Otmar Szafnauer suggests ‘restricting wind tunnel testing’ for budget cap breachers

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel out on track. Montreal June 2022

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel out on track. Montreal June 2022

With Aston Martin named as one of the rumoured teams who broke last year’s budget cap, then team boss Otmar Szafnauer says the FIA must “appropriately punish those who have gone over”.

Ahead of next week’s FIA report into last year’s team budgets, it has been alleged that Aston Martin and Red Bull both exceeded the cap.

While Aston Martin’s breach is said to be minor, reports claim Red Bull went “significantly” over the $145 million limit.

One by one rival team bosses have called on the FIA to hand out punishments that would deter others from doing the same, the latest of those being Szafnauer.

“At the margin any spend above the margin is spent on performance,” he told Motorsport.com.

“And once you start spending on performance where others don’t get a chance to, because they’ve actually stuck to the budget cap, that’s serious.

“And I think the FIA have to appropriately punish those who have gone over. You have to first understand how big the breach was, and then what an appropriate penalty is.”

Ironically, it was Szafnauer who was at the helm of Aston Martin in the season in which they reportedly broke the cap, the 58-year-old moving to Alpine in January this season.

The budget cap has been a hot topic throughout this year’s championship as it fell to $140m, the teams arguing for an inflationary increase which they eventually got, 3.1 per cent more.

But even with that in play, the teams have had to walk a tight line between upgrading their all-new cars and keeping within the cap.

Szafnauer says Alpine not only had to retrench staff but they’ve also had to scrap quite a few updates because of that.

“The team here made some significant decisions on letting people go, not hiring other people, before the start of this year, based on last year’s spend,” he said.

“And that’s significant. And once you let people go, it’s hard to get them back and attract the same people.

“And once you stop development, because you’re going to be over the budget cap, and you stop it so that you assure yourself that you’re under, getting that development and that learning back in a quicker time than others are learning, it’s nearly impossible.”

He says that’s why the FIA has to take a hard line as any team that breached the cap gained an unfair advantage over the rest of the field.

“So that’s what I mean by we have to understand the gravity of the breach, and have appropriate ramifications,” he continued.

“If for example, you’ve gained by doing more wind tunnel testing, than you should have perhaps an appropriate punishment, like restricting their wind tunnel testing the following year. It’s that kind of stuff.”

Read more: What happens if an F1 team is found to be in breach of the FIA budget cap?