

Horner noted that senior Red Bull engineer Rob Marshall, recently headhunted by McLaren for a technical director role, has also been working outside F1 recently.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, in the pits

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, in the pits

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

He admitted that the cap makes it harder to keep top personnel when they get better offers, as it’s not possible to match them.

“Yeah, of course it does,” he said. “You can't carry anybody within the team. And I think that everybody has to warrant their place within the cap.

“Rob was as focused on other projects in recent years, and the offer that McLaren made is probably half their cap! So you can't blame him for wanting to go and do that.”

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Asked if there was a risk of a salary spiral, Horner also cautioned that it could go the other way, with teams replacing one well-paid veteran with several cheaper newcomers.

“You have to make sure it's not a race to the bottom,” he said. “The problem is you have long-standing personnel that have contributed a significant amount that you don't want to see forced out of their roles because of the cap, just because you can justify 10 youngsters versus an experienced hand.

“And that's the constant debate that you that you have, and where we've had redundancies through the cap.

“Jayne Poole [the former Red Bull COO and HR director] was one of those as well. She was a redundancy that we made because we couldn't justify a role within the cap.”

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