Wolff: Bigger issues to discuss than engine development cap

Sam Cooper
F1 team principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner shake hands. Abu Dhabi, December 2021.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Red Bull's Christian Horner shakes hands at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi, December 2021.

Toto Wolff believes there are “much bigger topics” to discuss than the financial cap imposed on new engine developers looking to enter the sport in 2026.

The Mercedes boss’ comments come after Christian Horner suggested the $15million cap on new engine suppliers was “something that needed to be looked at“.

Horner’s team are in the process of becoming fully independent after Honda announced they were stopping their involvement in the sport. As a result, Red Bull established Red Bull Powertrains,  who will supply the power units for Red Bull and AlphaTauri.

Plans had been for Honda to leave at the end of the 2021 season, but due to the effect of the pandemic they agreed to work with Red Bull during this season while the team finish construction of their factory.

With power units currently frozen, Red Bull Powertrains will be classed as a new engine supplier from 2026, when Audi and/or Porsche are also set to enter the sport.

“I think the framework that actually exists within the power unit regulations is reasonable from a newcomer status perspective, which obviously Red Bull Powertrains will be for 2026,” Horner told The Race.

“It’s a modest, I think, $10million in the first two years and $5million in the third year as an allowance for a newcomer.”

Horner did, however, take issue with the figure allowed for capital expenditure, which is money spent by a team on fixed assets such as land, buildings and equipment.

“The thing that is the most restrictive that needs to be looked at is from a CapEx perspective, because essentially there’s only $15m worth of capital expenditure allowed on equipment from when the cap comes in,” said Horner.

“Now when you look at our competitors, who in some cases have obviously had 70 years of investment on the engine side, to think you can have a facility fully operational and equipped within the next eight months is unrealistic.

“I think that’s something that needs to be looked at.”

His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff did not comment on the cap itself but instead said there are “much bigger topics” that need to be discussed.

One particular issue Wolff, whose Mercedes team supply power units to McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams, noted was if Red Bull teamed up with Audi, as has been speculated, they could be allowed double the budget to work on the same engine.

“It’s not clear yet who actually enters as a power unit supplier and who declares themselves as newcomers,” said Wolff.

“It could well be there are three companies from the same group that are entering as newcomers.

“The picture is still very unclear and whether $15m CapEx is enough or not enough, there are much bigger topics we need to agree on – which we haven’t.”