Ecclestone: Budget cap is workable

Bernie Ecclestone insists a budget cap for F1 teams is “workable”.

That is despite the fact that when the idea was proposed by former FIA president a few years ago, the teams banded together and threatened to quit the sport. But F1 chief executive Ecclestone has now told the Sunday Express newspaper that working to an imposed maximum budget is “the direction people are going in. It is workable”.

His comments are in contrast to those he made earlier in the year when he told Auto Motor und Sport, “It (the Budget Cap) wouldn’t work. You can’t stop people from spending the money they have. They will always find a way to get around whatever you try to do to control it. Instead, the technical rules should be written so that it is not possible to just use money to make a faster car.”


FIA extends 2013 cost cutting rules deadline?

The FIA has reportedly extended a deadline for radical cost-cutting in Formula One.

On the eve of Saturday’s June 30 deadline, we reported that the prospect of cost-cutting was hanging in the balance as F1 teams dithered over the shape of the proposals. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport had reported the high risk that June 30 would come and go without significant reforms being put to the World Motor Sport Council.

Indeed, that was the case, raising the prospect that – post June 30 – rule changes would be highly unlikely for 2013 due to the need for total unanimity. However, citing a British source, the German news agency DPA and the Financial Times Deutschland reports that the FIA has now extended the original June 30 deadline until late this month.

It means that rules proposed by only two thirds of the teams can still be introduced for 2013, so long as the World Council can vote on the changes by July 24.


Team dithering means F1 cost-cutting at risk

he prospect of radical cost-cutting in F1 is hanging in the balance, as Jean Todt’s end-of-June deadline looms and Formula One teams dither.

That is the claim of Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, reporting the risk that June 30 could come and go without significant reforms being put to the World Motor Sport Council.

After Saturday, the 2013 rules can only be influenced by the teams in the unlikely event that they can completely agree. There were heated discussions – even involving FIA president Todt and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone – at Valencia recently, but large areas of common ground are yet to be trodden.

“At least seven of the 12 teams are on a fine line if for example they lose a sponsor,” journalist Michael Schmidt said. “In this environment, it’s a mystery why the teams are still arguing about the introduction of cost control in the FIA sporting regulations.”

Toto Wolff, a shareholder who is gaining increasing influence at Williams, urged the need to police breaches of the cost rules, citing rumours some teams are simply ignoring the current resource restriction agreement.

“We need clear penalties as deterrents,” said the Austrian.

But his boss Sir Frank Williams said in an interview this week that he is “against any kind of interference”.

“I don’t want any third-party interference with one’s business, to have people sneaking around wanting to check this and that,” he said. “It’s just like waiting for the taxman every day.”

That interview has now disappeared from F1’s official website. And Auto Motor und Sport reports that Lotus and Force India – teams that arguably should welcome cost cutting – are opposed to the further culling of allowed wind tunnel testing time.

It seems the middle-ranking teams are most worried about the cost of buying a V6 engine and KERS package.

“I will ensure that it remains affordable,” Todt is quoted as saying, but the prices being quoted behind closed doors by F1’s engine suppliers tell a different story.


F1 split over customer car proposal

Formula One is split over a new proposal to allow ‘customer cars’ on the grid.

The idea is being powered chiefly by Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone, and marketed as a way to cut costs by opening a new revenue stream for the big teams and reducing the design and manufacturing burden for struggling minnows. Mercedes, however, does not sound keen on the idea of selling a year-old chassis to its smaller rivals.

“If you ran this year with last year’s car then just guess what happens,” said the marque’s Norbert Haug.

Lotus’ Eric Boullier, however, sounds keener.

“If we have to go to customer cars to serve Formula One and be the Formula One of the future, why not? I think the discussion is open now,” he said.

Currently, all teams must design and build their own car, but the existing Concorde Agreement expires at the end of the season. Caterham, initially Team Lotus, entered F1 in 2010 and is yet to score a point.

“An idea is an idea,” said Caterham chief executive Riad Asmat when asked about customer cars. “We are proud of where we are, what we’ve built — we came in as a constructor and we hope to stay that way for now.”

Joan Villadelprat, a former F1 engineer and manager, told AS newspaper: “This idea undermines the spirit of F1. We need to reduce costs in another way.”


F1 considering tyre blanket ban – report

According to Motorsport Magazin, F1 is considering a ban on tyre-warming blankets.

Journalist Kerstin Hasenbichler reported from Valencia that the potential 2013 ban is being discussed as part of the sport’s cost-cutting efforts. The teams and the FIA are “currently in consultation to restructure regulations aimed at keeping costs as low as possible”, the writer said.

This isn’t the first time that the tyre blanket ban idea has surfaced – it was considered several years ago however the idea was not taken forward on safety grounds. However, with F1 currently looking at ways to cut costs, banning tyre blankets would save money by saving on equipment expenditure and freight costs.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery confirmed he would “welcome” the ban but warned it “would require a complete change of the composition” of the tyres. He said the ban should therefore be introduced over two years.

For 2013, Hembery said, warmers for wet tyres could be banned, preceding a full ban for slicks the following season.


Behind the glitz, F1 looks to solve costs crisis

Formula One is always glamorous and shiny, but this weekend in Valencia, a harsh alter-reality is also obvious.

Floating in the port city’s harbour is the Indian Express, one of the world’s biggest and most valuable private superyachts that is owned by Vijay Mallya, the boss not only of Force India but also the sinking airline Kingfisher. That the Indian billionaire’s boat is such a centrepiece this weekend is a paradox, amid near-empty grandstands in crisis-struck Spain and frenzied discussions in the motor homes about the urgent need to slash costs.

“He (Mallya) probably doesn’t know whether it’s good times or bad,” Williams co-owner Toto Wolff shrugged to the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung.

F1 is considering a number of measures to reduce costs, or increase incomes. One option for the latter is simply to expand the calendar, collecting and sharing new promoters’ money. One rumour is that up to three or four new races could be added to the 2013 schedule.

“The year has 52 weeks. We should have 26 grand prix!” Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost said half-seriously, causing his Lotus counterpart Eric Boullier to explode with laughter.

“There is no exact number, no magic number,” the Frenchman agreed, “but I’m rather like Franz — more races, why not?”

Another idea could provide a new source of income for the bigger teams, whilst reducing the vast design and manufacturing costs for the minnows and providing better value for their sponsors — customer cars.

“I would like to see some of the smaller teams with a single car sold by a top team, which had been used the previous year,” Bernie Ecclestone is quoted by the Sapa-AFP news agency. “Perhaps it could be driven by a rookie. Some teams would certainly get better results compared to now and spend less, immediately,” he added.

The F1 chief executive seemed to rule out a “budget cap”.

“It wouldn’t work,” he is quoted by the Spanish newspaper AS. “You can’t stop the teams from spending all of the money they have.”


Todt: F1 is too expensive

Jean Todt has admitted he is worried some F1 teams could collapse if costs in the sport are not reduced.

After the FIA’s meeting of its World Motor Sport Council last Friday, a media statement revealed that the governing body is “having active discussions with teams regarding cost control”. The FIA added that the Council will have to vote on any amendments to the chassis rules for 2013 prior to the end of this month.

“The intention is to help all teams participate in the championship in a fair and equal manner,” the statement added.

FIA president Todt is quoted by the German language Speed Week: “For me, Formula One is too expensive. If we do nothing, we could get into a situation where we have less than twelve teams on the grid.”

Last week, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo insisted F1 cannot ignore the impact of Europe’s worsening economic crisis.

“Ferrari is in agreement with the FIA’s position that drastic intervention is required,” he said. “This is no longer the moment for getting bogged down in sterile discussions or the meanderings of engineers, usually only concerned in defending the interests of someone or other.

“The question (of costs) has to be tackled at the highest level without further delay,” added Montezemolo.


FIA reveals cost-cutting talks with F1 teams

F1’s governing body on Friday confirmed it is in talks with the teams about cutting costs.

The vast majority of the teams – even big-spender Ferrari – recently wrote to FIA president Jean Todt to ask that the Paris federation get involved in officially policing the reduction of costs. Reigning world champion Red Bull, and its satellite Toro Rosso, are the odd ones out, but the momentum for a new radical cost-cutting push is building, amid talk a simple budget cap – Max Mosley’s once highly-controversial proposal – could be the answer.

“At their request, the FIA is having active discussions with teams regarding cost control,” the governing body said after a meeting on Friday of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris.

The FIA added that “any amendments to the technical regulations resulting from a further limit on expenditure on the chassis will be submitted to the (council) via a fax vote before 30 June”.

“The intention is to help all teams participate in the championship in a fair and equal manner,” the statement added.

The FIA also revealed that it is having “constructive” talks with Bernie Ecclestone over the new Concorde Agreement, with a deal on the cards “in the coming weeks”.