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Shovlin: Cost cap makes big F1 accidents "quite a concern"

Mercedes believes large accidents, such as Valtteri Bottas' sizeable Imola crash, could also have a knock-on effect on the team's development due to Formula 1's new budget cap.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, heads to the pits with a broken front wing

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, heads to the pits with a broken front wing

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

This year, F1 introduced an annual $145million cost cap, followed by a further $5million year-on-year reduction in subsequent seasons.

The cap meant F1's largest teams have had to downsize to operate as close to the spending limit as possible, with little margin for unforeseen costs such as accident damage.

When F1 teams agreed to trial three sprint races this season, an additional budget cap allowance - understood to be around $500,000 - was a key factor in getting the sprint race plan across the line.

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix crash involving Williams driver George Russell and Bottas - whose Mercedes W12 was all but written off - illustrated Mercedes' fresh concerns on crash damage compromising the rest of the team's budget.

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

"The new factor for us this year is that we’re all cost capped," Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained.

"This sort of damage isn’t really in the plan. Our drivers have been incredibly good at getting through seasons without breaking much in recent years, and certainly the bill in terms of carbon work and metal work will be very extensive from that.

"So, we’ll go through and look at what we can actually salvage and get the cars back together for Portimao. But it is quite a concern when you have these sorts of incidents."

Team principal Toto Wolff said that the Brackley team "always feared a total write-off of a car" because it is operating so close to the cost cap, a painful exercise that involved letting some staff go over the off-season.

Shovlin explained that expensive crashes would mean the team needs to cut spending elsewhere, which could affect its car development programme.

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"If you have a series of these kind of large accidents that are doing significant damage, then that will definitely exceed our allocation for what we have available to spend on the parts," Shovlin added.

"In an ideal world you run them to life, you don’t break them, anything that you do break, hopefully it’s end of life or something that is about to be obsolete. But that is definitely not the case here.

"So, it is really a factor of the cost cap and the money has got to come from somewhere.

"Ultimately if it becomes a big problem, it can start to hit your development budget. So, we do need to be mindful of that moving forward."

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