Smaller F1 teams fear loss of cost caps will lead to 'meltdown'

The Strategy Group have angered Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia by rejecting the idea

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The Independent Online

Hard on the heels of the brilliant Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Lewis Hamilton's narrow victory over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg undermined criticism that the new hybrid turbo cars make the racing boring, Formula One is facing fresh controversy after the FIA president, Jean Todt, announced last week that he has given up plans for a cost cap in 2015 because the six biggest teams do not want one.

Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams and Lotus, who sit on F1's Strategy Group, have angered the smaller outfits Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia by rejecting the idea. The latter quartet have written to Todt expressing their frustration and predicting a meltdown in the sport's supply infrastructure if steps to curb spending are not taken.

Criticising the lack of transparency and democracy in the decision-making process – factors on which Todt likes to pride himself – they have suggested it is anti-competitive, in breach of European law, and could constitute an illegal abuse of a dominant position.

"I'm serious when I say that there could be a meltdown soon," one of the smaller team's principals said here. "If one team goes under –, and more than one could – then the suppliers will have to make up their income shortfall with the other teams and there could be a risk that the suppliers too will fail because of lack of business, which ultimately could impact on the larger teams who would then face supply problems."

In a knee-jerk reaction Todt has called on representatives of all 11 teams to meet in Paris on 1 May for further discussions about costs.

Ironically, Force India's current giant-killing act leaves them in second place behind Mercedes in the world championship for constructors, showing that it isn't always necessary to outspend the opposition to succeed.

The Silverstone-based team's podium finish was one reason why Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo winced visibly and left Bahrain early, and after the resignation of team principal Stefano Domenicali on Monday, the scuderia's patriarch has pledged to help Domenicali's successor Marco Mattiacci.

The desperation within Ferrari was crystal clear when Montezemolo rashly promised: "I will help him, I will do like I did in the past: I will stay closer to Formula One. I'll spend more time on it. I'm putting myself on the line. Mattiacci is the right choice. We'll get back to winning ways very soon."

Ferrari star Fernando Alonso, who was close to Domenicali, should meet Mattiacci for the first time this weekend but said that they have yet to speak. "I don't know if he is coming here, I guess so," Alonso said. "It will be a good time to welcome him. I drive the car and hopefully he will be good enough to recognise what are the weak areas of the team and what are the strong areas."

While acknowledging that the new boss will need time to settle in, Alonso paid tribute to Domenicali's work and felt his resignation should be appreciated by the team.

"Stefano decided he was probably not in the mood to continue any more," he said. "He made a very responsible move. It is not easy when you have a very privileged position in an F1 team to be able to step back and say maybe it is better to move. He did, for Ferrari to improve and in their interest, so that is something that we cannot forget. We have to respect that decision."