David Croft urges F1 to scrap cost cap model and proposes simpler solution

Jamie Woodhouse
Start of the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.

View from behind of a grand prix start.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft believes the FIA can help itself and the Formula 1 teams by simplifying the current cost cap procedure which he questions whether anyone “truly understands”.

Formula 1 has operated under a spending cap imposed on all teams since 2021, a measure introduced in an effort to level the playing field by taking away the huge spending power advantage of the big teams.

Red Bull so far are the team which has felt the bite of the cap most severely, receiving a fine of $7 million and docked 10 per cent of their wind tunnel time for a minor breach of the 2021 cap, and the FIA has been forced to shut down reports that more breaches are looming for the 2022 figures.

David Croft has cost cap solution

Croft believes that the cap in its current form should be axed, with a more understandable system introduced whereby a set limit is imposed above the base cost cap level to cover all additional expenditure currently not included or being directed and hidden elsewhere by the teams, and make any breach sanctions severe.

“The cost cap is limiting many things in Formula 1,” said Croft on the Sky Sports F1 podcast.

“Staff recruitment is being affected by it, because teams just can’t pay the money that businesses outside of Formula 1 can pay, because the cost cap isn’t going up and inflation is quite high.

“There is a brain drain as it were in Formula 1 with people leaving the sport to go and work elsewhere.

“Chief financial officers I’m sure are spending the summer shutdown scratching their heads thinking, ‘I hope we’ve got everything right’. It is a hugely complex piece of mechanism, that does anyone really truly understand?

“I just think it’s being managed badly as well. Why are we waiting a whole year to have the auditors bring out the results? Do it quarter by quarter, so teams know what’s going on and can make adjustments.

“Cost cap will stop the sport attracting the people it has attracted in the past, they will go off to other industries, not just road cars.

“There’s a lot of synergy between the space programme, between aerospace as well and Formula 1, there’s a huge amount of synergies out there and team principles are telling me ‘we are starting to see problems on this’.

“I think we should get rid of the cost cap as it as it stands currently, and we should turn around and say ‘right, let’s be honest about this, the intentions of the cost cap were pure and to stop people spending obscene amounts of money’.

“And lots has gone on to try and hide things outside of the cost cap, you know, TD45, Nikolas Tombazis [FIA single seater director] said ‘right, we’re going to clamp down on all these parts that turn up at tracks that have got a bit of water on them, because they’ve been designed for a boat or whatever’. That’s just me being a bit funny, by the way.

“But what we should do is just turn around and say, realistically, your cost cap set at $140 million without the top three earners, and without the drivers, so you’ve got $250 million a year, full stop. Or 300 million or whatever if the commercial side of things needs to get taken into consideration.

“Stop having commercial outside of cost cap, because you can hide things there as well. And just have a set fee. Make it simple. Everyone can understand it.

“And if you go over that fee, then we’re going to come down on you massively hard, not $7 million and a wind tunnel restriction, you’re going to get for every 10,000 you’ve gone over the cost cap, we’ll take a point off you.”

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali had called on the FIA to conclude their cost cap auditing process earlier this time around, with last season’s saga having rolled on all the way into October.

Croft though does not believe F1’s boss is going to get his wish.

“Cost cap is going to be the big story going into the second-half of the season,” Croft predicted.

“The auditors have only just finished their jobs. Everything I’m told by the FIA at the moment is the timescale is exactly the same as last year, so Singapore, that’s when we’ll start to find out a few more things.”

Karun Chandhok challenges area of David Croft cost cap claim

Ex-Formula 1 driver Chadhok, who joined Croft on the podcast, did find one area of his argument which he wanted to challenge, that relating to his claim that the cap is stopping teams offering the kind of salaries available to personnel outside of Formula 1.

In Chandhok’s opinion, those working within Formula 1 are still “paid a premium”.

“On the whole, I think the cost cap is a positive though,” Chandhok argued.

“I think in principle, I get the reasons why we have the cost gap. I also understand the challenges of policing it accurately.

“The one thing I think Crofty I would disagree with you [on] is in terms of pay, because actually, if you contrast what somebody in Formula 1 is paid, an engineer in a particular role or a mechanic or anybody in that garage or factory who is covered under cost cap, you compare that with any other form of motorsport, IndyCar, Le Mans, Formula E…

“You compare with Jaguar-Land Rover, or you compare with Nissan or anyone in the road car industry, and Formula 1 people are paid a premium.

“Somebody doing a similar, let’s say a reliability engineering role in Formula 1, versus the road car industry, are paid a premium in F1.

“They’re struggling to recruit because they’re trying to fit it in within the numbers they’ve got, because they don’t want to get rid of people.

“The big teams are being forced to come down to a cap and they’re struggling to get people to fit in this little bit of spare budget they’ve got right? That’s the thing.”

Red Bull are currently by far the strongest force in Formula 1, the team undefeated across the opening 12 rounds of F1 2023 and marching towards consecutive title doubles.

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