Alpine and McLaren herald ‘surprise’ FIA checks over cost cap

Alpine’s former executive director Budkowski was full of praise for the FIA’s cost cap regulation nuances, specifically how the rules are enforced and how the lack of clarity over the penalty is a positive for all parties.

Alpine parted company with Budkowski amidst a management shake-up which has notably left four-time champion Alain Prost questioning the team’s ways and accusing them of imparting “no respect”.

The former had only been in his role for a year, following an initial restructure as the team switched from the Renault to Alpine name. However, he had been at the Enstone outfit since 2018 after a lengthy stint with the FIA as Technical and Sporting Coordinator and subsequently the Head of the Formula One Technical Department.

Since his FIA departure, the sport has entered a new period of cost cap restriction, whereby teams’ spending is monitored by experts in financial regulations employed by the the governing body.

Surrounding concerns from some over how the cap can be strictly enforced to avoid any form of tactical overspend were put to the former FIA technical boss, and McLaren Team Principal Seidl, and Budkowski.

“There are quite a lot of checks going on,” said Budkowski. “We get regular visits from the FIA. We get regular requests for data and for information. Probably more than we were expecting and they are at very short notice and including surprise visits to the factory, and we are very happy about it, because that’s how it should be and that’s how it should be policed.

“Obviously we are very much in favour of the cost cap [and] we have been one of the teams that has supported it throughout the process and worked very closely with the FIA to make it as robust and as policeable as possible and we are obviously in favour of it being policed and respected very well because we think it’s the right thing for Formula 1. So, so far, very good,” summed up the former Alpine member.

On the prospect of tactical rule-breaking, something that F1 teams are all akin to, Seidl explains how he places his full trust in the system to prevent disproportionately small penalties for a larger financial crime.

“To be honest, I am pretty happy with what is in the regulations at the moment, the provisions that are in,” Seidl explained. “I have full trust in the system that is in place and in the FIA, and that if there is a breach, depending on what the breach is, there is the right penalty for it. It’s not a big secret that we are big supporters of these regulations that are in place.

“It’s really good to see also how detailed the interaction that’s happening at the moment between the teams and the FIA and I am very, very confident that, let’s say, after this period we are in now where we all have to learn also being in these new regulations [for the] first time, that we have a system in place that is making sure that we are playing on a level playing field in terms of the budget we spend.”

Whilst agreeing with Seidl, Budkowksi acknowledges that the purposeful lack of clarity over the exact penalty for a breach means teams are less likely to risk breaching the cap.

“The one thing I would add is the regulations, as they are written, don’t specify what the penalty is for what kind of breach,” said Budkowski. “We know it could be financial, which means a fine, or sporting, which could mean anything from points deduction to disqualification from the whole championship.

“And the reason they are not defined is that as soon as you define a penalty teams start to calculate whether that’s the right thing to do or not. If you know you risk a five-second penalty in a race for track limits or something like this, you are going to make a call whether it’s better to serve your penalty or not serve it and build a gap if you want, if you gain an advantage.

“That’s things we do on track and there is no reason why teams would not do that in the realms of the financial regulations as well, and that’s exactly what the regulations are trying to prevent.

“We haven’t seen any breach yet, we haven’t seen any sanction yet, so we will see effectively if it happens, but hopefully it won’t be necessary and everybody will respect them.”

Written by Danny Herbert for FormulaRapida

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