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Kaltenborn dismayed by F1’s cost control outlook

Jun 21, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

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Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is unsure how Formula 1 will tackle cost control in the future after little progress in a number of meetings and talks over the past few months.

The sport has seen costs spiral over the past few years, and it has put a number of teams at risk of folding. Sauber was beset with financial problems throughout the 2013 season, and although investment was secured to ensure its short-term future, the long-term outlook for the team is still uncertain. Lotus has been in a similar position for some time.

However, any efforts to keep costs down – be it through a cost cap or other measures – are continually blocked by the bigger teams in Formula 1, who have formed the F1 Strategy Group that now has a say in the governance of the sport. For Kaltenborn, it is a sorry state of affairs.

“In my view we are clearly not there, where we should be and where we wanted to be, at least from our team’s perspective,” she explained in yesterday’s team principals’ press conference. “I also don’t think we have achieved so far any measurable cost cutting.

“For us, the situation is a little unclear actually at the moment, at least in my understanding if you mention the World Motor Sport Council there was a decision taken last year by the council in which they endorsed cost-cutting as a target.

“They also agreed in principle to the cost cap and the FIA was mandated to implement that. Since then, other decisions have been taken by other groups going in a different direction.”

After the rejection of the cost cap earlier this year, the teams outside of the Strategy Group were tasked with coming up with an alternative. Despite doing so, Kaltenborn still feels that her voice is not being heard.

“The non-Strategy Group teams were asked to bring proposals in about how you can achieve a sustainable cost base while still promoting competition,” she said. “We did that, we also didn’t get anywhere on that.

“In my understanding, I really wonder what the FIA is now going to do and how Formula 1 is going to be governed in this respect.”

As I wrote in my Paddock Notebook from the Red Bull Ring yesterday, so long as the divide between the teams inside and outside of the Strategy Group remains, it appears that little progress will be made. Small steps are being taken, such as reducing test time and keeping it based in Europe, but this is not enough to help the ailing teams towards the back of the grid.

  1. techmeister1 - Jun 21, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    As much as I like Sauber and also root for the underdog, there will never be any real cost cutting in F1 because it goes against the very premise of F1 being the leading motorsport technology. Developing that technology takes a lot of people and money. The well funded teams are not going to cut their odds of winning just so the smaller teams have a better chance. That’s not how it works in business or the real world and F1 is very big business. Ferrari is hoping that the F1 circus can attract more sponsor money which could help the smaller teams like Sauber but it’s always going to be difficult for a mid-pack team to find the resources to improve.

  2. spa67 - Oct 25, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    techmeister1,

    I believe you are completely wrong. So long as you have a limited formula and no cost cap the current status quo stays. Deep pockets using infinite funds to hone the edge of a knife. No innovation, just an eternal quest to modify what is at hand.

    If you have more open formula and a cost cap you encourage innovation, as the formula will reward risk taking. You will see leading motorsport technology, because every team will have the same resources, but only creative application of the resources will provide exceptional gains. You will also see great failure, which has been missing from F1. It is in failure that we all learn to appreciate successful technology. I believe it was Capote who said “Failure is the spice that gives success it’s flavour”

    One more note. The common excuse against cost caps is that they are impossible to enforce. Not true, you just have to make a significant investment in enforcement. If the cap is 100M euros a year, what’s another 1M euros per team to pay for an army of forensic accountants to keep tabs on everything?

    Cost caps can be used to increase innovation and simultaneously bring parity. The real problem is that parity is exactly what the big teams don’t want.

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