F1 faces a vital test with budget cap enforcement

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Formula One faces a key test in making sure a budget cap is properly enforced, Ferrari race director Laurent Mekies said on Saturday as speculation swirled that some teams had spent more than allowed last season.

The governing FIA is scheduled to issue certificates of compliance to teams next Wednesday after a review of the financial data submitted.

Possible punishments for those in breach range from fines to loss of points and exclusion from the championship.

“It is a very vital test for the cost cap… if we don’t pass that test, it’s probably game over because the implications are huge,” Mekies told reporters at the Singapore Grand Prix when asked about enforcing the rules.

“I think what is very much crucial now is that the FIA fully enforce rules as they are written now. And then after the penalties is a different matter.”

Formula One introduced the budget cap last year, narrowing it from 145 ( US-Dollar)  to 140 million 9 US-Dollar) this year and 135 (US-Dollars) million next season, to rein in runaway spending by the biggest teams and level the playing field.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said on Friday that the governance looked solid, with anyone not compliant being referred to a cost cap adjudication panel with independent judges who then decide penalties.

He said every 1 million (US-Dollar) overspend translated into a material advantage on the track.

“Even if it is a so-called minor breach that can be below 5%, you can spend seven million more than everybody else,” said Wolff, whose team’s record run of eight constructors’ titles in a row is set to be ended by Red Bull this year.

“What that means is if this is a light penalty we will all be pushing that 5% more going forward,” added the Austrian, who has angered Red Bull by voicing doubts about their spending.

“We have a pool of 140 million (US-Dollar). If you’re spending five or 10% more than everybody else, that’s many, many tenths of a second so you’re fighting (in) a different league if you have been pushing the limit upwards.”

Williams team boss Jost Capito agreed with Mekies, saying: “It is a test, a very important one because if we don’t do it now we will continue to try to avoid it. We need to be stringent on it, what is written down,” he said.