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Formula 1

Red Bull and Ferrari’s flawed calls for damage cost talks

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

Red Bull and Ferrari want Formula 1’s rulemakers to discuss how crash damage should be accounted for now both teams face big repair bills and grid penalties because of accidents caused by other drivers.

Back-to-back expensive accidents for Red Bull – each at the hands of a driver from title rival Mercedes – have left the team critical of the impact crashes have in the new-for-2021 budget cap restrictions.

Red Bull estimated Max Verstappen’s big Copse crash after being hit by Lewis Hamilton in the British grand Prix caused $1.8million, and at the next race in Hungary both Red Bulls sustained damage in a multi-car first-corner collision caused by Valtteri Bottas.

After each race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner lamented the strain that puts the team under financially.

Horner’s argument is that Red Bull, having already lost serious ground in the championship with both incidents, also have to bear a financial burden that has a knock-on impact on the rest of its spending given teams now have a $145m limit.

“It is hugely frustrating and obviously again brutal under the cost cap,” Horner said in Hungary.

“It reaffirms that when you have an incident that isn’t yours, you’re paying a significant price for that.

“That’s something that isn’t budgeted for and is something that I think does need to be looked at in greater detail by the FIA.”

Aug 02 : Hungarian Grand Prix review

Concern over how to readjust budgets in the wake of unexpected damage and repair costs is a sentiment Mercedes had shared earlier this year when Bottas suffered a big shunt at Imola.

That was deemed a racing incident between him and Williams driver George Russell.

But in Red Bull’s cases, Hamilton was found predominantly to blame at Silverstone and given a 10-second time penalty while Bottas was apportioned full responsibility at the Hungaroring and has a five-place grid drop for the next race.

Ferrari agrees in principle that teams should not be suffering financially because of crash damage caused by the opponents.

On Tuesday it revealed that Charles Leclerc’s engine suffered terminal damage when his Ferrari was hit by Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin at the first corner in Hungary, making a grid penalty later in the year almost inevitable.

However, team principal Mattia Binotto believes this is not a matter of creating a budget cap exemption.

Instead, his proposal is that teams whose drivers are to blame for contact with another car should be responsible for picking up the bill.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari damage Hungary 2021

“There is value for discussions in the near future with the other team principals, FIA and F1,” said Binotto.

“Obviously if you’re not guilty, having such damage in the budget cap is even more of a consequence now.

“Should we add exemptions? I’m not sure that’s the solution. It may be very difficult to be policed.

“But I think that what we may consider is that if a driver is at fault, the team of the driver should pay at least to the other teams for the damages and repairs.

“That will make the drivers more responsible.”

The Race says

Lance Stroll Aston Martin Charles Leclerc Ferrari Hungary 2021 damage

The suggestion of ways to get around the cost of unplanned crash damage in the budget cap era is no surprise. If anything it’s surprising it’s taken this long for the big teams to start shouting about it.

Red Bull and Ferrari have different views on how their shared desire could be achieved.

Red Bull seems to be more in favour of not having to account for crash damage inflicted by a rival in the cost cap. Ferrari thinks exemptions would be messy and advocates the team whose driver is responsible for the crash covering the repair bill.

This sparks three immediate thoughts. First, this is an entirely selfish position. Outside of a budget cap world, would these teams be willing to cover the cost if one of their drivers wiped out a car from a cash-strapped smaller team?

Those teams have been tackling the problem of how to adjust their limited spending in light of major accidents for years. In fact, Haas still is this season.

Mick Schumacher Haas crash Monaco 2021

Second, how would that work? Working out when a team would be allowed to cover costs outside the budget cap, or when another team would have to pick up the bill, would be quite easy. F1 could just use the stewards’ verdicts – if someone is deemed wholly to blame, as Bottas and Stroll were in Hungary, that’s when it kicks in.

But how would you work out what the spend is? Red Bull claims the Silverstone crash suffered by Verstappen cost it $1.8m. Who is going to verify that amount? Is Red Bull going to let the FIA inspect every single damaged component, right down to the nuts and bolts? How else is a reliable number going to be established?

Thirdly, where do engines fit into this? The grid penalties that Red Bull and Ferrari face are as much a source of their irritation as the impact on their tightly-defined budgets.

But working out a fair system that lets a team use an extra engine if it loses one in an accident it didn’t cause seems unlikely.

It would be open to interpretation in key areas. Where do you draw the line at what counts as worthy of a free engine change? Teams would push that as far as they could to try to get a free change even if the engine damage wasn’t actually terminal. A good case study would be Max Verstappen’s engine from Silverstone – all the checks indicated it was fine. So presumably that doesn’t merit a free change after the crash. But then Honda found a crack after four sessions of running in Hungary. Would it be OK to change it then? How would Honda prove that was 100% related to the crash?

And what about an engine that’s five or six races into its life. If that got damaged, is it fair for the driver to have a fresh engine for free and the associated benefits in reliability and possibly performance?

And if F1 opened itself up to exemptions or shifting financial accountability, it would almost certainly invite more legal angst.

Teams would be minded to appeal decisions or submit petitions to review because there would be much more at stake than just sporting penalties.

Crashes are part of racing. Sometimes teams will cause them, sometimes teams will be innocent victims. This “brutality of racing”, to quote Horner, has been around forever.

It’s just the big teams no longer have unlimited budgets that let them shrug such crashes off – so now they are in the same boat as everybody else.

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