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Formula 1

F1 in sprint race stand-off over ‘nonsense’ demands

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Zak Brown has warned that Formula 1’s plan to stage six sprint-race events this year could be derailed by the “nonsense” arguments used by certain unspecified big teams to push for an increase in the cost cap to cover competing in them.

The cost cap was introduced last year and its baseline number drops from $145million to $140m this year, with an extra $1.2m permitted for each event over 21 (two races, adding $2.4 million) increasing the total to $142.4m.

Last year, teams were also permitted an extra $450,000 to cover participating in the three sprint events, along with an allowances of up to $100,000 per sprint race in case of damage.

But the sprint races have yet to be approved for the upcoming season.

Given the relatively short notice, F1’s governance requires eight out of 10 teams to support the proposal. Brown indicated that “a couple of teams – one team in particular” were pushing for a what he feels is a groundless increase in the cost cap to cover the races.

Naturally, the biggest and most well-funded teams would benefit from such a push, with Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari the most obvious candidates. It is understood that Red Bull, which also owns AlphaTauri and therefore controls two of the 10 votes, has been the most aggressive in pushing for this increase.

This is one of the reasons Brown has been critical of F1 comprising A and B teams, with some affiliated teams willing to vote against their own interests to support their larger partner team.

“There is constantly, in these meetings, some teams that take the opportunity to do a land grab to raise the budget, even when what they’re saying makes no sense,” said Brown.

“So if I focus on the sprint, which is just an example of many examples, when Ross [Brawn] presented that the first time around they did a study [saying] ‘we’ve picked these tracks because we think they’re good race tracks. But we’ve also picked these tracks because we’ve looked at first lap incidents etc and it was a lot smaller than you would think [in terms of damage]’.

“Then they bring forward the results of the three sprint races, which are actually very consistent with what data they had shown us. And yet a couple teams – one team in particular – wanted a $5m budget cap increase, which was just ridiculous and [with] no rational facts behind it.

“And then when you challenge those facts, they then go, ‘Yeah, but what if and what could and you’ve got to have it just in case’. And you just sit there and you go, ‘It’s just nonsense’.”

Zak Brown McLaren F1

Brown said that McLaren felt an allowance structured along similar lines to that of 2021 would be appropriate, adding that what Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali had proposed “wasn’t far off that”.

But without agreement, it won’t be possible for the six planned sprint races to be added to the 2022 schedule.

Brown suggested that it would be logical to push through the sprint races for 2023, which requires a lower voting threshold of five out of 10 teams, to ensure they go ahead next year.

This could be part of the negotiating process, especially as the lower voting threshold would allow half the teams to attempt to push through sprint races with no extra spending permitted as a bargaining position. This could potentially lead to agreement for both ‘22 and ‘23 with what Brown sees as a more realistic allowance.

“We might not, which would be the unfortunate thing,” said Brown when asked how to get out of the current impasse.

“The voting for 2023 is a lower threshold. I’d rather us go ahead and vote on 2023, get it through now.

“They wanted to raise the cap a disproportionate amount of what the sprint race is costing. You do have to be more prepared for accident damage, you probably do need to have more wings, so there is validity to needing to increase it but within reason.

F1 Silverstone sprint race Max Verstappen

“There’s a lower threshold required to get it through for ’23, so I’d like us not to run into a situation where we’re voting in ’23 where we have to get votes because we passed a milestone date.

“I think we should go ahead and lock in now for ’23 with no budget cap raise at all, if you want to be hard about it.

“And then maybe either there can be a compromise made and we can raise it a little bit when we go ahead and start in ’22. Or we skip ’22 – and I think a couple of these teams should have to explain to the fans why there’s no sprint races.”

Brown believes that it’s important for F1 to hold sprint races in 2022 after the success of last season.

Although the sprint races had a mixed reaction from fans, the viewership was strong and it had commercial benefits, meaning they are seen as a positive for F1.

“At the most recent presentation, Formula 1 showed us that the sprint races worked from an increase in fan viewership and an increase in sponsorship, both of which are very good for all of us in the sport,” said Brown.

“We all have the same challenge, so you do have more incidents and it’s the same problem we all have. To me, part of the sport is dealing with challenges, not ‘I just want to solve it by getting my chequebook out’.

“It’s like if you have an injured player on the football field you’ve got to deal with it, sometimes you get more injuries than they get. So I see too often that opportunity for, ‘I’ll trade you a vote for some sort of rule change’.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Practice Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

“Then, the rationale which they use is just… they’d be better off just calling it as they see it because they’re not fooling anyone.

“I’m extremely bullish on the sport, but like any business or any sport, there’s always room for improvement. And I’m going to highlight the areas that I think there’s room for improvement.

“I don’t think that should mask probably the most exciting Formula 1 season I can remember – record number of races, great racing, lots of sponsorship coming in.

“I think with all these things you point out the 10% of area that the sport can improve, but 90% of it is awesome.”

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