Mercedes and Red Bull may be exploiting a budget cap loophole to retain extra staff, according to Otmar Szafnauer. The Alpine team principal has claimed the sport’s bigger spenders are finding ways to use their staff that will not push them to go over the allowance.
Szafnauer has suggested bigger teams find spots for employees where they “don’t count as a whole person”. He claims this means smaller teams are no longer enjoying the advantages of the cap as fully intended. He told GPFans: “When everyone’s the right size, you lose that. You lose that a little bit.
“What some of the other bigger teams are now doing is they’re looking to exploit or have a better understanding of where there are loopholes or some organisational changes you can make to actually stuff more people under that budget cap.
“They’re looking at, ‘Yeah, I got rid of a hundred people, but now I want to hire back because under the budget cap I was able to find spots for them where they either don’t count as a whole person or they do some marketing stuff or whatever it is, or they work on a boat for some of the time’.
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“We’re not there yet. I think they’re there already, and that advantage of being right at the beginning does dissipate.” Express Sport has approached Mercedes and Red Bull for comment.
It is understood teams are allowed to use staff members who are not directly working on F1 projects all year round. The comments come just months after Red Bull were found guilty of breaking F1’s cost cap rules.
The team were found to have exceeded the cap by £1.8million (£2.2m) but the FIA accepted this would be just £432,000 ($0.5m) if tax returns had been submitted correctly. As punishment, the reigning champions were hit with a £6.3million ($7m) fine as well as a 10 per cent reduction in wind tunnel testing and CFD development.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner claimed the penalty was a “draconian” measure which could cost the team up to half a second per lap in the 2023 season.
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He also warned as many as half a dozen teams could break the cap for 2022 and hinted they would face higher penalties. Horner also stated that he was surprised when it was reported that Mercedes were unlikely to have exceeded the cap.
He explained: “Under the budget cap, it has been surprising just the amount of development. We have had the least crashes and a moderate amount of development.
“But it has certainly been surprising the rate they have developed, particularly in the second half of the year. But that is F1. When you consider where they were in Bahrain to where they were at the end of the year, it was a big step.”