Grand Prix racing’s chiefs are hoping to push on with plans to hold six sprint races this year, following the success of the experiments at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos in 2021.
However, the green light has not yet been given because teams have yet to agree with F1’s commercial rights holder on a funding package for the races.
It is understood teams were paid an extra $100,000 per event for each sprint in 2021. They were also given a cost cap allowance of $450,000 for the three events, plus scope for an extra $100,000 per car for accident damage in the event of a serious incident.
For this year, it is understood that F1 does not want to offer any extra allowance for crashes. Instead, its initial offer was a straight $500,000 payment per team for the first five events, plus an extra $150,000 for each event above that. This effectively meant an extra $2.65 million for each team for the six races in 2022.
It is understood that this offer has not gone down well with the bigger teams who are at the limit of the cost cap and are worried it is not enough. They fear that the addition of extra sprint costs could force them to compromise in what they can devote to pure performance improvements in the event of crashes.
According to Brown, one unidentified team wants the cost cap limit raised by $5 million dollars instead of what is on offer.
However, the smaller squads believe that calls for the cost cap to go up by such a margin are simply a cover for the bigger squads to spend more on making their cars go quicker rather, than being necessary for the sprint races.
The ongoing failure to find a middle ground is a problem for F1 because, with just a few weeks to go ahead of the first F1 race of the season, the dispute over the money risks derailing the sprint race plans entirely.
F1’s current governance structure means that, for the rules to change in the current year, then it needs a ‘super majority’ of 28 votes from the 30 representatives in the F1 Commission.
While the 10 votes each from F1 and FIA are guaranteed, getting eight teams to back the idea could be a problem with it understood that Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari are the most concerned about the situation – and could force the hand of customer teams to support their stance.
Brown, whose team is happy with the current financial package on offer, is worried that there is a danger of a couple of outfits pulling rank and scuppering the sprint idea completely.
Asked how F1 can get out of the impasse over money, Brown said: “We might not, which would be the unfortunate thing.”
Brown was far from happy with the push being made by bigger spending outfits to try to push up the cost cap limit.
“We all have the same challenge,” he said. “If you do happen to have more incidents, that's the same problem we all have. And to me that's part of the sport. It is dealing with challenges: not I just want to solve it by getting my chequebook out.”
He added: “One team in particular wanted a $5 million budget cap increase, which was just ridiculous, and had no rational facts behind it.
“Then, when you challenge those facts, they go, ‘but you need to anticipate things just in case’. So you just sit there and you go: ‘That is just nonsense.’”
With the battlelines drawn, Brown believes the best approach may well be to ditch plans for sprints in 2022 and instead focus on getting approval for 2023 – where only six teams would need to support the plans because only an overall majority is needed for long term rule changes.
“I'd like us not to run into a situation where we're voting for 2022, where we have to get back to eight votes, because we passed a milestone date,” he said.
“I think we should go ahead and lock in now 2023, with no budget cap raise at all, if you want to be hard about it.
“Then maybe either there can be a compromise made and we can raise it a little bit so we can go ahead and start with 2022, or we skip 2022. And then I think a couple of these teams should have to explain to the fans why there's no sprint races.”