Thought leadership series
Steiner: F1 mustn't row back on cost cut plans
Formula 1 must not row back on its recent drive to cut costs when the world's economic situation kicks back into gear, says Haas boss Gunther Steiner.
Speaking in the latest #thinkingforward series of interviews to discuss motor racing's management and leadership in these unprecedented times, Steiner said it is essential F1 stays committed to the positive action it has taken with moves to reduce spending.
He suggests that F1's stakeholders need to not forget the challenges everyone has faced in recent months, and so remain fully behind a new impetus to secure the long-term future of all teams on the grid.
"We came together and decided on a budget cap, a lower one and it is a good initiative," said Steiner. "We decided very quickly that we take the car forward from this year to next year… and the 2022 regulations should make the car cheaper.
"I think we learned already some [lessons from it]. Now, we need to make sure that we don't forget about and then, when the good times come, the first thing we do is, 'oh let's discuss about taking the budget cap up again, or take it away'.
"I don't think it will happen. But I will keep it in my mind that we shouldn't be doing it. And that is how we come out stronger."
One of the key lessons that Steiner says he has taken from the coronavirus lockdown is how teams and business have left themselves with too little margin in the good times.
"In the end what it shows to me is that as businesses, we are too much on the edge," he said. "Any little distraction takes us off the edge, you know, which isn't good.
"We don't have any reserve fuel in the tank, I would say. And I'm not referring just to money, I think on everything. You're just not thinking that there could be a bump on the road, you're just thinking it's smooth sailing all the way."
With F1 having introduced a 'New Deal' package of rules aimed at reducing costs and closing up the grid, Steiner is optimistic that, while the top three teams will still hold an advantage into the new rules era from 2022, that they will not be totally out of reach.
"We shouldn't expect in 2022 that everybody is equal, I think it will take a few years because the advantage the big teams have with their resources is pretty good…. And it's also knowledge they acquired over the last 20 years.
"So, I think they will still have an advantage. But in the end, I think, if you do a good job, just make a fast car, then it should get you there.
"I mean, it should take you there. Maybe not to win races but to have the chance to go on the podium, and a realistic chance: not just one that you need to be fortunate that at the right time at the right place, then you make it."
Although the impact of a reduced cost cap will not make any difference to Haas' own spending, Steiner thinks it will be a huge benefit to everyone in F1.
"The gap to the big teams is about $150-100 million for a small team," he said. "In the future it will be maybe $20m or $30m. Is that not a good step? I would say yes. We didn't equalize it yet. But it's a good step, the gap is reduced by five times, which I think is a big achievement."
Return to racing
With the F1 season due to resume in Austria on July 5, Steiner says that there is genuine enthusiasm from all teams to finally get going again.
And he thinks staff will be well-prepared for the intense schedule where there will be runs of three consecutive races.
"Everybody was eager to go back to work because for a racer, who really loves what he's doing, not to do anything for three months, for all our people, for all the people in F1, it wasn't a pleasure not knowing what is going to happen," he said.
"We didn't know if F1 comes back this year, if the team comes back this year, so at least going back now racing, it's good for them. And seeing light at the end of the tunnel, they would be motivated to keep it on. So I think they will be complaining a lot less than they would have complained a year ago.
"I think that is genuine because they realize it's not plain sailing there. There was no buffer. There was no emergency exit here, you know. We just need to do what we're doing, head down and work."
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