Is the idea of a cost cap in Formula 1 really dead?

2 Comments

As costs continual to spiral in Formula 1, there has been a long-running push for a limit on how much teams spend to be put in place. Many efforts have been made, but all have failed, and with the teams recently meeting to discuss their options, one big question has arisen: is it really possible?

At yesterday’s FIA team principals’ press conference, some interesting figures were asked to attend. Marussia, Caterham, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso were all represented by their team bosses, and predictably, questions about the cost cap and the newly-formed F1 Strategy Group came up.

What separates some of these teams from the rest of the field is there backing. Whilst Ferrari and Mercedes have their successful road car sales funding them, and Red Bull has millions of little cans of fizzy drink that give you a kick, the likes of Force India and Sauber have nothing they can actively sell to fund their racing. They exist to race in Formula 1.

So for the cost cap, it’s unsurprising that it is these ‘privateer’ teams that are in favor.

“I don’t believe the cost cap is dead,” Force India’s Bob Fernley explained. “I think as far as we’re concerned it’s still in the hands of the FIA to progress what was unanimously approved and we will do our very best to support other measures that can go in line, but I think you need the two.”

Monisha Kaltenborn of Sauber shares this view. “I don’t think it’s dead because first of all, as it’s been said already, there is a unanimous decision and I think it is very much possible to police it,” she said. “We, at Sauber, definitely could live with a system where you first of all come into with trust, and not the lack of trust, and say if the teams put in the figures and you have a certain actual policing system.

“It can work, we’ve been saying that for long and I think it is very much doable.”

The only person in the press conference who was against the cost cap was Franz Tost, Toro Rosso team principal. The team is, of course, owned by Red Bull (“Toro Rosso” in Italian literally means “Red Bull”), and therefore has less to worry about financially.

“For me the cost cap is dead,” Tost said. “Because the top teams don’t accept it. It’s also complicated for them and as long as auditors are not allowed to look into the books it’s useless to make a cost cap.”

Tost’s skepticism is disappointing given that the team he runs used to be Minardi – the legendary backmarker team in Formula 1 – who would have been jumping for joy at the prospect of a cost cap. However, his point is certainly a valid one. For the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes, it is very difficult to define where development differs between the road cars and the F1 projects.

It appears that the murmurs about a cost cap are set to continue, but a solution may be a long way off. The demise of FOTA and the formation of the F1 Strategy Group – essentially an exclusive club only for the big teams – has not aided matters.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
Leave a comment

Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.