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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Toto Wolff Denies Mercedes Inclusion in FIA’s Cost Cap Investigation amidst Breach Rumours

Red Bull was found guilty of breaching the 2021 cost cap last year

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Aditya Saikrishna
Aditya Saikrishna
I am 21 years old and an avid Motorsports enthusiast.

BELGIUM: In the world of Formula 1, where every millisecond counts, the financial aspect of the sport is equally crucial. Last year’s introduction of the cost cap budget was intended to level the playing field, but it seems there are concerns that some teams might have veered too close to the edge.

Amidst whispers and growing speculation, the FIA has initiated an investigation into three teams, including Formula 1 powerhouses Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari, over potential breaches of the cost cap.

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Toto Wolff, the mastermind behind Mercedes’ success in recent years, has adamantly denied any wrongdoing by his team. The FIA’s inquiry is not an accusation of breaching the cap but rather an examination of their financial practices. 

One area of focus revolves around staffing, with the FIA probing whether teams used non-F1 personnel for F1-related work, a tactic that could potentially keep expenditures off the books while exploiting their expertise.

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Wolff remains steadfast, asserting that everyone at Mercedes operates under “one entity,” making it easier to track and attribute expenses. Unlike some other major teams involved in multiple commercial and non-commercial projects, Mercedes consolidates its workforce into a single entity. 

The FIA’s task of monitoring the cost cap is undoubtedly complex, with teams that have numerous subsidiaries and projects spanning various disciplines.

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Nonetheless, Wolff believes the current system could be improved, and he has called for a reassessment come 2026. He argues that the sport should eliminate the complexities arising from cross-divisional projects, simplifying the financial monitoring process for all teams.

To address concerns about teams operating in the grey area, the FIA introduced a technical directive, TD45, which now includes any ‘intellectual property’ utilized from affiliated projects outside of F1 in the cost cap budget.

This directive, however, only came into effect on January 1, 2023, leaving room for potential historical discrepancies. Mercedes, with its vast engineering projects beyond F1, faces challenges in keeping a clear distinction between its F1 activities and external endeavors.
In the past, team members might have contributed to outside projects, possibly generating additional revenue. But with the new regulations in place, such practices are no longer permitted.

Toto Wolff acknowledges that adhering to the new rules can be challenging due to the team’s engineering ventures outside F1. However, he strongly believes that drawing a clear line between F1 and non-F1 activities is essential for the sport’s integrity. 

As such, any personnel working even for a brief moment on an F1 project should be fully accounted for within the cost cap.

This investigation comes on the heels of Red Bull’s breach of the 2021 cost cap, which resulted in a $2.2 million overspend. As a penalty, the Drivers’ Championship winners were fined a substantial $7 million and also saw a reduction in their ATR (Additional Technical and Sporting Resources) time for the 2022 season.

As the FIA delves deeper into the financial workings of these prominent teams, the sport hopes to maintain a level playing field and uphold the integrity of the cost cap regulations. 

The 2026 regulations, if revised as suggested by Wolff, could bring clarity and consistency to financial monitoring, ensuring a fair and competitive Formula 1 for years to come.

Also Read: Ralf Schumacher Urges Nico Hulkenberg to Seek F1 Future Beyond Haas


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