Coronavirus pandemic

Motor racing: Cap to curb F1 money talks

Next year's $205m budget limit just the start of more cuts to ensure teams' survival: Brawn

Mercedes pit crew working on Lewis Hamilton's car during the first practice session of last year's Singapore Grand Prix. The $205 million budget cap agreed by F1 teams for next season will not include drivers' salaries, like the Briton's estimated an
Mercedes pit crew working on Lewis Hamilton's car during the first practice session of last year's Singapore Grand Prix. The $205 million budget cap agreed by F1 teams for next season will not include drivers' salaries, like the Briton's estimated annual pay cheque of $49.6 million. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

LONDON • Formula One has agreed on a US$145 million (S$205 million) budget cap for teams next year and will continue to try and tighten that for future seasons.

Managing director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports after a teleconference with teams and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Monday that a much fairer prize fund would feature in a new commercial agreement due by the end of this year.

"The budget cap's initial objectives were a more competitive field and with the (coronavirus) situation we have now, the sustainability, the economic sustainability, of F1 is a priority," he said. "That counts as much for the big teams as it does for the small teams."

The budget cap had been set initially at US$175 million, but some teams had wanted a more drastic limit closer to US$100 million to ensure the sport survives the crisis.

However, Ferrari, the oldest and most successful constructor, opposed going below US$145 million.

The cap does not include drivers' salaries, with Britain's six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton earning an estimated US$35 million a year at Mercedes.

"The message is clear we've got to cut costs," said Brawn. "We started at US$175 million, it was a long battle to get it there, and with the current crisis, we are going to start at US$145 millionand the discussion really is how much further down we can drive the next few years."

The Briton added that the new-look cars and a major rewrite of the technical regulations would be coming in 2022, despite some teams pushing for another year's delay.

"Initiatives we are bringing with these new regulations are to make the sport more economically viable in terms of the complexity," he said.

"The cars we have now are so complex that the more you spend, the quicker you will go. We need to level off that slope and create a situation where money is not the only criteria for how competitive you'll be."

With the budget cap resolved, attention now turns to making sure this season can still get under way.

The first 10 grands prix have already been postponed or cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning F1 can no longer pull off the record 22 races it had originally planned for.

But McLaren boss Zak Brown feels a 14-15 race calendar is still feasible, although with the crisis showing no signs of abating, he is expecting more road bumps.

"If we start running into issues with travelling, then you could see doubling up some other races," he said.

"I'm going to assume that we're going to hit a glitch, somewhere along the way. If we want to go to Asia, or America, it's going to be when we get on planes and have to fly overseas where I think the risk will start to potentially get greater."

Austria is expected to host two races, kicking off the season on July 5 at Spielberg. Brawn told Sky that the sport was putting together a rigorous Covid-19 testing regimen for those involved, before and while they are in the paddock.

He also confirmed that while safe distancing was impossible with the confines of the paddock, F1 would have restrictions on people's movement, with "motorhomes", which are used for hospitality purposes, and mingling among teams prohibited.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2020, with the headline Motor racing: Cap to curb F1 money talks. Subscribe