Formula One: Reduced budget cap crucial to sport’s survival in the wake of the pandemic, says Claire Williams
The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the Formula One 2020 calendar, with nine of its scheduled 22 races either cancelled or postponed.
The lack of motor racing action has placed F1 and its 10 teams under huge financial strain – F1’s owner Liberty Media saw its first-quarter revenue drop by more than US$200 million (S$278million) as compared to the same time last year.
In response to this, spending by F1 teams will be capped at US$145 million in 2021, with a subsequent limit of US$135 million by 2023, which Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams believes is crucial for the sport to survive the impact of the pandemic.
Speaking on the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore’s official podcast on Monday (June 8), Williams said: “We thought that (the budget cap) was an enormous piece of progress for our sport, having lobbied for about a decade for this.
“However, when the pandemic came into play, we had to really as a group of teams and as a sport look at how our sport was going to survive this pandemic.
“We didn’t have any races, which is for most teams up and down the grid a huge part of our racing budget. Even if we only managed to secure eight to 10 races, we all knew that our race fund monies would be severely depressed and we had to respond accordingly.”
A spending cap of US$175 million was set to be introduced next year in a move to help even up the competition, but with the Covid-19 outbreak ghavoc, the FIA’s World Motor Sports Council ratified the amendments to F1’s rules.
Some top teams spend more than US$400 million a year at present, which makes it hard for smaller, independent teams like Williams to compete against.
The past 10 championships have been dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, who have six and four constructors’ titles respectively.
The second most successful constructor with nine championships, the Williams F1 team’s fortunes have dwindled since their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.
The team and wider company group, which was founded by Claire’s father, Sir Frank Williams in 1977, are up for sale after suffering a £13 million (S$23 million) loss last year.
She said: “Prior to these coming in 2021, there was no cost cap in our sport. Teams were spending huge amounts of money. The top three teams were outspending us by three to four to one.
“When you’re in that circumstances, there’s no way you can compete, it’s just too difficult. And for probably six other teams on the grid, it’s exactly the same situation.
“To have a cost cap in place along those lines is just going to make our lives so much easier in our sport and really set us up positively for the future.
“Because all teams are going to have to start from a level playing field and for me, that’s how all sports should be – that all teams start from a level playing field, not teams having huge amounts of money before they’ve even gotten out of bed in the morning.”
Apart from the budget cap, the amount of aerodynamic testing that teams can do in wind tunnels will be restricted from 2021.
The handicap system would see teams that finish lower in the constructors’ championship get more wind tunnel time to develop the car the following year.
These rules, if based on the 2019 constructors’ championships, mean that Williams would get nine more wind tunnel runs per week than Mercedes in 2021.
The curtailed F1 season is set to start with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on July 5, the first of eight European races of the revised calendar before the series is expected to head to Asia.