Red Bull budget cap breach constitutes cheating says McLaren boss

(Motorsport) McLaren boss Zak Brown has written a letter to Formula 1’s governing body FIA to say that Red Bull’s budget cap breach for the 2021 season “constitutes cheating” and has called for penalties that will affect the team financially and on the track. The letter, dated October 12 is addressed to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and has also been sent to F1 president Stefano Domenicali. The letter was also sent to other teams who have not committed a budget cap breach such as Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine, Alfa Romeo and Haas. 

In the letter, Brown said that FIA should "communicate subsequent action and penalties at pace to maintain the integrity of F1. Any team who has overspent has gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year's car development,” he wrote. The FIA had said that Red Bull had committed a “minor” breach under F1's financial regulations – as well as a procedural breach. The dividing line of what constitutes a “minor” and “major” breach is 5% of the cap – or $7.25m in 2021. The FIA are yet to commit on the penalty that Red Bull will incur for the breach while Aston Martin have also been found guilty of a procedural breach.

In the letter, Brown said “The overspend breach, and possibly the procedural breaches, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting and financial regulations. The FIA has run an extremely thorough, collaborative and open process. We have even been given a one-year dress rehearsal (in 2020), with ample opportunity to seek any clarification if details were unclear. So, there is no reason for any team to now say they are surprised. The bottom line is any team who has overspent has gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year's car development. We don't feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach. There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA. 

“We suggest that the overspend should be penalised by way of a reduction to the team's cost cap in the year following the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspend plus a further fine – ie an overspend of $2m in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a $4m deduction in 2023 ($2m to offset the overspend plus $2m fine). For context, $2m is (a) 25-50% upgrade to (an) annual car-development budget and hence would have a significant positive and long-lasting benefit. In addition, we believe there should be minor overspend sporting penalties of a 20% reduction in CFD and wind tunnel time. These should be enforced in the following year, to mitigate against the unfair advantage the team has and will continue to benefit from.

“To avoid teams accumulating and benefiting from the multiplier effect of several minor overspend breaches, we suggest that a second minor overspend breach automatically moves the team to a major breach. Finally, given the financials involved, a 5% threshold for a minor overspend breach seems far too large of a variance. We suggest a lower threshold, 2.5%, is more appropriate. It is paramount that the cost cap continues to be governed in a highly transparent manner, both in terms of the details of any violations and related penalties It will also be important to understand if, after the first full year of running and investigating the scheme, there needs to be further clarity on certain matters or any key learnings. Again, any insights or learnings should be shared across all teams – there can be no room for loopholes." 

Also read: Formula 1: Red Bull Racing found guilty of minor cost cap breach


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