Williams fined for budget cap breach
Williams has been fined $25,000 by the FIA for breaching the sports financial regulations. The governing body said the British team had failed to submit its complete full-year reporting documentation from 2021 by the 31 March 2022 deadline, as required by article 5.1 of the sport’s financial regulations introduced in 2021.
Williams was notified of the breach in April by the FIA’s Cost Cap Administration, and the Grove team dully collaborated with the FIA to rectify the breach. The governing body said the team had entered into an ABA (Accepted Breach Agreement) that translated into a $25,000 fine.
The FIA said in a statement: “Having considered Williams’ explanation and given in particular that the Procedural Breach was voluntarily disclosed by Williams in advance of the Full Year Reporting Deadline of 31 March 2022 and Williams has been fully cooperative in seeking to remedy the breach, the Cost Cap Administration deemed it appropriate to offer Williams an ABA resolving the breach on the terms set out below. That offer was accepted by Williams.”
The sports governing body says the team has agreed to remediate the procedural breach by no later than 31 May 2022, and to “bear the costs incurred by the Cost Cap Administration in connection with the preparation of the ABA”.
Adding “The Cost Cap Administration confirms that, as of the date hereof, Williams has within the specified deadline remediated the Procedural Breach, paid the Financial Penalty, and bore the costs incurred by the Cost Cap Administration in connection with the preparation of the ABA”
The announcement comes to admit calls to raise the cap admit the rising cost of inflation and the impact of the war in Ukraine. F1 teams have yet to agree on a direction for addressing the inflation, with several of the smaller teams arguing that it would set a bad precedent to revise the cap.
“No straight forwards solutions” to a salary cap
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes there are “no straight forwards solutions” to the debate about whether to introduce salary caps for drivers and key personnel. Last year the sport introduced a budget cap, designed to make the sport more financially sustainable as well as creating closer racing.
Teams were limited to spending $145 million under the budget cap last year before the figure was cut to $140m for the current season. It will again be reduced by $5m next season, however with the current cost of inflation, the impact of the war in Ukraine and cost of living crisis there are questions about whether the financial regulations should be changed.
This figure has several exclusions including driver salaries, but discussions have been ongoing for some time about the possible introduction of a separate cap that would cover the salaries of drivers and other key personnel. Binotto said it was a matter that had recently been discussed by the teams, but he warned there was “not a straightforward solution, especially for the drivers’ salary cap”.
He told Motorsport.com, “We are discussing it and trying to understand what can be a solution. It will not be in the short term, the reason for that is we already have contracts in place, and we cannot simply breach them. There are legal implications, to understand how to do that, so it’s a discussion.”
2023 was initially identified as a year where the salary cap could come into place, but several drivers have contracts in place that go far beyond this date. However, that appears difficult with Red Bull already signing Max Verstappen on a five-year deal worth around £45m a year and Charles Leclerc committed until 2024.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner thought the motivation behind a salary cap was “well merited” but the “application of it is tricky”, and warned against F1 becoming “an accounting world championship”.
One idea has been to cap it at €30m per driver per year, with the teams allowed to use the budget cap for development to top up drivers’ wages. So a rough estimate of $200m per season when both the development and driver wage cap are combined.
Alfa Romeo and Alpine have been supportive of a cap, in that form. Alfa Romeo team principal, Fred Vasseur, added “I think it’s the right approach to try to coordinate it with the budget [cap] and to have perhaps an allowance for this. You could overshoot the limit and you will have to take part of your budget cap, I don’t know. But we have to find something like this because it’s important for the sport.”
McLaren CEO Andreas Seidl says that other sports have shown it can work, but says they’re at the moment was important now to simply keep continuing the discussions behind closed doors
Ricciardo adamant about McLaren future
Daniel Ricciardo is adamant he has a contract in place until 2023, but McLaren says there are “mechanisms” which could see his stay end early as rumours increase about the Australian’s future with the team.
Ricciardo joined McLaren at the start of last season where he was expected to lead the team, however, he has been outshone by his younger teammate Lando Norris who has appeared to make another step forwards this season. Over the last eighteen months, Ricciardo has failed to outqualify Norris and has under two-thirds of the points.
The eight-time race winner, after previously hinting he would be having talks with McLaren in the summer about next season, affirmed in Monaco that he does indeed have a three-year contract until 2023. He then said after a difficult qualifying: “I have a contract in place. But I don’t want to be fourteenth. That’s not why I race, let’s put it like that.”
Recently CEO Zak Brown admitted there was some kind of performance clause for Ricciardo’s contract to last three years, with team principal Andreas Seidl saying “our focus is to simply get this to work” while CEO Zak Brown went a step further when hinting at options to end the deal early.
He told Sky Sports, “There are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other and then there’s mechanisms in which we’re not. I’ve spoken with Daniel about it, we’re not getting the results that we both hoped for. But we’re both going to continue to push.”
“He showed at Monza [2021 Italian GP] he can win races. We also need to continue to develop our car, it’s not capable of winning races, but we’d like to see him further up the grid. We’ll just play it… I don’t want to say ‘one race at a time’ because we’re not going to one race at a time – but we’ll just see how things develop.”
Ricciardo is a proven race winner and was an equal match to Max Verstappen, however, there is this theory that he has struggled to get to grips with this generation of cars. McLaren knows that if they are going to challenge for championships in the medium term, they need two competitive drivers.
Former McLaren driver Jenson Button says he has been surprised how critical McLaren has been of Ricciardo. He said “Formula One is a real mental game. They all have immense skill but you don’t perform if your head is not in the right place.
“I was surprised Zak came out and said he was not meeting expectations – we all know that. But when your team principal comes out and says that, it definitely hurts. From Daniel’s response, it hurt.”
Albon doing an “expectational job” – Russell
George Russell has hailed Alex Albon for doing an “exceptional job” as his replacement at Williams this year, saying his friend and fellow Brit-Thai has “cemented his position” in the sport. During his final months at Williams, Russell lobbied for Albon to replace him having had a year out after a difficult season at Red Bull in 2020 alongside Max Verstappen.
In the first seven races, Albon has impressed by scoring three points for Williams despite the team’s struggles to fight regularly with the rest of the midfield. Albon made an ambitious tyre strategy work in Australia to pick up a point before finishing ninth in Miami to add to his haul. He also impressed at Imola by fending off Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Russell’s Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to finish eleventh.
Russell praised Albon for his start to life back in F1, and pointed to his impressive record through his junior career against many of the top drivers on the grid today. He told Motorsport.com when asked about Albon’s start to the season, “Alex has done an exceptional job.”
“I think there was obviously no secret he had a tough time that Red Bull, but I think all of us, even probably Max [Verstappen] included, just knew how talented Alex was. We’ve all raced each other since 2011. Alex was a few years older than us. So he was sort of competing against [Nyck] de Vries at the time, in KF1, I remember and he’s always been there.”
Russell described Albon as ‘one of the very best’ and was happy to see him cement his place in F1. This season he has out qualified and finished ahead of Latifi, who hasn’t scored points with his best finish being fourteenth in Miami.
Asked if he saw any similarities between Albon’s displays and how Russell performed during his time at Williams, Latifi said they were “both extremely quick drivers” and he was “under no illusions” over how Albon would get up to speed.
Adding, “I raced as his teammate in 2018 [in Formula 2] and I know just how quick he was. There are obviously some little differences in driving style here and there, which I kind of knew going into the season as well, just from having been teammates with Alex beforehand.
Gasly has no alternatives than Alpha Tauri – Marko
Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko believes Pierre Gasly has no better alternative than staying with Alpha Tauri after Red Bull closed the door on a possible return by extending Sergio Perez’s contract.
The Frenchman currently is contracted to the team until the end of 2023 and said earlier this year he was ready to return to the senior team, and 2022 was probably his final chance to show he deserved to be promoted back to Red Bull, having been dropped to AlphaTauri during the 2019 season.
Over the last three years since returning to Alpha Tauri, Gasly has grown as a driver leading the team and taking two podiums and a win. But options to return to the senior team appear limited after the team announced they had signed Sergio Perez until the end of 2024, which means there is no option for Gasly to Red Bull when his current deal expires.
But Marko reckons that, even if Red Bull decided to let Gasly go before the end of his contract, the Frenchman would not find a better seat. He told Formel1.com, “Before the signing, of course, I spoke to Gasly, explained the situation to him and, yes, we’ll just have to see what happens with Gasly after ’23.”
Asked if Red Bull would want to let Gasly go earlier, Marko said: “What would be the alternative? I don’t think there is any alternative for him at the moment that would be significantly better than AlphaTauri.”
The Austrian also says its likely that for 2023 that Alpha Tauri would retain Gasly and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda. Saying “It’s safe to assume that the current drivers are set.” Explaining with the pandemic continuing there was a possibility that reserve drivers could come in.
Asked about the possibility of placing one of Red Bull’s juniors in another F1 team, Marko suggested the situation of F2 champion Oscar Piastri was a good example of how hard it is for younger drivers to find available slots on the current grid. Adding, “You can see with Alpine how hard they are struggling with Piastri.”
Ocon “disappointed” over French GP uncertainty
Esteban Ocon says it is “disappointing” to see that the French Grand Prix is likely to be absent from the 2023 calendar. The race was revived in 2018 following a ten-year break when it moved to Paul Ricard, however after five years, next months race could be the last.
While F1’s owner Liberty Media is keen on continuing to expand the calendar, it wants to bring Grand Prix racing to ‘destination cities’ around the world, as evidenced by its American push towards Miami and Las Vegas. Le Castellet, Monaco, Spielberg and Spa in Belgium are struggling despite their historical value as more commercially races like Miami and Las Vegas join the calendar.
One solution with Las Vegas, China and Qatar returning to the calendar there could be a maximum twenty-four races, is for Spa and Le Castellet to alternate yearly. Though the Russian Grand Prix which had a ten-year contract extension was scrapped in March, following the invasion of Ukraine.
The remote venues of Le Castellet and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, which is also struggling to see its contract renewed, are a less exciting commercial proposition for Liberty Media despite their historical connections to the world championship.
Ocon, is naturally disappointed that the future of his home race is looking bleak. He said “I’m following the conversations obviously and seeing how that’s going but yeah, it doesn’t look too nice obviously”
“It is very disappointing. I’ve been living in my young career when the grand prix was not there. Then it came back, and I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate to race there. We have it this year, and we are going to enjoy it to the fullest.”
Even Monaco’s future is uncertain with its contract now expired with the conclusion of this years race. Ocon says this highlighted the importance of preserving some of the sport’s most historic races.