Dieter’s Diary: Crucial questions arise over the budget cap

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Sunday

Wake up at 4am in line with my convention of splitting time zones, and even at that early time it is obvious that race day will be bright and clear: the night skies are cloudless for the first time since I arrived on Thursday. Dispense with hangover work from Saturday, catch up on chores and news and then it’s off to the circuit at 8am, ready for chats about upcoming editorial projects at 9am. The best laid plans…

One of my long-standing gripes about this race is the circuit facilities – particularly parking – which ranks as worst on the trail: A single uncovered row stretching two kilometres along the rowing basin; thus, if folk are on a later shift, they face 4km walks each day – unacceptable in the sort of storms we experienced this weekend.

Today parking attendants stop the traffic as they direct cars UP steep muddy banks to create sufficient space. Every year I’ve complained about the situation, I’ve gotten got the same stock excuse: “We know it’s not ideal, but we’re working on it within our constraints…”

Surely it doesn’t take the best Canadian brains 10 years to resolve a simple issue, particularly when the solution stares them in the face: pave over a 20m strip of (man-made) rowing basin and the facility has additional hard areas for use throughout the year, plus the parking issue is solved. I’m told media shuttles ran up to two hours late as they were unable to return to base due to jams.

There are, frankly, too many sub-standard facilities on the trail – think back to five-hour post-race logjams in Spain and cars stuck in mud overnight in Imola – and this is likely to increase as Liberty chases hosting fees, leaving promoters with insufficient capital to invest.

Questions arise over budget cap

Rant over, I chase the story of the weekend, one that’s largely under the radar but bigger than the ineffective TD39 that did the rounds on Thursday before being procedurally questioned. All weekend team bosses are seen scurrying from one team to another to discuss this matter: progress on a budget cap increase due to inflation.

It’s been raised before, not least here, but now the teams seem to have agreed that action is required the wrestling starts over the percentages to apply: The UK’s CPI is expected to hit 11 per cent, but does the same figure hold true for Sauber in Switzerland or Ferrari and AlphaTauri in Italy?

Should it be a blanket figure, or itemised by cost centre – utilities, freight and salaries, for example – as these are unlikely to move at the same rate across the board, across borders? Over allow and some or other team obtains an advantage and vice versa.

All the while folk overlook that it is not simply a matter of all teams agreeing – the budget cap is governed by financial regulations, and thus amendments need to follow due process: financial advisory committee, F1 Commission and FIA World Motor Sport Council, with checks and balances and voting majorities along the way. There is no easy fix.

More news on the technical directive

During my paddock wanderings I bump into Gene Haas, whose motorsport empire extends beyond the eponymous F1 team as it encompasses NASCAR with Stewart Haas Racing, which competes in two of the tin-top championships plus e-racing.

A real enthusiast is Gene: He tells me he follows all sessions live and attends as many events as possible – while running his highly successful machine tool business. Dedication!

Post-race we have the usual media sessions, and miraculously nobody complains about bouncing unless asked, and then mainly the second finisher in a team. It seems the FIA’s TD had that effect if no other, but I’m told a meeting of team bosses is scheduled before Silverstone.

Changes would, though, need to follow process as above unless pushed through on safety grounds. That is unlikely now that no one complains…

I leave the circuit at 8pm on a warmish evening to head for my B&B in time for a podcast recording with Michael Butterworth, who works for us out of China, so 12 hours ahead of Canadian time. Thus, my nine o’clock is also his, save we’re at opposite ends of the am/pm spectrum.

Michael has gotten up to record the podcast while I’ll be heading to bed immediately afterwards. A strange world we work in, F1…



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