Toto Wolff is still a proponent for the budget cap, but admitted it will hold Mercedes back from making a fast recovery.
Formula 1’s budget cap is now in its third year, following the introduction of the Financial Regulations in 2021, with the figure teams are permitted to spend on their cars and performance-related departments now set at $135 million annually.
The budget cap is aimed at closing up the Formula 1 field by preventing the bigger teams from spending their way to additional performance, while allowing lesser-resourced teams to fight on a more equal playing field.
However, a side effect of this is that teams who have gone the wrong direction on their car development have less budget to help close the gap – a position Mercedes have found themselves in due to pursuing a concept with their W13/W14 that they admit hasn’t worked.
Toto Wolff reveals ‘fundamental problem’ with budget cap limitation
Facing a long championship season with a W14 that doesn’t look quite capable of challenging the likes of Red Bull or Aston Martin, Wolff was asked about whether the “real enemy” for Mercedes this year is the budget cap.
“I think the budget cap, in a way, has more positives than negatives,” he said.
“But obviously, if you’re on the back foot, like we are at the moment, it doesn’t allow you to build a second chassis. But I think our fundamental problem is not building a second chassis or throwing stuff at the car. It’s more about a direction that we’ve taken that’s wrong. And I think if we… When we change it now, that’s going to be limited by the budget cap, but not in the way that you would expect, like we’re not able to develop.”
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As a result, Wolff said that it will reduce the rate of progress Mercedes can hope to make – not that it’s an excuse he wants to use.
“We’re still able to develop but it will mean we need to spend time on a new concept, on new ideas, and we need to discontinue the old one,” he said.
“So, in the short term, it could mean you make a step back before making two forward, but these are the rules. They have been introduced exactly for the reason to put the field stronger together, which will eventually happen. I mean, Red Bull is showing us that if you do a good job you can outperform everybody else. But for us, these are the rules and we need to still do a better job.”
Toto Wolff: ‘The determination is there to bridge the gap’
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Mercedes’ deficit to pace-setters Red Bull is around one and a half seconds, and Wolff believes that the potential is still there to allow them to close that gap – even with the self-admitted flawed concept W14.
“We are very clear and transparent in the team, where and how much is missing,” he said.
“And we will just need to relentlessly push to find more performance and for sure what we’re not doing is giving up, even if at that stage, you’re looking at the gaps and thinking ‘how are we ever going to bridge that?’ But the drive is there, determination is there and I think, different to before Bahrain, we pretty much know where we need to tackle the performance deficit.”