Ferrari reiterated the “big question marks” it says exist over Formula 1’s budget cap and the ability of the FIA to firmly control it.
F1’s first-ever financial regulations were introduced last season, imposing a base spending limit of $145m on the 10 teams which effectively covers all aspects of car development and running costs.
The base budget cap figure has been reduced by $5 million for this season alongside all-new technical regulations, meaning teams are trying to develop all-new cars within a fixed limit.
The teams proceeded in different ways. Ferrari has been particularly frugal with developments, limiting its upgrades to major packages, while Mercedes and Red Bull have regularly brought in smaller upgrades.
There is speculation in the paddock that Red Bull is currently preparing a major development, in the form of a new, lighter chassis which could be introduced from the Singapore Grand Prix in early October.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was adamant that his own organization wouldn’t be able to make it under the budget cap and while he wouldn’t comment specifically on the Red Bull rumours, Binotto reignited a concern raised earlier in the year about how the financial rules can be controlled.
“I can’t know what they are doing, whether they have a lighter chassis or not,” Binotto said.
“But generally speaking, the budget cap is always a concern – I think we’ve mentioned that throughout the season.
“Now we have the technical, sporting and financial regulations, which can make the difference between teams in the way they interpret and execute it.
“We know we need to have a very strong FIA to make sure they have their focus properly. Otherwise the regulations themselves won’t be fair and just.
“I can’t judge on Red Bull but as Ferrari we will never be able to introduce a lightweight chassis or a different chassis throughout the season just to limit the budget.
“And I would be very surprised if there was a team that could do that.
“If they are, again, it comes down to the regulations themselves. Is that fair enough? Is it fair enough? Are the police sufficient?
“That’s the big question mark.
“It’s a very green regulation at the moment, the number of people at the FIA monitoring it is very low, so it needs to improve for the future.
“Because it would be wrong if a championship was somehow dictated by the financial regulations and not by the technical or sporting regulations [rules].”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner only said at Spa that there were no lighter chassis last weekend and that “these chassis will work for the next races”.
Reducing the RB18’s weight has been one of Red Bull’s main goals this year, as he has been several kilograms overweight since the start of the season.
Red Bull continues to develop its RB18 in other areas as well and at Spa it had slightly re-profiled sidepods and a re-profiled rear suspension fairing.
These gave Red Bull minor cooling and aerodynamic gains, but weren’t close enough to explain a performance like the team’s at Spa, where Max Verstappen was dominant.
But he continued the theme of a high rate of upgrades and if that continues, it’s likely more questions about how he handles that within the cost cap will follow.
There have been no explicit accusations of wrongdoing at Red Bull and it’s possible that, like Mercedes or even Alpine, another team with a steady stream of developments this season, simply have more efficient processes.
These teams may also have created more room in their budgets for upgrades – while Ferrari may have been too conservative – or had development ideas unlocked by the additional allocation that has recently been given to the teams to fight inflation.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff at least echoed Binotto’s assertion that a new mid-season chassis would not be possible for his team.
“We wouldn’t be able to introduce a chassis at this stage of the season,” Wolff said.
“We are massively overweight which we have not been able to fix as we are trying parts on the car to solve our various issues.
“So we can’t afford it, period. What was intended by the introduction of the cost cap has absolutely served its purpose. That’s what they wanted to achieve.
“Big teams can’t just throw money at it.”