Otmar Szafnauer warns of F1 ‘loophole’ that is in danger of being exploited

Jamie Woodhouse
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. Austria July 2022.

Otmar Szafnauer surveys the grid in front of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon. Austria July 2022.

Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer says Formula 1 must control the potential loophole on how teams are using their staff, or risk the budget cap becoming redundant.

Formula 1 ‘s budget cap is now into its third season in operation, with the base value having dropped to $135m for F1 2023, the lowest value yet.

However, Szafnauer wants attention to be paid to projects outside Formula 1 that are popping up for teams, and that in some cases are using their staff.

A recent example put to Szafnauer was Aston Martin, who confirmed that their chief technical officer Andrew Green has moved away from his Formula 1 role and over to the technology side of the business.

Teams, of course, must now carefully balance their workforce to stay within the budget cap, and Szafnauer does not want this to become a clever way of keeping people involved without needing to declare the costs.

“It seems like more and more teams are looking at their well remunerated employees that way for cost cap reasons,” Szafnauer told media including PlanetF1.com in Bahrain.

“And we’ve got to make sure that there comes a time where all these ancillary businesses that are now cropping up, that without a budget cap wouldn’t be there, we’ve got to look at that and make sure that the loopholes aren’t big enough to where, effectively, we don’t have a cap.

“Because I think the cap itself has helped Formula 1 as a whole, has driven valuations of the teams higher. I think the cap that we have now is still 10 times anything any other racing formula spends on going motor racing, and to me, that’s enough.

“And we have to really be careful that we don’t have these types of loopholes appearing that we can’t shut down. And then effectively we don’t have a budget cap because I think we’re all better off having it.

“When you look at corporate structures, that is massive, that can be, you can only have 68, 70 people in the racing team and the rest of the 900 are outside of it and are portioning costs. That’s the kind of stuff we have to worry about.”

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Szafnauer of course understands that this can in certain situations be quite hard to police, as for example an F1-related idea may come to a person when they are working on something not related to Formula 1.

But, he says that when this is then acted upon, that is when the FIA and Formula 1 needs to be keeping a watchful eye.

“You have a great Formula 1 idea because you’re working on something else, how do you account for the stuff that you thought of when you’re working on something else?” Szafnauer pondered.

“And that’s just an idea, but if you take that even further, it could be other things, you know, developing tools for example for both, but that tool that applies to Formula 1, and you’ve spent loads of investment on developing the tools, and then you marginally account for it in Formula 1.

“That’s the kind of stuff we have to start thinking about to stop.”