Ferrari are concerned about the FIA’s ability to police the budget cap amidst Red Bull’s alleged plans for a lighter chassis.
Ahead of the 2021 campaign, a budget cap came into effect in Formula 1 for the first time, putting a limit on expenditure during the season for all teams.
The concept hit a rough patch during the first half of the 2022 season, multiple teams concerned about breaching the cap due to soaring costs, though this led to an agreement on a rise to cover these factors outside of the their control.
Red Bull and Ferrari have emerged as the two leading outfits this season, though Ferrari now have their concerns over the upgrades said to be in the pipeline over at Red Bull.
Most teams started the season with challengers that were above the minimum weight, Red Bull included, though the Austrian outfit are reportedly preparing to introduce a significantly lighter chassis before the season concludes, shaving around 4kg in weight off the RB18.
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto does not see how Red Bull could do this and still adhere to the cap, while he is not confident in the FIA’s structure for policing the ruling.
“The number of people in the FIA monitoring it is very little,” said Binotto of the cap, as per BBC Sport.
“It has to improve for the future because it would be really bad if somehow a championship was dictated by a financial regulation and not technical or sporting.
“I cannot know what they are doing, if they have a [lighter] chassis or not, but the budget cap is always a concern.
“The financial regulations can make differences between teams in the way they are interpreting and somehow executing it.
“And we know we need a very strong FIA to make sure they are properly focusing, otherwise the regulations will not be fair and equitable.
“Ferrari would never be capable of introducing a lightweight chassis or a different chassis through a season simply [because of the] budget cap and I would be very surprised if a team is capable of doing it.
“And if they are, it is back to the regulation itself – is it fair enough, is it equitable enough, is the policing sufficient?”
Red Bull have not made it a secret that the RB18 is running overweight, or that they have worked throughout the season to make their challenger leaner.
However, Red Bull principal Christian Horner denied that a lighter chassis is on its way in the coming races.
“No, there is no [lighter chassis],” he affirmed. “These chassis will run for the next few races.”
As for whether Red Bull are going to stay within the budget cap this year, Horner assured: “Yes, we have had less upgrades than Ferrari and Mercedes.”
Speaking of Mercedes, their team boss Toto Wolff confirmed that the W13, which this season has failed to put Mercedes in title contention, is also overweight.
But, if they wanted to address that with a new, lighter chassis, then Wolff said this would not be possible while respecting the budget cap.
“We wouldn’t be able to introduce a chassis at that stage of the season,” said Wolff. “We are massively overweight, which we haven’t been able to sort out because we are trying parts on the car in order to solve our various issues, so can’t afford that, full stop.
“So, what was aimed for by introducing the cost cap absolutely hit the target. It is what they wanted to achieve. The big teams can’t just throw money at it.”
In response to the budget cap concerns, an FIA spokesperson, as per BBC Sport, said: “The FIA is committed to robust monitoring processes and will continue to strengthen, develop and refine all areas of its activities in this new era of Formula 1.”
Weak budget cap policing would make championships a mess
The introduction of the budget cap into Formula 1 was a major achievement for the FIA, this ruling meaning that the best team, rather than the richest, would be rewarded with success.
But, if it is not properly policed, then the political world of Formula 1 will go into overdrive, and rather than being able to celebrate or enjoy the achievement of driver or team, there will be asterisks as rivals complain of overspending, taking the buzz away.
The budget cap is still really in its infancy, with the policing process and penalties for breaching the cap not exactly clear, so the FIA would be wise to quickly release a clear framework on complying with the cap, and what happens if a team does not, to avoid it becoming a burden on the entertainment factor.