As the FIA is set to issue compliance certificates to teams that have kept under the spending limit imposed by the cost cap just next Wednesday, it seems that Red Bull and Aston Martin have failed to do so.
A breach of the rules that could have rather serious implications for the teams: if the overspend doesn’t exceed 5% of the cost cap penalties could range from a public reprimand to a deduction of points or limitations in testing, otherwise sanctions could go as far as exclusion from the championship or a future reduction in the cost cap.
If on Friday the FIA had defined talks around the matter as “significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture,” insisting that “the assessment is ongoing,” other teams are urging on the situation to be treated with firmness and trasparency.
“It’s now no secret that two teams broke the 2021 budget cap regulations, one by a significant amount, the other less so,” Laurent Mekies told Sky Italy. “We regard this as something very serious and we expect the FIA to manage the situation in exemplary fashion.”
Mekies has made clear -in Saturday’s press conference- that Ferrari expects “severe measures” to be taken “if there is a breach,” as the “impact on car performance is huge.”
“The worry comes from if you think about the level of constraints that have been imposed on the big teams, then you realise how much lap time there is going to be if you don’t strictly enforce it,” he explained.
“Because we were massively constrained, therefore any million, any leak that you allow in the budget cap is going to turn into a few tenths of a second on the car.”
A massive impact considering that a $7m breach would mean the possibility to have an extra “70 engineers” that could “give you a serious amount of laptime”.
Ferrari, he says, believes “there are many advantages in having the budget cap,” even more reason for wanting it to be respected by teams.
“We are fully in favour of that concept, of enforcing it as severely and transparently as possible because it is the way forward, as long as we manage to pass this stress test.”
A “very vital” one given how huge implications of a breach not being addressed properly would be.
“This is pretty much the reason why we are banging on about transparency and severity,” he continued.“Because if it turns out to be something that a team can bet on in order to gain a competitive advantage, especially in the framework of the very first instance of the budget cap being challenged, you need that amount of severity”.
What every other team fears is that this will end in a comprise, rather than a proper sanction.
“What we don’t want is that the rule changes in the middle of the season and that we find a compromise and that suddenly the rules of engagement are different, not only as far as the 2021 season is concerned but as a result for 2022 as well and perhaps for 2023.”
A breach in last season’s spending limit could go beyond and result in an advantage for the following years as well, one that should be taken into consideration.
“Which advantage are you carrying forward for the following championship? It’s probably the first question that we want the answer to,” said Mekies.
“If there was a breach in 2021, what advantage has been carried into 2022 and to 2023? And then afterwards you can discuss the timing of the penalty and how you make the penalty meaningful.”
To those who argue that it could have simply been a matter of loopholes surfacing only now, Mekies made clear that is rather unlikely given the long discussions teams have shared with the FIA throught the whole process.
“I don’t think loopholes are an issue right now: we have been discussing non-stop with the FIA for two years now,” he explained.
“We pretty much had the FIA living with us in our factories, going back and forth with questions and clarifications every week.”
“So it’s not the approach of trying to find loopholes and exploiting them and hoping that nobody finds out about it, it’s that whenever there were questions, we would ask the FIA as every team would do and they would give an answer, and that’s how we moved forward.”