Start, Suzuka, 2019

Will cost cap row overshadow Verstappen’s coronation? Five Japanese GP talking points

2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Of the many races that Formula 1 has had to forgo since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka was among the most sorely missed.

This weekend, Japanese fans finally get their long-overdue opportunity to finally enjoy an F1 grand prix in their homeland once again – and with a Japanese driver for them to cheer on as well.

Here are the talking points for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Cost cap controversies

Last season, the FIA introduced its financial regulations to govern F1 for the first time. Setting a maximum team budget spend of $145 million for the entirety of 2021, it was the first big step towards a new vision of F1, intended to generate greater parity and reward engineering ingenuity and skill, rather than allow teams to simply spend their way to the title.

The FIA is expected to confirm any cost cap infringements today
However, discussions around the budget cap are likely to dominate discourse as the FIA is widely expected to announce that not all of the 10 teams adhered to its rules last year. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff last week described the situation as an “open secret” in the paddock.

Speculation over the FIA’s procedure reached such a pitch that the governing body put out a statement insisting it is continuing to follow its procedures and will announce any breaches this week. Reports claim Red Bull and Aston Martin are the two teams to have infringed the rules.

This marks an important moment for F1 and the FIA. Not just because of what potential punishments the FIA’s adjudication panel may elect to hand any teams considered guilty of a breach and how they could affect those teams for this and next season, but also because the integrity of the cap could be fatally undermined if any sanctions are considered too lenient.

Although the potential infringements in question occured last year, the scope of any advantage gained isn’t necessarily limited to 2021, as teams were developing their current cars at the time. The timing of the FIA’s findings is therefore particularly unfortunate as it could coincide with the outcome of the world championship.

The last time F1 raced at Suzuka in 2019, both of Renault’s cars – driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg – were disqualified from the final results after their brake bias system was considered to have breached the technical regulations. Last weekend Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur pointed out that the FIA readily disqualifies drivers for failing scrutineering tests by millimetres and other fine margins. Expect heated discussions in the Suzuka paddock if any teams are thought to have been let off lightly for cost cap infringements.

Take two for Verstappen

Max Verstappen’s first opportunity to clinch his second world championship title last weekend was not only unsuccessful, it proved to be a rare ‘down’ weekend for the Red Bull driver in 2022. He finished a lowly seventh while team mate Sergio Perez netted his second win of the year.

Verstappen could clinch the title this weekend
But while Verstappen’s chances of sealing the championship in Singapore were always slim, relying on poor results for Perez and Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s destiny is in his own hands this weekend. If he can secure victory and the bonus point for fastest lap, he will be a two-time world champion when he steps atop the Suzuka podium. A victory for Verstappen is not the only way he can put the title out of reach, but it is by far the most likely scenario.

Having had his five-race winning streak halted by his team mate, Verstappen will be eager to bounce back with a strong result this weekend. If he does take the title on Sunday, there will be a special symmetry – as Suzuka was the circuit in which Verstappen first participated in an official F1 session back in 2014, at the tender age of just 17.

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Honda homecoming

Last December, at the end of seven tumultuous, often painful, seasons of their F1 power unit programme, Honda finally achieved the goal they had set themselves when they joined F1 as a new maufacturer for the V6 turbo era – powering a driver to a world championship title.

Honda never got to race this special livery at Suzuka
And in typical Honda fashion, once they appeared to have finally achieved greatness, the Japanese manufacturer promptly departed the sport as a first-party power unit supplier, handing operation of their engines to partners Red Bull and their new Red Bull Powertrains division.

Despite their brand no longer appearing on the Red Bull as prominently as it once did, Honda still play an important role with Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s programmes, and will continue to until 2025. Powering Verstappen to his second world championship will be an immense source of pride, particularly if he clinches it in their backyard.

Singapore winner Perez admitted he felt it would be more fitting for his team mate to take the crown at Suzuka as a tribute to Honda at the circuit they still own today. While the history books will recognise Red Bull as having achieved both world championships manufacturing their own power units, expect the team to give more than a nod to their partners this weekend.

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Tsunoda’s home race

For the first time since Kamui Kobayashi raced with Caterham during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, a Japanese driver will compete in their home grand prix this weekend: AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

This will be Tsunoda’s first home grand prix
Having been confirmed at the team for a third season in 2023, the thousands of passionate motorsport fans who will flock to Suzuka’s world-famous turns know this won’t be their only opportunity to watch the young driver flying the Japanese flag.

They will, however, be hoping for a good performance from the 22-year-old, who has had some difficult moments during his second year in F1, including crashing out of Sunday’s race at Singapore.

It will only be the fourth time Tsunoda has raced around the most famous of Japanese circuits – all three previous occasions coming in Japanese Formula 4 between 2016 and 2018. Tsunoda, who won the F4 title at the track on his last visit, still holds that series’ track record around the circuit. But when he arrives back there this weekend, he will be lapping around half a minute faster than that 2’06.779 lap.

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Constructors’ championship heats up

This year’s constructors’ championship title looks just as secure for Red Bull as the drivers’ championship does for Verstappen. However, last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix changed the dynamic of the midfield in no small way.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Singapore, 2022
Aston Martin are moving up the standings
As Alpine suffered from a double power unit failure that eliminated both of their drivers, McLaren’s fourth and fifth place finish for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo moved the team back ahead of Alpine into fourth in the standings for the first time since Austria. Further down the table, Aston Martin also jumped from ninth in the standings to seventh, courtesy of a double points finish for Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel.

Aston Martin have now enjoyed five points finishes in the last six races for Stroll and Vettel combined. With Haas and AlphaTauri equal on points now, both just three behind Aston Martin, every minor points finish becomes vital to potential finishing positions over the final five rounds of the season.

Similarly, if Aston Martin can continue to poach decent points hauls, then sixth-placed Alfa Romeo may start to grow concerned about the 15-point gap between themselves and Aston Martin. The Italiam team has only scored a single point in the last eight rounds, so it could be a tense and exciting final few rounds in the midfield.

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Are you going to the Japanese Grand Prix?

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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50 comments on “Will cost cap row overshadow Verstappen’s coronation? Five Japanese GP talking points”

  1. Doubt anything big will come from the cost cap. A 1 million overspend will be a small slap on the wrist for RedBull.

    I’m unsure of where the story started but it seems it’s fully fictional and every team will get their compliance forms today without issue. The only argument may be why and how it became such a big talking point in the first place.

    1. Indeed what i already read everthing is solved and 1 team had a very minor overspend (Not Red Bull) I think the politic is trying to get over a team a bit too much. Liberty should remove those power from the teams otherwise we get the most strange things.

      I had read Red Bull uses 3 account companies to check each other and any saying they are wrong will be fought in court as name damaging. If the FIA was smart they used the same companies for every team so this problem never can happen.

    2. Either RB or any other team is found to have breached and will need to be penalized. Or Toto needs to be dealt with since he introduced the talking point based on information he isnt allowed or supposed to have yet (which in itself deserves an investigation)

      1. Not just Toto, Binotto and Marko as well. There needs to be a penalty on leaking internal stuff to the press, honestly. Fines or paddock bans shouldn’t be shunned. It’s getting beyond ridiculous and it makes the sport look like a complete joke.

        1. Fully agree. FIA should set a zero tolerance policy

    3. Its a big talking point because of the british tabloids and Toto who still can’t cope with last year. Btw did he apologize for the flexifloor rumors yet because I see an other apology comming

      1. Well sorry, but if this turns out to be yet another of his stories I feel an apology won’t do anymore. This is disturbing for the sport and triggers polarization across fans. Some accountability needs to be taken. But let’s see first, maybe he is right.

      2. Exactly. I realized he’s the main reason why I dislike Mercedes, not Hamilton.

    4. Clearly it’s sour grapes about 2021 from Toto and running a slander campaign to smear this season and deflect from their own failure as a team to product a challeger. It’s annoying as hell. It has become so personal for him with Red Bull so I suppose he’s trying to get a certain type of fan (you know the type) to want to put an asterisk next to any accomplishment Red Bull obtains.

      While Marko and Horner say inflammatory things and often engage in some trolling, Toto is by far the most toxic presence I’ve seen on the grid. Even some of the great villain bosses of the past don’t compare, because they weren’t doing their work in the public eye.

  2. Charliemagne Caballero
    5th October 2022, 7:41

    This all crap from Toto and Binotto is joining him to hide their frustrations because Redbull , Christian and Max humiliated them this year……

  3. After flexi floor another effort by Toto to spread misinformation when the information itself needed to be privileged should be investigated by FIA. Everyone knows why it was done my Mercedes in the 1st place, its politics 101, but this is getting dirty from Mercedes.

  4. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    5th October 2022, 9:17

    There were many team principles very upset by the idea that a team had broken the cost cap by a sizeable margin not just Toto. We were told there was a leak of the information, that would of come from someone at the FIA.

    The comments all over the internet were all about how big the penalty should be for the transgressor. Then the story changes to it being only very minor or procedural and now it is all Toto’s fault.


    It is also perverse that many on here think that it will still be okay should ORBR have gained the 2021 WDC by overspending by dubbing MB as sore losers; a team can cheat a championship but the rivals just have to take it on the chin.

    So now the furore has died down and the echos have subsided we just have to wait for the real truth, should the FIA wish to publish it today.

    1. It is also perverse that many on here think that it will still be okay should ORBR have gained the 2021 WDC by overspending by dubbing MB as sore losers; a team can cheat a championship but the rivals just have to take it on the chin.

      Did Red Bull win the 2021 championship due to exceeding the budget cap? Can it be proven?
      Spending more does not directly equate to winning more. There are many team expenses within the budget cap that don’t directly affect car performance or outcomes.

      And yes, other teams should take it on the chin. The decisions made by the FIA and the competing teams are not their concern – even though they spend an awful amount of time and effort making it seem so.

      1. Whether the overspending helped you to achieve better results makes no difference. Its not like “We just ordered some expensive pizza, and therefore it didnt make any difference.”.

        1. That’s the thing though – it’s a broken rule, but is it worthy of changing already-finalised results from the prior season?
          That’s for the FIA to decide – and I don’t think they’ll be in any hurry to nullify the 2021 championship result or award it to someone else.

      2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        5th October 2022, 12:24

        And yes, other teams should take it on the chin.

        Deliberately argumentative to garner a response.

        1. + 1 absolutely. The usual modus operandi.

        2. OK, you are absolutely right.
          They should sit in the corner and cry instead, because that’s what sport is all about, isn’t it.

    2. So MB has been dominant for years and finally a team develops a competative car that meets all te regulations. That must be cheating because maybe they spent to much money to catch up and that’s not fair to Lewis as he’s used driving a dominant car. Unbelievable

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        5th October 2022, 11:50

        If a team had a concept created withing the cap but then with a bit more effort found a better solution that required them to spend money that would take them over the cap then that is gaining an unfair advantage if allowed to stand.

        What everyone has been saying the whole world over in all sports is if I get beaten on a level playing field I will congratulate the winner and be magnanimous in defeat. If you find out sometime later in fact you weren’t on a level playing field it is correct to right the wrong.

        Unlike many I do not assume ORBR have overspent.

        1. If you want a sport with a level playing field you shouldn’t watch F1. It has 10 different cars with 20 drivers and only 2 of them are in the fatest car. The WDC is in that respect always overrated but last year Max fully deserved it as he didn’t have the dominant car. This year RB is the dominant car but that is hard to swallow for MB and they show poor sportmanship.

          1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
            5th October 2022, 14:05

            I am not referring to any team, driver or year. The level playing field is having a car that passes scrutineering and is built within the cost cap over the season.

            You seem to be triggered to just assume everyone is writing about MB or ORBR and answer that way.

          2. Sorry Andy that is exactly what you did in your first comment about 2021 WDC.

    3. The change to “it was only minor, it’s all Toto’s fault” is the usual attempts to deflect that Red Bull throw around.

    4. Many were upset, but not all immediately jumped on the PR button and started venting unfounded accusations. That was Toto (again), based on info he is not supposed to have. It feels appropriate to demand Toto’s departure from the sport IF it is again him using PR politics to discredit a competitor. How many times will we let him use these antics?

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        5th October 2022, 12:20

        So will you go if Toto stays?

      2. You are a partisan Verstapprn fan, like Trump supporters you can not accept when your team has done something wrong. If Red Bull overspent they deserve the penalty not To Wolff ffs. Politics has always been part of F1, Horner is just as nasty t it as Wolf, but you won’t say anything about Horner.

        1. Did they actually do anything wrong though? Do you just assume it to be true, because it is convenient, like a good Trump supporter would?

    5. A sensible summary of the situation I think. There should be some form of sanction for any overspending. A rule is a rule.

      1. This was meant to be a reply to the first comment by @andyfromsandy

  5. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    5th October 2022, 10:15

    I just hope that Red Bull hasn’t overspent, because if they have then there’s going to be no right answer on what to do.

    The fact that so many teams have kicked up a fuss is a worry, did the FIA leak it to judge the publics opinion?

    Fingers crossed it’s a nothing story to make up for the finished season.

    1. Apparently they overspent by £10m but on appeal they only overspent by 100k so just a small fine

      1. What does on appeal mean… Fudge the numbers? 10 million is worthy of exclusion from championship. 100,000 should get a 1 race ban for the team.

        1. If 10 mil is worthy of exclusion, 100k is only an in race penalty, it’s 100x less, a 5-10 sec time penalty.

    2. FIA interested in public opinion? That would be a first

  6. Problem is that even if Red Bull are 100% guilty and overspent by a huge margin (and tried to hide costs using a web of their multiple subsidiaries and Honda) we are in Liberty era of F1 now and they will put pressure on the FIA to bury this and hide Red Bulls cheating and not punish them, they’ll get away with cheating because RB and Max breaking the Merc Lewis domination cycle is good for ratings and ‘drama alert’ engagement that Liberty media are pushing for and succeeding at.

    The farce ending of the last race at AD 2021 is a perfect example how the rules will be allowed to be ‘broken’ if it adds to the spectacle, controversy and drama.

    We are not in totalitarian Mosley or wheeler dealer Bernie era of F1 anymore, this is the Liberty media Americanisation entertainment era of F1.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      5th October 2022, 14:04

      Yeah like Ferrari and Mercedes don’t have a complex web of accounting, probably even more extreme considering their special race car R&D departments as well as their normal road car R&D departments.

      Mercedes and Ferrari can far easier spend millions if not billions researching new technology, aerodynamics and downforce in secret for the F1 cars but hide it in the next Ferrari road/sports car or Mercedes AMG/S class projects.

      How much money was spend into Mercedes AMG ONE that could also have helped the F1 project.

  7. Cost cap controversies – The rumbling will likely continue throughout the event.
    Take two for Verstappen – Supposing he wins should he get an issue-free race, the championship-clinching isn’t entirely in his control as a mere race win automatically is enough only if Leclerc doesn’t finish 2nd.
    Honda homecoming – Perhaps they’d reuse the special livery from the last Turkish GP, albeit unlikely.
    Tsunoda’s home race – With him on the grid, I expect a great atmosphere, although this is always the case in Suzuka, even more so this time as a Japanese driver hasn’t raced in the Japanese GP for a while.
    Constructors’ championship heats up – Yes, especially from P4 downwards.

    1. I’m also interested in the battle between ferrari and merc, as well as their drivers’ battle in the other championship.

    2. “Cost cap controversies – The rumbling will likely continue throughout the event.”

      Not in general it wont – merely between some Mercedes fans. Most fans don’t really believe the big factory teams adhere to the cost cap rules anyway… In particular it will be of close to zero importance if the championship is decided this week.

      “the championship-clinching isn’t entirely in his control as a mere race win automatically is enough only if Leclerc doesn’t finish 2nd.”

      How do you figure that? VER has a 104 point lead over LEC and a 106 point lead over PER as the only two alternatives with a theoretical chance of winning. So any result with VER finishing ahead of LEC and no more than one point behind PER will make it impossible for any driver to catch up with him with only 4 races remaining after Suzuki, right?

  8. Could be a second championship for Verstapprn that many race fans will consider being illegitimate

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      5th October 2022, 14:00

      You should phrase it like “That a few die hard sad British and/or Lewis fans in their own cave consider illegitimate.”

      The far majority of the happy rest of the world knows better and will call Max what he is, a deserving double world champion.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        5th October 2022, 14:09

        It won’t only be Lewis or MB fans that would consider it illegitimate should ORBR have broken the cost cap.

        Of course it is all speculation and I doubt ORBR have been caught spending more than they should. Therefore not illegitimate.

      2. Ofc in the netherlands the vast majority is happy with a gifted title, and call it a legit. But that does not add up to the far majority of F1 fans.

        1. Itsmeagain (@)
          5th October 2022, 19:19

          We all know some types like to stay in their bubble and think the vast majority sits here. Like some ‘fans’ here came to the conclusion (mid 2021) that that dutch brat must be the most hated driver ever. We all know what the outcome of the biggest F1 survey told us. Same for this. Of course, when you only read british media, you are unbiased, the rest has orange glasses….

        2. Apparently it’s not only in the netherlands and it’s not a gifted title, it would have been if hamilton won it as things were going.

  9. Wishful thinking of some racefans. Budged cap has borders but bordercrossing will be tolerated and only reprimanded in F1 style if it is minor. (Couple of millions or less) So abandon all hope Islanders.

  10. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    5th October 2022, 14:13

    Who will be first to declare they got their certificate of poverty? i.e. they couldn’t spend more than $145 million!

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