Mike Stevens | May 1, 2009

Formula One is set for a massive shake-up after the FIA confirmed the sport will operate under a voluntary £40 million budget cap next season.

Teams operating within the cap will be granted greater scope for innovation, safeguarding against claims an enforced budget will reduce F1’s ability to develop cutting edge technologies.

However, key members of the F1 paddock believe the new regulations will create an unofficial two-tier championship, replicating the period during the 1980s when teams were split by turbo and naturally-aspirated engines.

Mercedes-Benz McLaren 2009
Photo by dSLRartist

While supportive of measures to reduce costs in F1, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the introduction of a cap, and two sets of rules, may not be ideal.

“We understand that some teams' operational budgets may still be unnecessarily high in the challenging global economic situation in which we now find ourselves,” he said.

"Nonetheless, we believe that the optimal solution - which may or may not include a budget cap, but which ideally would not encompass a two-tier regulatory framework - is most likely to be arrived at via measured negotiation between all parties.”

AUTO WILLIAMS F1 (2)
Williams boss Frank Williams.

The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) will meet next week to discuss the cap, with Williams boss Frank Williams saying the group will promote the use of a single set of regulations.

“Williams has supported the introduction of a budget cap since the idea was first put forward early in 2008,” he said. “Since then FOTA has made tremendous steps forward on costs but the rationale for a budget cap has also grown even stronger.

“We would like to see all the teams operating to one set of regulations and under a budget cap in 2010 and that is the position we will be advocating within FOTA when we meet next week.”

The budget cap will not cover all aspects of a team’s operations however, with the FIA making numerous exceptions.

Costs related to marketing and promotion, driver salaries, young driver programs and engines (2010 only) will be exempt from the cap, allowing teams to continue attracting the best drivers on the globe while maintaining Formula One’s glamorous image.

Meanwhile, the FIA also announced next year’s grid will be open to 13 teams, with expressions of interest from new outfits required by late May.

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