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

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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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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