Mercedes's and Red Bull's team principals have warned that the upcoming 2020 season is about to be the most expensive in the history of Formula One, ahead of the planned introduction of a budget cap in 2021.
Toto Wolff, head of the leading Mercedes AMG F1 outfit, stated that even though his team does have a budget, there will likely be more expenditure in 2020. This not only because teams are already investing considerable time into researching 2021 projects, but also because the outfit will have to adapt and slim down.
"It is clear that the big teams are the ones that are very restricted from 2021 onwards", said Toto Wolff during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.
"We need to look at our structures, change process and maybe also the organisation in a way to adapt to these new challenges, which will hit us hard in 2021 because we will be doing things differently to the way we are doing them today. This is why it’s clear in 2020 that we have to adapt and change and all this change is costly and will be happening in 2020, so 2020 will be a year of more financial expenditure in order to get ready for 2021."
Christian Horner, chief of Red Bull Racing, another big spender in Formula One, confirmed the situation, and warned that it would create an immediate gap between the top teams and the rest in 2021, counteracting Formula One's aim to tighten the competition.
"My feeling is that a budget cap is ultimately a sensible thing for Formula 1", Horner said, "but the interim period of 2020 with the current regulations we have as teams gear up for 2021 with unrestricted spend makes it a very expensive year."
"I think it will create a broader gap between the teams going into 2021 as those teams with more resource will simply spend more time in the research and development phase before the cars hit the track at the beginning of ’21."
The trouble with this situation is that the bigger teams will throw additional money at the development of their 2021 concepts, while other teams that don't have the luxury to ask their sponsors or owners to reserve a higher budget, will fall behind in the development race.
With this in mind, along witht he difficulties the budget cap will bring to the big teams, a delay of the 2021 technical regulation changes was on the table in last week's meeting.
"I raised it at the meeting last week, where, if you look at it, we have the budget cap, which in principle I think is pretty much agreed", said Horner.
"It’s painful for the bigger teams and obviously will prevent the bigger teams from spending beyond that 175 million cap. I think with hindsight we would have been better bringing the cap in first for ’21 and then taking more time to develop these regulations and evolve them and bring them in in time for ’22, so that any development that the big teams undertake would be under the umbrella of the cap.
It is understood that moving the budget cap forward to 2020 is not possible, given that it will take more time to setup the necessary structures to be able to police the budget cap properly. So, to resolve the issue, several teams are convinced it would be better to postpone the technical regulation overhaul to 2022.
"I think an opportunity has perhaps been lost to have that process more controlled under the cap and delay these regulations and evolve them", Horner continued.
"There is some great stuff going on, but the car and the concept looks very underdeveloped at the moment and I think if another 12 months was taken to develop that concept and bring in something that works and perhaps addresses some of the other issues like weight and so on, I think would have been perhaps a more beneficial approach."
Otmar Szafnauer from Racing Point underlined that statement, saying that whatever gets published for introduction in 2021 will result in "inevitable TDs and refinements before we get into the 2021 season".
Still, it seems unlikely that Formula One will want to further postpone the long awaited improvements to the racing spectacle, so F1, and especially its top teams, are heading straight for an expenditure race in 2020.