Mattia Binotto has warned Ferrari will consider their Formula One future if severe budget caps are imposed. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the sport’s finances hard but the team principal has advised against making hasty decisions and believes the proposed cuts in teams’ budgets risked devaluing F1 as the pinnacle of motor sport.
In 2019 teams agreed to a budget cap of $175m (£142m) for 2021 but, with nine races called off this season and F1’s coffers depleted, last week the teams met the FIA and Formula One’s owners to discuss spending limits. Setting a ceiling of $145m for 2021, moving to $130m in 2022, was on the table but they failed to reach an agreement and Binotto was emphatic that Ferrari would be prepared to walk away from F1 should the lower figure be enforced.
“The $145m level is already a new and demanding request compared to what was set out last June,” he told the Guardian. “It cannot be attained without further significant sacrifices, especially in terms of our human resources. If it was to get even lower, we would not want to be put in a position of having to look at other further options for deploying our racing DNA.”
Ferrari, the only team to have been competing in F1 since the first championship in 1950, have form in threatening to leave the sport but now there is a real sense that the Modena-based team are unwilling to concede any more ground and that the reduced budget cap was being wielded both too quickly and improperly.
“F1, we have all sorts of teams with different characteristics,” Binotto said. “They operate in different countries, under different legislation and with their own ways of working. Therefore it is not simple and straightforward to make structural changes simply by cutting costs in a linear fashion.
“We are well aware that F1 and indeed the whole world right now is going through a particularly difficult time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this is not the time to react in a hurry as there’s a risk of making decisions on the back of this emergency without clearly evaluating all the consequences.”
Red Bull’s principal, Christian Horner, is also strongly resistant to a cap below $145m despite lobbying from smaller teams, with McLaren arguing for a target of $100m. Binotto warned, however, that there was danger such a level could fundamentally change the sport for the worse.
“F1 has to be the pinnacle of motor sport in terms of technology and performance. It must be attractive for the car manufacturers and the sponsors who want to be linked to this most prestigious category. If we restrict costs excessively then we run the risk of reducing the level considerably, bringing it ever closer to the lower formulae.”
Ferrari want a more thorough examination of how the cap is reached, favouring a two-tier model that reflects the extra costs incurred in research and development of parts sold to customer teams. They are also fiercely defensive of their staff, none of whom have been furloughed, nor asked to take holiday when F1 imposed an early season shutdown.
Binotto stressed Ferrari’s “ethical duty” to look after their personnel and avoid large-scale job losses. “One should not forget that companies play a role in the social fabric of a nation. They are not just there to make a profit.”
With the fall in revenue hitting the smaller teams hardest, Binotto echoed Horner in confirming Ferrari would be in favour of supplying customer cars to them in the short term.
“If the current emergency really put the existence of some of our competitors in this sport in doubt and made it necessary to revise certain cornerstones, then Ferrari would be open to it. It’s not even sacrilegious, given it’s happened before in F1 and happens today in series such as [motorcycling’s] MotoGP.”