Several bosses of mid-field teams in F1 have pronounced themselves in favour of including driver salaries in the sport’s budget cap.
A $145 million cost cap will be introduced from 2021 with the aim of levelling the playing field. But the number excludes, among other items, drivers’ retainers.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff recently supported the idea of including driver salaries in the teams’ controlled restricted budget, but the Austrian fears that imposing a threshold on retainers could drive F1’s super stars away from the sport.
Lewis Hamilton is currently the sport’s top earner with the Briton taking in an estimated $40m annually. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel also figures among the big buck earners as does Daniel Ricciardo thanks to his lucrative two-year contract with Renault.
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However, in the context of tightening the gap between F1’s front-runners and the sport’s midfield outfits, limiting driver salaries is seen by several team bosses as another useful tool to help drive equality in Grand Prix racing.
“I’m definitely in favour of including the driver salaries within the cap because it forces teams to make those decisions,” says Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer.
“Do you spend your money on a driver or do you take one that doesn’t cost you so much and spend it elsewhere on performance. I’m in favour of having the salaries within the budget cap.”
And Szafnauer doesn’t believe that setting a salary limit would drive the big names away from the sport.
“If that happens, will the superstars go do something else? I believe that even having the driver salaries within the cap their salaries would still be higher than what they would get at other racing series.”
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams is on the same page as her Racing Point counterpart.
“I would tend to agree with Otmar,” said Williams.
“Drivers are performance differentiators and in order to get a much more equitable playing field in this sport, as the financial regulations are there to do, then I think it’s absolutely critical that anyone who is performance related should be part of that cost cap.
“I wholeheartedly agree with it.”
“And again, as Otmar said, I think that the likelihood of drivers being discouraged from participating in our sport would probably be minimal, just simply because this is the highest echelon of motorsport and it’s a destination where drivers want to be racing.”
Haas boss Guenther Steiner, who manages the team on the grid with the smallest overall budget, sees a salary cap as a potential performance differentiator.
“I have nothing against a driver cap or a driver salary cap, whatever you want to call it,” the Italian said. “I don’t see a problem for us in it because we are so far off it, whatever it will be.
“So, I’m not pushing it or anything but I think at some stage it will be a good idea to put it in the budget cap, because it’s a performance differentiator.
“For sure, if you spend a lot of money on a driver then you cannot do other things. That should level the playing field even more and I think the salaries would adjust by themselves and they would end up lower than they are now.
“I’m not faced with the problem, to be high in salaries because we are not even at the budget cap, so in the end, any of these proposals, I will be OK with it, so long as the amount is within some reason.”
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