Kaltenborn dismayed by F1’s cost control outlook

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Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is unsure how Formula 1 will tackle cost control in the future after little progress in a number of meetings and talks over the past few months.

The sport has seen costs spiral over the past few years, and it has put a number of teams at risk of folding. Sauber was beset with financial problems throughout the 2013 season, and although investment was secured to ensure its short-term future, the long-term outlook for the team is still uncertain. Lotus has been in a similar position for some time.

However, any efforts to keep costs down – be it through a cost cap or other measures – are continually blocked by the bigger teams in Formula 1, who have formed the F1 Strategy Group that now has a say in the governance of the sport. For Kaltenborn, it is a sorry state of affairs.

“In my view we are clearly not there, where we should be and where we wanted to be, at least from our team’s perspective,” she explained in yesterday’s team principals’ press conference. “I also don’t think we have achieved so far any measurable cost cutting.

“For us, the situation is a little unclear actually at the moment, at least in my understanding if you mention the World Motor Sport Council there was a decision taken last year by the council in which they endorsed cost-cutting as a target.

“They also agreed in principle to the cost cap and the FIA was mandated to implement that. Since then, other decisions have been taken by other groups going in a different direction.”

After the rejection of the cost cap earlier this year, the teams outside of the Strategy Group were tasked with coming up with an alternative. Despite doing so, Kaltenborn still feels that her voice is not being heard.

“The non-Strategy Group teams were asked to bring proposals in about how you can achieve a sustainable cost base while still promoting competition,” she said. “We did that, we also didn’t get anywhere on that.

“In my understanding, I really wonder what the FIA is now going to do and how Formula 1 is going to be governed in this respect.”

As I wrote in my Paddock Notebook from the Red Bull Ring yesterday, so long as the divide between the teams inside and outside of the Strategy Group remains, it appears that little progress will be made. Small steps are being taken, such as reducing test time and keeping it based in Europe, but this is not enough to help the ailing teams towards the back of the grid.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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