For the first time in the sport’s history, Formula 1 is implementing a salary cap.
On Oct. 31, the renowned motorsport organization announced a vast series of rule changes for the upcoming 2021 season.
They’re meant to increase competitiveness by reducing the gap between the teams at the top and teams in the back of the pack, more commonly known as “backmarkers.” These changes include redesigning cars to be simpler and more aerodynamic, introducing slimmer tires and setting a limit on how much a team can spend on developing their cars.
This cost cap is set at $175 million and operates similar to that of a salary cap in sports such as the NHL and NFL. According to Formula 1’s website, the $175 million will cover only the costs relating to the production of a team’s cars. It will not cover costs relating to driver salaries or marketing, which remains up to a team’s discretion.
This means that teams with large amounts of capital will spend up to the same amount to engineer their cars as teams that may have smaller facilities or a lesser amount of sponsors. The cost cap system will go through a “dummy run” next season, as the governing body of Formula 1, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), will test out how effective its implementation will be. When the 2021 season arrives, they’ll be the ones enforcing the cost cap and punishing teams that violate the agreement by potentially handing out fines, race disqualifications and exclusions from the Constructors Championship.
As an unconfident fan of a Formula 1 backmarker team, RoKit Williams Racing, these rule changes have further reinvigorated my love for the sport. No longer will the teams with the most sponsors and market appeal get the best cars. Similar to the years prior to the introduction of the salary cap in MLB, it gets boring seeing the same teams winning all the time. Lewis Hamilton and his team, Mercedes AMG, win race after race, title after title. He’s the Tom Brady of Formula 1, and his team is the Patriots. While Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have pulled together some formidable results the past few seasons, teams like Renault, McLaren and Racing Point are perpetually stuck in the middle of the pack because of their inferior development and testing budgets to the larger teams.
And then, there’s my team: Williams.
They used to be the best of the best, dominating throughout the ’80s and ’90s with nine Constructor’s Championships through that span, with their most recent title win in 1997. They’ve employed some of the best drivers in the sport, including Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna. Since then, the fabled British team has faded into obscurity, producing some solid results in the early 2000’s and mid-2010’s before slowly declining to the lovable, pokey backmarkers we see today. I’ve considered switching allegiances time and time again this season with their same mediocre 19th and 20th place finishes for nearly every race, yet I keep refraining.
With the new cap, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. With visions of Williams and other midfielders and backmarkers finally getting a chance to challenge the big boys at the front, I’m ecstatic for the 2021 season to arrive.