Today is set to be the biggest day in the turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1, as the biggest scandal since ‘crashgate’ looks set to be officially announced.
The FIA will be awarding teams with certificates of approval if they kept below the 2021 budget cap, with a mass of reports suggesting that Red Bull and Aston Martin won’t be receiving a certificate.
The two sides are believed to have exceeded the budget cap, which was introduced in 2021.
If proven guilty, then it will be potentially the biggest scandal Formula 1 has ever seen, with the pressure now very much on the FIA to pass this “very vital test”.
Failure to award a sufficient penalty could lead to complete mayhem, from both team principals and the F1 community.
Ferrari have made their position on the potential breach very well known, with the Scuderia insisting that the governing body must “enforce” the rules of the cost cap “as they are written”.
Faith in the FIA is at an all-time low, given the controversial 2021 season finale and the wide range of inconsistency that has been present during a number of races this season.
If the FIA gets it right, then faith might just be restored between the company and the paddock; however, if they get it wrong, then the trust and relationship between the governing body and the teams will be at the lowest point in the history of Formula 1.
The magnitude of how big today is cannot be underestimated, with Ferrari’s racing director Laurent Mekies believing that if the FIA award the wrong penalty, if any penalty, then it’s “game over”.
“It is a very vital test for the cost cap,” said Ferrari’s racing director Laurent Mekies.
“And, as we said, if we don’t pass that test, it’s probably game over, because the implications are huge.”
There have been mixed reports about just how much the two teams have exceeded the $145 million budget by, with it rumoured to be a minor breach by both sides.
A minor breach is if a team has exceeded the cap by 5 percent (just over $7 million), with a potential penalty ranging from a hefty fine, a resource of wind tunnel reduction, and even a points deduction from 2021.
Mekies wants the teams to have a full understanding of how the FIA will apply the rules before a penalty is awarded, with the racing director admitting that penalties “probably” shouldn’t be discussed just yet.
“Should we talk about penalties now? Probably not,” added Mekies.
“I know it’s probably what the people in the grandstands want to see and we respect that. But in fact we are much earlier in the process than that.
“Probably an even more key aspect of it is, is there a breach? Do we agree on the entity of the breach and that, as a result, confirm the rule everybody is obeying?
“So, I think what is very much crucial now is that the FIA fully enforce rules as they are written now. And then after the penalties are a different matter.”
If the rules aren’t followed, then questions will be asked about whether the sport learned anything from the 2021 finale, where, of course, the rules weren’t followed and were instead “manipulated”.
Ferrari believe the rules must be followed as “intended” with the teams having discussed the budget cap with the FIA “non-stop” over the “last two years”.
“At least for us there is no question on what is the interpretation of what we have done because it’s been continuous discussions with the FIA,” Mekies added. “And I think that’s how the process is intended to be.
“Then after, of course, you have that final check that we are talking about now, that we are all waiting for. But in fact, we see very little room for surprises in the way that we have been discussing non-stop in the last two years with them.”
During the Singapore GP last weekend Toto Wolff explained the sheer significance of a team having breached the budget cap, with the Mercedes boss admitting that they had to make 40 employees redundant to keep below the limit.
Ferrari, on the other hand, shared that even a ‘minor’ breach of the cost cap, could be worth several tenths in performance, something which can be the difference between winning and losing.
“If you think about the level of constraints that have [been] imposed on the big teams, then you realise how much lap time there is going to be if you don’t strictly enforce them,” said Ferrari’s racing director.
“We’re massively constrained and therefore any million, any leak you allow in the budget cap, is going to turn into a few tenths of seconds on the car.”