The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola was packed full of incidents. We’ve already written about Lewis Hamilton’s rare mistake that saw him carefully reversing out of a gravel trap, but the biggest drama of all came from his teammate Valtteri Bottas while battling for ninth place with Williams’ George Russell.
The 200mph entanglement sent both cars into the barriers, littering the track with debris and bringing out a red flag. Thankfully neither driver was seriously injured, but the news wasn’t so rosy for the cars. Mercedes-AMG F1 has since revealed that the damage bill for Bottas’ stricken W12 will weigh in at a cool £1 million. The chassis and power unit should be able to run again, but little else could be salvaged.
For a team like Merc, this wouldn’t normally be an issue, but there’s a big difference this year - a $145m (£104 million) cost cap. This covers development, construction and race costs, and with Mercedes struggling to stay under the figure, a big bill like this is rather unwelcome.
Even the small amount of damage done to Hamilton’s car in the race caused concern. Motorsport quotes Merc engineering chief Andrew Shovlin as saying:
“If you have a series of these kind of large accidents that are doing significant damage, and this has been bad for us, because we’ve had a front wing with Lewis as well, then that will definitely exceed our allocation for what we have available to spend on the parts.
“In an ideal world, you run them to life, you don’t break them, anything that you do break, hopefully it’s end of life or something that is about to be obsolete. But that is definitely not the case here.
“So it is really a factor of the cost cap, and the money has got to come from somewhere. Ultimately if it becomes a big problem, it can start to hit your development budget. So we do need to be mindful of that moving forward.”
A complete write-off, Shovlin says, is the ultimate fear, but thankfully that was avoided this time. Already, the W12 is designed to be more cost-effective - it’s made from a repurposed W11 chassis, Motorsport says, and the car uses more steel in its construction than its predecessor, replacing some of the spendy carbon fibre.
While Mercedes isn’t in trouble imminently, any future big hits could start to cause some serious issues, particularly as it looks like the battle with Red Bull is going to be a lot closer this year. A development war with an arch rival isn’t going to be cheap, particularly during a 23-race-long calendar.
Feature image via YouTube screenshot/Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team