Ecclestone: F1 teams shouldn’t need a budget cap

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Bernie Ecclestone has weighed in on the cost cap debate currently dominating Formula 1’s political scene, and has questioned why teams cannot work to cut costs themselves without the imposition of budget limits.

Many efforts have been made over the past five years to introduce a cost cap in Formula 1 after spiralling costs have threatened the future of a number of teams, and has claimed a number of high-profile scalps. Honda, Toyota and BMW all left the sport between 2008 and 2009 due to spiralling costs, but little has changed economically since then.

For Ecclestone, it is simply a case of the teams looking in the mirror and finding a way to self-regulate.

“The teams can cut costs so why don’t they spend less? I don’t think they need a budget cap,” he told The Independent. “The people who don’t need a budget cap will find their way round it.”

The teams further down the grid – Caterham, Marussia, Sauber and Force India in particular – have been pushing for a cost cap in order to become more competitive. However, without having a secure future in the sport, Ecclestone believes that it is unreasonable for them to expect to have a say.

“There are four teams that are not in the Strategy Group and why not? Because the people that are have committed to racing in Formula One to 2020 and have put up sensible guarantees if they don’t,” he said.

The 83-year-old also used the cost cap debate to deal yet another blow to the new engines, believing that the price of implementing them was far too great.

“Tell me, what was the idea of the cap? To keep costs down. So we put this engine in and it costs four times more than the other one, and costs the manufacturers a hell of a lot of money,” Ecclestone pointed out.

Although the teams should indeed be able to cut costs and keep an eye on their own finances, the pursuit of race wins and championships is almost entirely dependent on spending power. All of the successful teams in recent history – Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault and McLaren – have a product backing them (although McLaren is a semi-exception).

The likes of Sauber and Marussia, on the other hand, exist to race, making financial solvency difficult at times. They will not be giving up on the cost cap, even if the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari are happy to spend as much as it takes to win.

Is it really possible for the teams facing financial difficulties to commit to the sport until 2020? And should they really be excluded from the ‘big boy’ strategy group because of this?

Without a cost cap, the teams will continue to spend and spend. They should be able to self regulate, but guidance is required.

This debate will, as it has done for five years now, only continue to rumble on and claim more victims.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.