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Why big and small F1 teams are in dispute over driver salary cap

With cost-cutting very much on F1's agenda, the notion of a salary cap for drivers is currently a hot topic of discussion in the paddock. But Team Principals seem to be struggling to reach a consensus on the issue.

F1 teams appear divided over the potential introduction of a salary cap that could limit how much teams are permitted to pay their top drivers. Upon the introduction of F1's spending restrictions in 2021, it was decided that only expenditure relating to car performance would be capped. By contrast, driver salaries expenditure was deemed not to relate to car performance and thus fell outside of the cost cap rules. Asked for their views on the introduction of a driver salary cap by RacingNews365.com , senior representatives from Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all appeared lukewarm on the idea.

No straightforward solution, says Ferrari's Binotto

"That's a point we started discussing now a month ago together with all the teams, F1 and the FIA," said Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto on the idea of a driver salary cap. "We understand the importance to try somehow to cap the overall expenses. "Obviously, there is not only the top three personnel in the team [which are not covered by the budget cap], there is not only the drivers, there is the engine and the power unit as well, for which there will be a budget cap in the future. "There is not a straightforward solution, especially for the drivers' salary cap. But we are discussing it and trying to understand a solution. "It will not be in the short term, [as] we already have contracts in place, and we cannot simply breach them. "There are legal implications, certainly to understand how to do that, so it's a discussion. "It's an important one, we understand it and we recognise it will take time, but certainly we will go through the process."

Horner focused on cutting costs elsewhere

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner appeared equally unenthusiastic about the idea, suggesting instead that F1's costs needed cutting elsewhere. "The principle of a cap is well merited. I think the application of it is tricky, and we're seeing and experiencing that at the moment," said Horner. "There's a lot of things that need tidying up within the existing cap that we have that's being rolled out to being an engine cap as well. "There's all kinds of complications with that, again, with companies' reporting structures, etc, etc. So, there's many, many complexities, but I think we need to go beyond that. "And personally, I think too much weight and pressure is being placed on the cap at the moment. I think you've got to look at where your cost drivers are. "And I think as Formula 1, we need to do a better job at looking at technical regulations, sporting regulations, because we're still designing and manufacturing very expensive cars. "You know, the engine regulations for 2026. There's nothing cheap about them, and I think this is what then puts an artificial pressure on the financial regulation. "We're going to end up more with more people in our financial department than we have in the drawing office. "What we don't want to see is that Formula 1 becomes an accounting World Championship rather than a technical or sporting one. "I think that we've just got to get that balance right and look at revisiting some of the fundamentals. "Why does it cost so much to build these cars?"

Salary cap unworkable in short-term, say Mercedes

Finally, Mercedes' Head of Engineering Andrew Shovlin cast doubt on the applicability of a drivers' salary cap. "There's no doubt that a well-thought-out cap can benefit the sport, and those are all areas that we're looking at to be brought into it in the future and they've got to be workable. "But then if you look at the situation we've got right now, the chassis-side cap came in, and it's very difficult to see how that's going to be workable in the current climate. "So while they're very useful topics and on the agendas for very good reason, we need to prove that we can have a cap that works for the teams for the sport, and from my point of view, that would be the priority."

Bosses of smaller teams broadly in favour

But while representatives from the top three teams in the 2022 F1 Constructors’ standings appeared sceptical about a drivers' salary cap, Team Principals from smaller teams were more welcoming of the idea. "This will probably be the next topic on the table," said Alfa Romeo Team Principal Fred Vasseur. "It has to come together between drivers and key personnel for sure. "I think it's the right approach to try to coordinate it with the budget and to have perhaps an allowance for this. "You could overshoot the limit and you will have to take part of your budget cap, but we have to find something like this because it's important for the sport. "And, at the end of the day, that it also makes sense for the competition. "I'm more than pleased to go into this direction." "F1 is in very good shape today; it'sin good shape because the show is going up, and also because the FIA and FOM took the right decisions in the last couple of years, but I think that wehave to continue into this direction."

Alpine, McLaren team bosses also upbeat on salary cap

Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer wasequally welcoming of a potential drivers' salary cap. "I think Fred's right that that's the nextstep, and I'm in favour of adding that underneath a global cap so that theteams can trade off driver skill with update, because ultimately both bringperformance on track," said Szafnauer. "And I think for us to have the latitude tobe able to trade that off is probably the right thing." And McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidladded his voice to the chorus of those in favour of a salary cap. "Our position is that everything which isperformance relevant should be considered to be in a kind of a cap orallowances, and that's why we're open for that discussion, as well," saidSeidl. "I think it's not that difficult. I'm sureyou will find ways of transition, dealing with that situation. "As I said, it's important to have thesediscussions now about the details behind closed doors because it is complex. "But we know from other sports it's possible,and that's how we deal with it.”

A salary cap may not happen soon, warn Szafnauer and Vasseur

Szafnauer and Vasseur cautioned, however,that contractual issues would mean any drivers' salary cap would not beimplemented quickly. "I think we have to have a forward look as towhen you bring it in, such that if everybody is aware, then we don't enter intothose long-term contracts just before a cap like that is introduced, so I thinkthat's all part of the planning process," said Szafnauer. Vasseur added that it would take a few years before such a cap could be introduced. "In any case, it will be a long-term processthat you can't imagine that it will be in place for 2022 or 2023 – it has to beat least for 2026, perhaps a bit more," said Vasseur. "But again, I'm not sure that we will havethe biggest issue on this."

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