Christian Horner issues stark warning over unwanted budget cap side effect

Henry Valantine
Christian Horner at the Red Bull RB19 launch. New York February 2023.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on stage at the launch of their 2023 car. New York.

Christian Horner has warned that he hopes to not see a “race to the bottom” over team staff salaries, with Formula 1’s budget cap in place.

The drivers and top three earners in a Formula 1 team are exempt from coming under the sport’s budget cap regulations, but everyone else who works for the team in a design, manufacturing and operational capacity sees their salary counted under the $135million cap on spending across the team’s whole operations for the year.

With some teams looking at cutting down on costs on the Formula 1 side of the operations, some look to move high-profile personnel to other parts of the business to keep them on the payroll while not necessarily part of the F1 team – such as Mercedes having had James Allison recently drafted back in as technical director after working with their affiliated INEOS Team UK America’s Cup sailing outfit.

The experienced Andrew Green of Aston Martin has been moved onto technology projects there after moving into the role of chief technical officer, and others with more money available in their cap are looking to sign the best talent available.

McLaren moved to headhunt Red Bull’s Rob Marshall recently, who will join the Woking-based squad from the start of 2024 as one of their three-pronged technical directorship team.

The Red Bull team boss joked that signing Marshall will have cost McLaren “half their cap”, but the wider point stands that keeping staff salaries under a budget cap means that every penny counts.

“Yeah, of course it does,” Horner said when asked if it’s now harder for teams to keep personnel due to salary constraints, as quoted by Motorsport.com.

“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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Given that pennies are now being forcibly pinched in Formula 1 due to budgetary constraints, Horner pointed out that he does not want to see long-serving staff members, who cost more to employ due to their experience, “forced out” of the sport as a result of having to come in under budget.

“You have to make sure it’s not a race to the bottom,” he added.

“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 [ex-Red Bull chief operating officer 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.”