Rumours are nothing new to Formula 1. Sometimes they’re accurate, sometimes they’re completely off. The most recent rumour in the paddock is that two to three F1 teams have breached the 2022 cost cap, but the FIA has come in to say that none of that is true.
Keep in mind that rumours spread in September last year suggested that Red Bull and Aston Martin had breached the cost cap in 2021, and this was confirmed somewhat in October. Red Bull was found to have committed a minor breach, while Aston Martin committed a procedural breach.
However, the FIA is aware of these rumours and have issued a stern statement in response.
“In light of recent reporting, we’d like to reiterate the ongoing process preceding financial regulation certification for the teams – none of which have been informed of their certification status,” an FIA spokesperson said.
“The auditing fieldwork is still ongoing and is scheduled to conclude in the upcoming weeks, after which there will be a period required for the finalisation of the review.”
The FIA is trying to conclude their investigation quicker this year to avoid the results being released almost a year after the preceding season ended. To ensure this, the staff involved in the process has increased from four full-time employees to 10.
“There is not, and never has been, a specific deadline for certification,” the FIA continued, “and any suggestions of delays to this process or potential breaches are completely unfounded.
“The Cost Cap Administration will formally communicate its findings according to the procedure set out in the Financial Regulations. The timeframe is intentionally not fixed in order not to prejudice the robustness and the effectiveness of the review.”
What Does the Process Look Like?
Teams lodge two submissions for the 2022 cost cap. One was lodged on June 30, 2022 that allows “teams to understand where they are in their projected spending” and for the FIA to try and “anticipate any discussion that may take place as a result.” The full submission was lodged on March 31, 2023.
These submissions are 150-200 pages each and the FIA is quite far into the process. During the first month after the final submission, the FIA are performing an in-depth review to judge what may merit further analysis. In May, the FIA initiated follow-up questions, requested more documentation, and conducted on-site audits.
“We have to be realistic, because I don’t think that it will be feasible to finalise the review after one month or 45 days,” said FIA single-seater financial regulations director, Federico Lodi. “It also depends on the findings, because if you need to open a formal investigation, it takes time. There are lawyers involved, advisory boards, so the process is a long one.”
Will Breaches be Treated Harsher in 2023?
When Red Bull was hit with a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time as punishment for their breach, it wasn’t clear whether this would be severe enough. Red Bull rivals and critics argue that it wasn’t and point to the team’s dominance in 2023 as proof.
Many are arguing that breaches need to be treated with more severity. Last year, a lenient stance was taken considering it was the first year of the cost cap in action which meant misunderstandings were possible and likely. This lenience will no longer be applied and we can expect pressure to be applied by several team bosses.
What Did Toto Wolff Have to Say?
Mercedes have been named in the cost cap breach rumours, but despite that Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, said that the team weren’t worried.
“Our audit was finished a couple of months ago,” Wolff said. “And since then, we have no indication that we’ve fallen short of anything, as far as we understand.”
When asked about whether the FIA coming back with questions worried the team at all, Wolff said that he found it encouraging because it meant these things were being taken seriously.
“I think they came back with tons of questions to lots of teams and that shows how robust the process is,” Wolff said.
“It’s good. Strong auditors are beneficial for F1 because we need to stop any kind of unintentional or intentional breach of the cost cap: it’s like technical and sporting regulations.”