McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes the reluctance of big teams to agree to significant changes in Formula 1 threatens the overall future of the sport.
Teams are trying to reach an agreement over a lower budget cap than the initial $175 million that was written into the the regulations — to be introduced in 2021 — last year, and while the figure of $145m was approved, many smaller teams want to drive that number even lower. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has pushed back because he says his team would have to reallocate staff and has even suggested two-tier budget caps, but Brown is unhappy that the overall health of the sport is not being prioritized.
“What’s frustrating me is we have the ability to not only survive in these times but ultimately come out and thrive,” Brown told RACER. “The sport has been out of balance really forever, and things don’t go on forever if you have a ‘We’re too big to fail’ mentality.
“Maybe because I’ve been around the sport for so long before running a team that I have a bit of a ‘put the sport first’ mindset, and I think there’s a real opportunity here to level the playing field, which is what the fans want. And not only level the playing field but making sure the players can play, because it’s tough times and while the wealth on the grid is kind of as strong as ever, I think the people that own teams, if they don’t feel they have a shot at being competitive then why are they in the sport?
“I think there are a couple of teams that can afford this crisis more than others but I think they run a real risk of — at the extreme — putting the sport out of business. So it’s very frustrating to see that they don’t see the bigger picture that we can make the pie bigger — maybe they have a slightly smaller piece of the pie but the pie’s a lot bigger, than having the entire pie but the pie might be real small if we keep up our old habits.”
While critical of Ferrari’s unwillingness to accept a lower budget cap, Brown says progress has been made over the past week due to moves by the FIA.
“Yeah I’m very optimistic. I think the FIA and Formula 1 recognize the situation we’re in and are pushing very hard to get the budget cap down in the neighborhood in which the majority of the teams need it to be to operate. So I think they recognize the issue and I’ve been really happy with how hard they’ve been pushing.
“You see the FIA at the World (Motor Sport) Council meeting last week put through a kind of special circumstances vote to be able to lower the threshold, and I think that’s all them looking to push through what is the right level of spend for the sport to make sure we have a sport coming out of this. And then I believe the sport’s going to be healthier, which will be a better product for fans.”
Listen to the full interview below: