F1 costs are falling
Although Formula One teams appear to be working more frantically than ever to improve their cars on a race-by-race basis, McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe has insisted that efforts behind the scenes to cut costs are just as strenuous.
Last summer, the sport was almost ripped apart by a stand-off that developed between the FIA and teams over the governing body's attempts to impose a budget cap. Following the threat of the Formula One Teams' Association to launch a breakaway series, however, a contract was eventually agreed to bring costs down to 'early 1990s levels' by 2011.
One high profile cost-cutting measure seen already is the refueling ban and yet, three races into the 2010 season, teams appear locked in the usual battle to develop their cars - one that sometimes can appear more frenetic than events on track - with concepts such as McLaren's own 'F-duct' also being investigated by rivals.
However, Lowe has said that appearances are deceptive and stressed that research and development budgets are in fact coming down as a result of a number of caps agreed between teams.
Speaking during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, Lowe said: "The teams agreed a contract which is called the 'Resource Restriction Agreement'. That does ramp in a set of caps: we've got the wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) caps which we've been running for well over a year now and we've got external expenditure and headcount caps. The caps have a glide path so they ramp in over last year, this year and next year.
"We are all working to those, I hope - we certainly are at McLaren - and they have involved us being much more precise and measured in how we use the different elements of the budget in those categories.
"So although it might not appear that things have changed, they have. They will get tougher - we're in the middle year now. It will be tougher over the next 12 months."
Lowe also claimed the perception that little has changed in regard to F1's traditional 'arms race' was good for the sport - both in terms of the spectacle it provides and its underlying competitive ethos.
He added: "We still have to put on a good show - some interest and spectacle. It's a sport to provide entertainment and interest and excitement, so the last thing we want is the appearance of having all turned into dinosaurs that don't do anything.
"I would hope we could still continue by being more efficient. We're already finding great efficiencies through just focusing our efforts in that direction. Things are changing behind the scenes and in a sense if you say you can't see the changes then that should be a good thing."