Lotus F1’s original operation failed in 1994 after Johnny Herbert was innocently knocked out at the first turn of the Italian Grand Prix, having qualified fourth in a final attempt to save the team. Granted, Lotus had been on a slippery slope for some time, but Herbert felt he could have scored a podium to save the team without the entanglement, with the crash effectively being the last nail in the coffin.
The Surtees team failed to fully recover after Jody Scheckter knocked out the three cars entered by “Big John” in the 1973 British Grand Prix, which until its last days blamed the South -African initially savage for the possible disappearance of his eponymous team. Other factors played a role in the fate of the team as well, but without this multiple crash they might have survived to fight many more seasons.
The direct and peripheral financial costs of accidents in motorsport have long been considered “part of the game” and borne by competitors regardless of their culpability (if any) in the incidents, nor, above all, on the impact. any that these may have had on team owners. These are just two examples, with a plethora of stories replete with teams – competing at all levels – who have been forced to go out of business after being innocently wiped out.
However, at no time was there any question of reparation, and it is indeed likely that any civil lawsuit would have had the effect of getting rid of a civil court on the grounds that accidents – and, by extension, injuries. damage costs incurred – are part of the risk to be incurred. It was really a matter of permanent heat or getting out of the kitchen.
The outlook has changed with the introduction of the Formula 1 budget cap, which limits the amount that teams can spend on actual racing activities in a season, whether or not they have the additional funds available to pay. damage. Mercedes team boss Toro Wolff was the first to hint at the financial impact – in other words, curtailing some planned activities – after George Russell crashed into Valtteri Bottas at Imola.
âOur car is write-off in a cost-cap environment,â Wolff said. âIt’s definitely not what we needed. This will probably limit the upgrades we are able to make.
Following the infamous accident between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at Silverstone, the latter’s Red Bull team boss Christian Horner also referred to the financial implications: âThe other important factor is the element of cost caps. This crash cost us around $ 1.8million (Â£ 1.3million) and an accident like this has massive ramifications in the era of budget caps. “
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Things for Red Bull turned from bad to worse last Sunday in Hungary, where Bottas unleashed a multi-car pile-up that took Sergio Perez’s car and damaged Verstappen’s as well, although he reached the flag in the points.
This prompted Horner to ask F1 to âreviewâ the list of items included âwith the FIA. “It’s something that can affect all teams, not just Red Bull,” he added.
Although Wolff and Horner pointed out the implications, they did not suggest the next logical step – that some sort of grievance procedure should be in place for injured teams. This was however raised after the race by Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto after Charles Leclerc’s engine was damaged at the Hungaroring when Lance Stroll clumsily struck it.
“I think it is interesting to discuss in the near future with the other team managers, the FIA ââand F1,” Binotto said. âObviously, if you’re not to blame, having such damage in the budget cap is something that’s even more of a consequence now.
âShould we add exemptions? I think it can be very difficult to be watched. But I think what can be considered is that if a driver fails, the driver’s team should at least pay the other teams for the damage and repairs. It will make drivers more responsible.
This, of course, goes against the convention of F1 and potentially opens up a box of worms with massive ripple effects all the way downstream: once a precedent is set in F1, it invariably spills over into other categories.
You can absolutely see Binotto’s point if you look at it from the point of view of an injured team; on the other hand, it requires stewards – the judges in any incident – to assign blame on a percentage basis for a claim to be accepted.
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This in turn will lead to an increase in appeals and / or requests for review, further complicating an already convoluted and lengthy process that could ultimately end up in civil courts, especially when the sums at stake run into the millions. This begs the question: Should damages awarded by stewards be included in either cost cap?
Such a system could, however, be easily formulated and implemented by categorizing all incidents on a scale of one to four, with drivers (or teams) convicted on a 25/75 (partly to blame, the other mainly), 50/50 (no claims), 100/0 (fully), with additional splits for accidents involving multiple cars. An evaluator appointed by the FIA ââwould have access to a team’s cost accounts and award damages accordingly.
The complexity does not lie in the formulation of such a process but in its implementation. This raises further questions: Does such a process conflict with F1’s ‘let them run’ philosophy? What to do in the event of intra-team incidents? Do stewards demand that the driver most “at fault” compensate his own team and what appeal procedures should be followed?
The chatter about accident costs and compensation claims is, at this point, a direct result of the budget cap and therefore little more than guesswork. Ultimately, any complaints process is likely to have major ramifications for the overall structures and integrity of the sport while being very complex to implement. Thus, it is unlikely that compensation will be introduced anytime soon.
That said, similar words were said 15 years ago when budget caps were first tabled, and in 2021 they became a harsh but welcome reality. Ditto HANS, halo and sprint qualifiers, all of which were initially strongly opposed before being implemented. On this basis, it is not inconceivable that some form of compensation will be introduced in F1 as soon as possible.
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