In recent years, some major changes have been made to Formula 1. The budget cap is a much-discussed new factor at the highest level of motorsport, and 2021 also saw Formula 1’s first sprint race. This year the number of sprint races has increased from three to six, and the upcoming Grand Prix in Azerbaijan is also characterized by a separate qualifying session. F1Maximum spoke to analyst Peter Windsor and asked for his thoughts on these much-discussed topics.
The idea of the budget cap would be to bring the teams closer together. If that is indeed the case, then the drivers become extra important, and you should find the fastest drivers at the front of the field. “A lot of people predicted that at the time to ensure that the budget cap would be approved, but I’m not sure if that’s the case. I’ve always felt that a team is only as good as the people it hires and the money it has at its disposal to enable those people to do their job well.’ Windsor therefore believes that the competition will not immediately be leveled if the budgets are equal: ‘If you don’t have the right people on board, it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Craig Pollock has already proven that a million times with BAR, for example,” Windsor lashes out at the former team boss of the predecessor of the current Mercedes team.
“Teams that whined are still not performing well”
“If you look at a team that has successfully made the step from midfield to the top, it’s Aston Martin,” explains Windsor. ‘How did they do that? By spending more money, not by spending less money. You can’t say that Aston Martin has improved thanks to the budget cap, how could anyone say that? It’s just the opposite.’ Aston Martin already invested heavily in modernizing the infrastructure and attracting big names before the introduction of the budget cap.
Windsor sees that only Aston Martin has really managed to take a step, but the budget cap has caused few changes in the pecking order. “It is precisely the teams that kept nagging about the budget limits that are still not performing well. AlphaTauri, Williams and Haas, for example, are still where they were before, not much has actually changed,’ says Windsor. “It’s about the idea that Formula 1 seems to be saving money, but as long as they have ridiculously large motorhomes in the paddock, and as long as the drivers and engineers get the salaries they get, it hasn’t made much of a difference. As far as I’m concerned, the budget ceiling is more for the stage, and we should never have had it.’
Old sprint format not always fair
Since the introduction of sprint races, six Grands Prix have taken place that were preceded by a sprint race. “I’m not a fan of the sprint weekend,” Windsor opens. “We saw what happened in Brazil (in 2022, ed.), when Red Bull was wrong with the set-up. The ride heights were wrong, but they couldn’t do anything with it anymore because the car was in parc fermé from Friday. You could say that is good for Formula 1, because Mercedes (surprisingly, ed.) won, and Red Bull did not. But that’s so artificial, I don’t like that. I always want to see the fastest driver and fastest car win the race. I don’t care if the same driver wins all the races, as long as it’s a fair result.’
Windsor does realize that many new fans in particular do not agree with him, and prefer to see more spectacle. “I know there are a lot of people who like change and there are probably over a million people who think that Red Bull has already won too many races and hope that the sprint weekend brings a victory for Mercedes or Aston Martin or Ferrari.” thinks Windsor. ‘That can also happen just like that, because we have already seen how a team like Red Bull can be the victim of such a sprint weekend. Then Red Bull can say that they have learned from it and that this will not happen again, but there may be something else that prevents things from going as they should.’
Windsor is not afraid that the Saturday race already gives away a lot about who is fast on Sunday, but he still couldn’t enjoy the short races on Saturdays: “I’m always a bit nervous about sprint races because I don’t like it when a fast driver in a fast car is taken out in the first corner of a sprint race by someone who has a good start and then misses his braking point. The whole Grand Prix will then be destroyed,” Windsor refers to the old weekend format, where the drivers started on Sunday in the same positions as they finished the sprint race. The 71-year-old analyst is therefore pleased that both races now have a separate qualifying session, so that a driver does not immediately have to start his race on Sunday from a lower starting position if he has setbacks on Saturday.
By: Mark Hanselman (Twitter: @MarkHanselmanF1)