McLaren call for action after exposing ‘unintended cost cap barriers’

Jamie Woodhouse
Lando Norris leaves the McLaren pit box. Bahrain March 2023.

Lando Norris heads out of his pit box from one of his six stops during the race. Bahrain March 2023.

McLaren believe they have unearthed a way in which the current Formula 1 cost cap regulations are clashing with a key aim for themselves and F1 as a whole.

The series is very much pushing for a more sustainable future, and with 2030 the target date for Formula 1 to become carbon neutral, a key milestone along the way will be the introduction of the new power unit regulations in 2026.

This will see the new versions rely more greatly on electrical power compared to the current units, while the Internal Combustion Engine will be powered by fully-sustainable fuels.

The teams of course also have their own green initiatives at play, and alongside all of this there is also the push to make Formula 1 a more diverse landscape, with pathways therefore being build for people from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in the series, while F1 also wants to see female representation on the grid too in future.

However, McLaren has come across a sticking point, that being the budget cap regulations which came into effect in Formula 1 as of 2021, and at this time McLaren say are putting “unintended barriers” in the way of sustainability initiatives.

They reveal that ongoing talks between the teams, Formula 1 and governing body the FIA are working towards factoring “sustainability criteria” into the regulations as of 2026.

However, while confirming that certain cost cap exclusions have now been agreed, the team does not believe they stretch far enough.

‘While the business has made significant progress year-on-year, one of the challenges it has encountered is that under current financial regulations, costs incurred for sustainability initiatives sit within the cost cap unless they are directly attributable to an existing exclusion,’ McLaren’s statement reads.

‘This means that teams frequently need to balance investing in performance vs investing in sustainability within the confines of the cost cap.

‘McLaren Racing has proactively championed recent discussions with F1, the FIA and other teams to explore the introduction of a set of cost cap exclusions with regards to certain sustainability initiatives, and is hugely supportive of the FIA’s decision to establish a working group for F1 teams to ensure sustainability criteria are incorporated into the 2026 regulations.

‘While discussions to date have progressed well and led to an initial set of exclusions being introduced – including installing sustainable infrastructure, the auditing and monitoring of competitors’ carbon footprint and certain charitable donations – McLaren would like to see this go further to enable a step change in this space.’

So, what further changes are McLaren calling for exactly? Well, the team would lay them out in full.

▪ A set of comprehensive cost cap exclusions that support investment in sustainability projects and initiatives, without compromising the integrity of the cost cap. This should include:
– Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and training
– Team wellbeing initiatives
– Costs for intern and apprentice programmes to help provide pathways into motorsport and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] careers
▪ Technical regulations which actively encourage the adoption of more sustainable materials and processes to support the research and development of a fully circular F1 car.
▪ The introduction of clear sustainability criteria into the Concorde Agreement to cover core requirements for race calendars, the paddock and motorhomes.
▪ Clear requirements for promoters and competition organisers to meet certain sustainability standards. recommends

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Commenting on the matter, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said: “We strongly believe in the cost cap and wouldn’t want to see anything that undermines its integrity, but current regulations have created some unintended barriers when it comes to investing in sustainability.

“It’s been fantastic to see so much support from F1 and other teams on this issue, and we’re delighted that the FIA has established a working group to explore next steps.

“But to unlock our sport’s potential to drive the development of more sustainable technologies that can spark positive changes on a global scale, we need a genuine step change. That requires a level playing field so teams can work towards achieving the same targets and no longer need to choose between investing in car performance and investing in sustainability.

“Our sport needs a clear regulatory framework with financial, technical and sporting regulations that better enable us all to innovate and invest in sustainability.

“We need to find better ways to share expertise and insights across our industry. Only true collaboration will help us drive meaningful change. And if we want to achieve a step change with the new set of 2026 regulations, then those decisions need to be made now.”

As for current on-track matters, McLaren are working to recover from a difficult start to the F1 2023 campaign, the team holding P5 in the Constructors’ Championship, but with only 14 points on the board from the opening five rounds.