Brown: There’s an opportunity here to level the playing field

The opposition of big teams must not deter the FIA from implementing its proposed budget cap reduction if it wants to safeguard the future of Formula 1, says McLaren CEO Zak Brown.

With F1 on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown and McLaren are reportedly leading the push to get 2021’s budget cap lowered even more than the already agreed-upon decrease from $175 to $145 million, but face significant resistance from Ferrari and Red Bull.

Having expressed their disagreement on the basis of staff sizes and role as suppliers to other teams, the two F1 titans have instead suggested the sport implement measures such as a two-tier cap or customer cars if the rest of the grid wants to save more money.

It’s an argument that according to Brown, misses the larger point.

“What’s frustrating me is we have the ability to not only survive in these times but ultimately come out and thrive,” Brown explained to Racer. “The sport has been out of balance really forever, and things don’t go on forever if you have a ‘We’re too big to fail’ mentality.

“Maybe because I’ve been around the sport for so long before running a team that I have a bit of a ‘put the sport first’ mindset, and I think there’s a real opportunity here to level the playing field, which is what the fans want.

“And not only level the playing field but making sure the players can play, because it’s tough times and while the wealth on the grid is kind of as strong as ever, I think the people that own teams, if they don’t feel they have a shot at being competitive then why are they in the sport?

“I think there are a couple of teams that can afford this crisis more than others but I think they run a real risk of — at the extreme — putting the sport out of business. So it’s very frustrating to see that they don’t see the bigger picture that we can make the pie bigger — maybe they have a slightly smaller piece of the pie but the pie’s a lot bigger, than having the entire pie but the pie might be real small if we keep up our old habits.”

In any case, Brown is optimistic that the FIA’s recent introduction of a ‘safeguard’ clause in its sporting regulations will see his side get their way.

“I think the FIA and Formula 1 recognize the situation we’re in and are pushing very hard to get the budget cap down in the neighborhood in which the majority of the teams need it to be to operate,” he said.

“So I think they recognize the issue and I’ve been really happy with how hard they’ve been pushing.

“You see the FIA at the World [Motor Sport] Council meeting last week put through a kind of special circumstances vote to be able to lower the threshold, and I think that’s all them looking to push through what is the right level of spend for the sport to make sure we have a sport coming out of this. And then I believe the sport’s going to be healthier, which will be a better product for fans.”