JANUARY 5, 2009
The argument for salary caps in F1
These are difficult times for the motorsport world. Consumer confidence around the world has been shaken by the financial chaos that has occurred since the credit crunch. The International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn says that 2009 will be a "very dark" year unless governments do more to get economies moving again. The Frenchman says that measures taken so far are not sufficient.
Formula 1 - and motorsport in general - needs to be prepared for the worst. The F1 agreements that came together in early December were a good start - and a clear indication that F1 had put aside its differences in the face of serious worries about the future. There is good reason for such fears. In the United States of America there have been around 700 workers laid off in the NASCAR industry in the last two months.
There are already rumours in F1 circles that teams will soon start to lay off people as the agreements made in December are put into effect. All of this is unpleasant but necessary. Costs have to be reduced and while laying off workers is one way of doing it, there should also be thought about a salary cap for drivers. It is not fair that people are losing their jobs in the F1 industry when drivers are being paid as much as $50m a year. Their talents are valuable, but so too are the talents of the people who will be losing their jobs. Young men do not need $50m a year. They can live comfortably for the rest of their lives with considerably less than that. If teams must lose people, it is only fair that drivers should make sacrifices as well.
It is also important that any changes to the rules are fair to everyone. We hear that the FIA is now telling teams that they can use only one windtunnel and that the use must be limited to 48 hours running a week. Yet there are no restrictions on the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which aims to achieve the same things as windtunnels by using computer calculation to predict air flows. This penalises the F1 teams that invested in two windtunnels rather than putting their money into CFD. At the time there were two distinct routes that could be taken: some teams took one route, some took the other. Penalising one and not the other is clearly not a fair situation.