As part of what sources say is an increasing commitment by the governing body of motorsport to enforce the rules on the so-called ‘cost cap,’ the Federation has addressed the use of special project divisions outside Formula 1 teams, which some suspected were being utilized to gain performance advantages.
In recent years, it has been common for F1 teams to employ senior technical personnel to work in separate departments on technical projects to leverage the knowledge gained from Grands Prix and reinvest it in the business world at large.
For example, Red Bull has its Advanced Technology division, McLaren has Applied Technologies, Mercedes has Applied Science, and Aston Martin has Performance Technologies. All these companies have been successful and have worked on various projects involving road cars, America’s Cup yachts, bicycles, and more.
However, there were suspicions that some individuals were possibly gaming the system and using these divisions to gain insights into F1 beyond the cost cap, before freely relaying that information back to their teams. The FIA has intervened to address this issue.
In a technical directive drafted earlier this year but recently reviewed and enforced, the FIA has clarified to teams that they cannot transfer any intellectual property resulting from projects outside the scope of F1 operations to the team without it being included within the prescribed costs.
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection! Click here to enter the F1 online Store and shop securely! And also get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
As known, Technical Directive 45 (TD45) establishes that, although teams remain free to manage these special project divisions, any intellectual property derived from them that is used by F1 teams must be accounted for within the cost cap and cannot come from unrestricted sources within the same company.
Knowledge from F1 can still be freely transmitted to technical divisions, so it can continue to be utilized for external commercial interests.
The FIA has not issued any official statement regarding the matter, and when approached by Motorsport, several teams with these technical divisions reiterated that they have fully complied with the rules and welcomed the clarification.
However, a significant source within F1, knowledgeable about the situation, stated that TD45 has already brought about changes.
“It has had an impact, and some have been forced to act because they realized what they were doing was no longer allowed,” they explained. “But the difficult part is that they will do it from January 1st (when the TD comes into effect), so what they have spent up to this point will somehow have to be recovered.”
The suspicion that teams exploit the use of F1 personnel engaged in external operations has been prevalent since the introduction of cost limits.
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal of Alpine, stated earlier this year that larger teams had found ways to employ personnel in a manner that falls outside the cap.
“I think some of the other teams, the bigger ones, are trying to exploit or better understand where there are loopholes or organizational changes that can be made to fit more people within that budget cap. And we haven’t reached that point yet,” he said – “In practice, it’s as if they have let go of 100 people but are trying to find a way to rehire them. They can find positions for them where they don’t count as F1 personnel in all respects, or they can handle marketing or other tasks, but also work on a boat project for a portion of their time.”
The introduction of TD45 regulation comes in the context of what, according to various sources, is a much more comprehensive effort by the FIA to investigate team spending this year within the framework of cost cap analysis.
In recent weeks, the Federation has conducted forensic financial analysis visits to the teams’ factories. According to a source, the governing body’s latest compliance questionnaire now amounts to over 100 questions, a number significantly higher than 12 months ago.
Last year, Red Bull was fined $7 million and faced a reduction in wind tunnel development time for overspending in 2021.