Alpine accuse their rivals of exploiting ‘loopholes’

The budget cap was introduced at the start of the 2021 season and is set to decrease to $135 million for the upcoming season.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes the bigger teams in Formula 1 are trying to “exploit” the budget cap rules by moving employees to different departments to ensure that they aren’t included in the budget.

With the biggest teams in Formula 1 having multiple departments and other racing programmes, some of the current teams on the grid have been able to move staff in order to keep them within the company, whereas the smaller sides have had to make several employees redundant.

Alpine were a side who had to do nothing of the sort, with the Enstone-based team having already worked to a budget that suited the cost cap.

This gave the French side an advantage when the cost cap was introduced in 2021, as they managed to continue with their operations like normal, whilst their competitors had to make adjustments.

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However, this advantage is no more, with the bigger teams having discovered that they can bring personnel back into the F1 team as and when needed. Therefore, having little impact on the budget cap.

With this in mind, Szafnauer believes the bigger teams have discovered “some loopholes” to the budget cap rules, meaning that Alpine’s early advantage has begun to “dissipate”.

“I think when everyone’s the right size, you lose that little bit,” he said.

“I think what some of the other teams are now doing, the bigger teams, is they’re looking to exploit or have a better understanding of where there’s some loopholes or some organisational changes you can make to actually stuff more people under that budget cap. And we’re not there yet.

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“They’re there already, they’re looking at, yeah, I got rid of 100 people, but now I want to hire them back. Because I was able to under that budget cap, 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.

“And we’re not quite there yet. So I think that advantage of being right at the beginning does dissipate.”

Alpine might soon be in a position where they can switch employees between departments, with a technology department having been started; however, for the time being, “it’s tiny”.

“We’ve started that,” Szafnauer revealed.

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“We have a group, but it’s tiny, like two people. We’re building a ski brace, there’s three projects on the go, including parts for the Alpine car.

“We don’t use our design resource. We use some of our manufacturing resource to make components like the Alpine rear wing, some CFD work is done, some laminating work is done, but not much. And then external companies come in for design help.

“We had some people that were retiring. And we could use them to help the Alpine car. So that’s what we did. We didn’t establish it to be able to stuff people in there from a budget cap perspective. It exists, but like I said, we have two people, not hundreds.”