2022 was a Formula One season largely without controversy. Well, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may not be involved in the title fight, but the battle between Red Bull and Ferrari didn’t so ignite the touch paper. At least for now.
Part of the reason is that we’re still so early in the season, and there was less tension between Christian Horner and Toto Wolf – and of course their respective teams and riders – at the same time last year. But we finally saw the first sparks, suggesting that a small fire could soon break out between Ferrari and Red Bull.
This follows a bit of a defensive response from Ferrari team boss Matthias Binot in Miami, after Max Ferstappen scored the most points on a racing weekend. Binota insisted he wasn’t worried about Red Bull’s performance gains this season due to the fact that he saw his opponent’s car develop.
“If there are any concerns, it is the extent to which they are evolving given the budget constraints – this, of course, worries me, but more than concern, it may be hope, because at some point they will have to stop,” – he said. , adding that he “won’t understand how they can do it” unless new pieces stop coming for Red Bull.
It was a pretty accurate answer and a typical tactic of team bosses if they want to see the FIA pay attention to what the other team is doing. In this case, it is a new and difficult area for the governing body of the police, as financial regulations were introduced only last year.
The teams have $ 140 million that can be spent on most areas of car development and vehicle performance each year – except for elements such as the power unit – and each reporting year includes both the cost of developing the current car and some work taken for next year’s design.
But as stated in the regulations, the team only needs to explain to the FIA how and where it spent its money by March 31 next year, so another 10 months until the governing body can fully see how any designer has coped with the budget constraint. . The mid-term reporting deadline is late June, but it obviously won’t show what’s going on beyond that point.
Binot’s comments are the first to come from any of the leading teams about the amounts spent on developing cars by others in a year when those costs are likely to pay off the most. With new, immature rules that all teams are still perfecting, the biggest performance gains are offered at the earliest stage, either through new solutions in underdeveloped areas, or by copying what competitors do that seem to work.
And unlike last season, stability in the 2023 rules means that development will also affect next year’s car as well as this year’s, so you can see how profitable in terms of performance it can be to throw as many upgrade resources as possible.
On the part of Red Bull the answer was that Barcelona will have further improvements to the cars in line with the trend when many teams are usually upgrading given the proximity to their headquarters in Europe. A lighter car is expected, which could be a significant step as many teams struggle with the weight of their 2022 cars.
At this point, all Binot did was set himself up to make a future charge when it comes to Red Bull’s ability to develop his car so heavily under budget constraint rules, and it could very well be a technique of deviating from both of his teams. . a relative lack of pace – at least small – and accusations that Ferrari is also not playing quite right.
The Pirelli tire test in Imola caused distrust when the team used different floors during the day, but the FIA cleared the Scuderia of any offenses because the item was spotted during pre-season testing and therefore was not new. Obviously, this is not what the tire test is for, but Ferrari hasn’t broken any rules with that.
More recently, a shooting day at Monza was similarly used to test new parts before they were introduced to Barcelona, and Ferrari tried to keep the test private. Shooting days – or “promotional events” as they are officially called – are described in the sports regulations as “what should be defined as an event in which a participant participates solely for marketing or promotional purposes”.
The Flo-viz paint on the rear wing caught the eye of some on social media, but as long as Ferrari can prove to the FIA that it was for marketing or promotional purposes, the team won’t have any problems. But most likely, this will be a topic raised by Red Bull in Barcelona, especially when Ferrari predominates.
As always, fierce battles between teams lead to finger-pointing and accusations, and it is invisible but rumored aspects that tend to give the most impetus. While Ferrari may not see Red Bull’s budget spending and not understand how it copes with development costs, if the current trend continues, Binotto is likely to reconsider its comments in the future.
Similarly, given that Red Bull could not attend the filming day or tire testing, Horner accused Ferrari of using the rules to test components if it needed an answer, especially since the promotional event must go beyond the financial rules for that is “directly related to marketing activities”.
By far the biggest controversy around Mercedes has been the FIA’s clamp on jewelry when drivers are in their cars, and this is potentially aimed at Hamilton. Oh, that would give Wolf to face accusations from Ferrari or Red Bull himself …