F1’s budget cap has backfired as Red Bull race off into the distance – Maxsports
May 15, 2024

Maxsports

All Sports To The Max

F1’s budget cap has backfired as Red Bull race off into the distance

So how is the budget cap faring in creating a level playing field? Well, let’s think. Red Bull have won eight out of eight races pretty much out of sight.

The margin of their superiority would often have been even more if they had gone all out in every corner of every lap. In fact, it is one of the most dominant cars in history.

Far from achieving one of its stated aims, the budget cap may now be preserving Red Bull’s dominance in aspic.

Yes, the cap has been successful in its third year in helping to bring financial certainty to teams that sometimes struggled. Williams were valued at £160million when they were bought by Dorilton in 2020, the bang right time to buy. Now you could multiply that figure a number of times over.

Several teams, to my certain knowledge, felt flush enough to turn down an offer of £200m for an equity investment from a reliable British source only a few months ago.

Red Bull's dominance in the sport has only been preseved by the budget cap observed by teams. Pictured: Chief Christian Horner and top racer Max Verstappen

Red Bull’s dominance in the sport has only been preseved by the budget cap observed by teams. Pictured: Chief Christian Horner and top racer Max Verstappen

And when Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney formed part of a consortium to take a 24 per cent stake in Alpine this week, the team’s value was placed at £700m — for a team that hasn’t come close to winning the title since it was Renault back in 2006. They have been bit-part players in the sport.

So in that way, for now at least, the impact of the budget cap has been positive since it was introduced in 2021. But old disparities in infrastructure are baked in by the spending limit: the £115m annual operational budget and, more damagingly, the £30m or so budget for capital expenditure over four years.

James Vowles, who went from Mercedes to Williams over the winter break, is well placed to argue the case for a relaxation over the second part of the equation.

‘Fundamentally, we’re in a situation where a lot of facilities are almost the same as they were 20 years ago,’ explained Vowles. ‘Composites is behind what I knew when I first joined the sport with a different team 20 years ago.

Red Bull have shown they have the most dominant car in F1 this season and are racing away into the distance

Red Bull have shown they have the most dominant car in F1 this season and are racing away into the distance

‘The overall difference in infrastructure between Williams and the most extreme expenditures in the sport is publicly available: it is hundreds of millions, not 10million, or 20million, yes hundreds of millions. We need that much to catch up.’

Moreover, how can this be ‘fair’ when the richer teams deliberately splashed their cash before the restriction came in to get and stay ahead?

Ironically, the budget cap also hurts former big spenders. In bygone days, Mercedes or Ferrari, for example, would be chucking new parts on their car, developing this concept or that, in an attempt to get up to Red Bull’s performance. Now they have to be more selective.

So Red Bull sit pretty, and the rest of us watch on less than exhilarated.

AUSTRIAN BOOZE BAN MAY NOT BE A BAD THING 

Organisers are not allowing alcohol to be carried into the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.

Who can say they are wrong after widespread claims of abusive behaviour, including racism and homophobia, at a rambunctious Red Bull Ring last year?

A greater security presence is also in place and a keener eye turned towards drunkenness and generally anti-social behaviour. Flares are outlawed.

Let’s see how that last bit works at Zandvoort later in the year!

F1 SHOULDN’T HOLD BACK ON PROTESTERS 

Just Stop Oil lunatics are doubtless planning to cause havoc at the British Grand Prix next weekend. Why wouldn’t they after they brought the Lord’s Test to a brief halt?

I understand Silverstone bosses are preparing for the worst in consultation with F1 Group, the DCMS and Northamptonshire Police, and this observer hopes the constabulary doesn’t hold back in maintaining order either on the roads outside the track or in the grounds.

But how will the F1 drivers respond to the protesters, I wonder? I hope they don’t hail them as saintly soldiers upholding the right to freedom of expression etc.

Formula One should not hold back if any protesters cause trouble at the British Grand Prix

Formula One should not hold back if any protesters cause trouble at the British Grand Prix

The counter-freedom to watch sport unhindered, to get into and out of events unimpaired, is also an expectation to be cherished.

Last year, Sebastian Vettel excused the zealots who sat on the track after Zhou Guanyu’s spectacular first-lap accident. His sympathy was ironic considering Vettel directly or indirectly trousered millions in wages from Aramco, the state-owned petroleum and natural gas company of Saudi Arabia, and, by some estimates, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, emitter of carbon in the history of the world. 

The company are title sponsors of F1 races and of Aston Martin, the team for whom Vettel drove and pontificated until the end of last season.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR DE VRIES 

It looks like the beginning of the end for Nyck de Vries, the Dutchman struggling at AlphaTauri. He is one of two drivers, alongside Williams’ Logan Sargeant, not to have scored a point this season.

As for ringing endorsements, Red Bull’s motorsport adviser Helmut Marko’s comments this week didn’t match that description.

Asked if he ever disagreed with Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, AlphaTauri’s sister team, Marko said: ‘Not often, but sometimes we do. The last one… I would say it was De Vries.

It is looking like the beginning of the end for AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries after failing to score a point this season

It is looking like the beginning of the end for AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries after failing to score a point this season

‘Basically it’s AlphaTauri, but we’re a big family and we get opinions. Christian was not a fan of De Vries.

‘I would say at the moment it looks like he’s right.’

To which De Vries, 28, said: ‘Dr Marko would appreciate it if I prove him wrong on track. I deal with what is in my control and that is it.

‘There is no need to force anything. Whenever you try harder or force something that is not ready then mistakes will happen, so we need to continue as we are and focus on the job and remain patient. It is just a matter of time before it comes together.’

Time De Vries will probably not be granted.