Max Mosley has all-but admitted that the new 'optional' budget cap to be available to Formula 1 teams from next year onwards may disadvantage those competitors that choose to sign up to it, as 'highly-organised, unlimited-expenditure teams are perhaps likely to do a better job of going racing'.
It was announced following yesterday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris that a budget cap of £30 million per two-car outfit per season (currently €33 million, or $42 million) will be tabled to teams as of 2010 – a 90 per cent reduction on what some of them have spent in recent campaigns [see separate story – click here
]. The FIA President suggested that in addition to slashing expenditure, the initiative will also throw another element of unpredictability into the battle.
The rationale behind the move is that it is an effort to attract new teams to the sport, with the 2009 grid having been threatened back in December with a presence of just 18 cars following Honda's withdrawal announcement. What's more, in an effort to guarantee a level playing field, teams will have the choice of either continuing to adhere to the top flight's current technical constraints and spend as they see fit, or of benefitting from greater technical freedom whilst being subject to the stringent and rigorously-enforced expenditure cap.
As a sweetener, a more aerodynamically efficient (but standard) under body, movable wings and an engine which is not subject to a rev limit or a development freeze will be amongst the incentives offered to teams willing to accept the budget cap – so in a nutshell, competitors will be able to choose between freedom to spend...or freedom to innovate.
The technical freedoms accorded to the low-budget teams will be adjusted from time-to-time to keep their performance roughly on a par with the average performance of their unlimited-expenditure rivals. The regulations for those not subject to the cap will remain stable and fixed.
“If a team's total expenditure is limited, money is saved so detailed regulations aimed at saving cost in specific areas are no longer needed,” Mosley explained. “A team could spend £20 million a year on its engine but would then have only £10 million left for everything else. It would probably not be competitive.
“The same applies to the other restrictions which will be swept away for the cost-capped teams such as limits on wind tunnel use, testing, exotic materials or giant computers – subject of course to current safety requirements. They can even spend on private jets and luxury hotels – but whatever they spend must come out of the £30 million.
“There is no reason why cost-capped teams could not win races, [though] the massive and highly-organised, unlimited-expenditure teams are perhaps likely to do a better job of going racing. They will have the most expensive race engineers and tacticians, not to mention the top-earning drivers. However, racing is – and should be – unpredictable.”
Mosley went on to argue that the budget cap would 'encourage clever engineering' and play into the hands of 'the technically-minded' – and it is far from unfeasible, he contended, that a team with better innovation skills but limited spending power could prevail over a rival with unlimited budget but a comparative paucity of ideas.