Former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has come out strongly against proposals to introduce a strict budget cap of $175 million per year starting with the 2021 season.
The idea is to stop the top teams from ‘buying their way to success’ by throwing money at problems and innovation. Formula 1 bosses hope that constraining spending will close up the field and make for tighter racing.
But Villeneuve is far from convinced, saying that it was wrong to skew the rules to favour smaller teams like Williams that have been struggling to keep up with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.
“What is the idea of helping the little ones who do not deserve it?” he told the Journal de Montréal in Austin at the weekend.
“Does an organisation like Williams have the right to go as fast as Mercedes or Ferrari?” he continued. “The answer is no, obviously.
“For me it’s pure socialism,” he fumed. “F1 deserves better than that. This situation will allow the poorest teams to continue to hire drivers who pay for their seats.”
Villeneuve won the 1997 title with Williams, but now had little sympathy for the plight in which the independent constructor finds itself.
Robert Kubica and George Russell are routinely found at the back of the grid, and the squad had managed to pick up just one championship point in 2019.
“Frankly in the way they have been working for a few years now, they are not in the same category [as the rest of the team],” Villeneuve complained.
The 48-year-old Canadian driver added that he very much doubted the proposed cost cap would help Williams anyway, at least not at the levels of expenditure that it will allow.
“Only the top three teams will spend the $ 175 million,” he stated. “The rest of the pack will not reach that ceiling.”
And Villeneuve pointed out that a one year wait before the new regulations were introduced provided the big teams with a loop hole if they wanted to use it.
“[Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull] could spend a billion if they wanted to in 2020, to prepare for the next year,” he suggested.
In fact, Villeneuve questioned whether Williams even wanted to catch up with the top teams given that the current situation is proving to be quite acceptable in terms of corporate financed.
“Williams put about $16 million in their pockets last year while driving last. The management of the team is happy, its shareholders too. If they can make even more profit, they will be even happier.
“If, say, you impose a cap at $50 million, Williams would spend only 20 [million] to continue to stay at the bottom of the grid,” he suggested.
And in the final analysis, his view of the budget cap as a whole was characteristically clear and boldly stated: “All that is to say that this initiative is a joke. Nobody is a winner.”
And Villeneuve was no happier with the rest of the proposed new technical regulations that could see heavier cars going three to four seconds slower per lap.
“We do not care if they are slower, all you need to do is design cars that are hard to drive,” Villeneuve said. “The speed has nothing to do with the quality of the races.
“Now the cars will be heavier by 25kg. The heavier they are, the more stable they are, so it will not help,” he argued. “We need a show where the cars are lighter, more nervous. This will not be the case [with the new rules].
“In fact it’s not the ‘show’ that needs improvement anyway, as they claim. We must improve the sport. In particular we must allow more freedom to the teams.”
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