Money or wind tunnel time? The dilemma facing teams up and down the F1 grid

Henry Valantine
The F1 FIA Constructors Championship trophy.

The Constructors' Championship is the gold standard for F1 teams, but success also has a cost.

Toto Wolff has come down in favour of on-track achievement over more wind tunnel time in F1, though he admitted it is “not one dimensional” as a subject.

Mercedes were locked in a tight battle with Ferrari for second place throughout 2023 that went down to the last race, with the Silver Arrows eventually coming out on top over the Scuderia.

This gave Mercedes significant extra prize money for finishing second in the Constructors’ Championship, but it comes at a cost for car development, due to the aerodynamic testing restrictions [ATR] in place in F1.

Toto Wolff balances on-track achievements against F1 2024 development

ATR has been in place for several years in F1 now, with lower-placed teams in the previous season’s Constructors’ Championship allotted more wind tunnel runs to aid development on their cars, as a way of trying to level the playing field.

This in turn has led to questions as to whether or not better-resourced teams may find benefits in occasionally finishing a place or two lower in the standings, to make extra use of more runs in the wind tunnel the following year.

Wolff was asked about this in Mercedes’ case in their end-of-season review, given the closeness of their battle with Ferrari, but he firmly sided with finishing higher in the standings, given the morale boost it offered the team at the end of the year. recommends

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“That’s a very good question because it’s not one dimensional,” Wolff said when asked if there was a point where he thought finishing P3 for the added wind tunnel time may end up being better for the team.

“From a mindset perspective, if you would have asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have said it’s not very relevant whether we finish P2 or P3.

“The sporting advantage is that you have more wind tunnel time for next year, but then there is a financial component for all our staff in terms of bonus.

“I need to look after everyone together with my senior management, and therefore, it is a very important component, even though maybe from the sporting side, it is not so relevant.

“Having finished second in the World Championship that evening, it felt great. I wasn’t expecting to have that feeling.

“You could see a boost of morale and emotion that was going through the team and that was important.”

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