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.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.