Following the 11 day break since the Japanese GP, F1 returns this weekend for the US GP in Austin Texas. Yet the de ja vu feeling in and around the paddock is not regarding matters on track but the budget cap breach rowed that has been brewing since Singapore.
The FIA delayed announcing which teams were compliant with the 2021 financial regulations until a day after the Japanese GP, so for the paddock big beasts this will be their first opportunity to comment on the Red Bull breach.
Despite the FIA categorising the Milton Keynes team’s overspend as “minor” the pressure is mounting for Formula One’s governing body to punish Red Bull “hard” as Martin Brundle observed.
Hamilton ‘cost cap pointless’ in the future
The drivers’ at the press conferences were asked for their opinions on the matter and Lewis Hamilton was keen to oblige.
“I do think that sport needs to do something about this in the future otherwise, if it’s quite relaxed [the Red Bull punishment]…, then all the teams would just go over, spending millions more and then only having a slap on the wrist, is obviously not going be great for the sport.”
“They might as well not have a cost cap in the future.”
Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto were absent from the Japanese GP, but there was no intrigue surrounding this because Wolff explained previously, “I will start to skip a few races.
The whole team needs to look at it.It is not sustainable for anyone to do 24 races.
The drivers have to, but we start on Monday in the office and go through until the end of the week.”
Ferrari driver calls for Red Bull punishment
One of Binotto’s Ferrari drivers also weighed in on the Red Bull overspend.
“I just hope that if there’s a penalty the penalty is relatively important to take the appetite away from overspending 2 or 3 million to waste on next year’s car,” said Carlos Sainz.
“Because you think next year’s car is worth it more than the other year, and then you take a penalty for ignoring it. I don’t know, I just think it needs to be fair play for everyone.
“And if there’s a cost cap, it’s there to be followed and I just hope that the FIA takes the right decisions to make sure that everyone follows it.”
Cost cap working as intended
Carlos did observe that in general the cost cap is working as intended.
“That’s why years ago everyone was spending 350 million, or the top three teams were spending 350 million, and now we’re spending 150 to keep these things under control.”
The inference from Sainz’s comments about a team varying spending on “next years car…. or another” is that Red Bull overspent deliberately in 2021 because it was an important year to both win a title and design a great car for the radial new FIA 2022 regulations.
Bottas wants Red Bull “hurt”
Ex-Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas added his penn’th worth.
“I feel like rules are the rules and if you don’t follow them, there should be a penalty that really hurts because like Carlos said, you don’t want anyone to have the appetite to maximise something for one year and risking with a budget cap.”
“But then, I personally hope that it’s going to be a strict and harsh penalty because that shouldn’t happen: rules are the rules.”
Of course Bottas Alfa Romeo team is below the cost cap limit but because they don’t have enough income to overspend.
Vettel says striping Max of title “stupid”
F1 senior statesman Sebastian Vettel had a measured approach to the whole matter when it was suggested to him Red Bull’s Verstappen should be stripped of his 2021 title as punishment for his team’s overspend.
He described the notion as “stupid”.
But as TJ13 reported earlier this week, Red Bull will come out fighting this weekend and first up before the team principals appear before the media was Max Verstappen who did not pull his punches.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet but as a team, we know what we have to deal with and I think we were very clear on what we think was correct,” Verstappen stold Sky Italia.
“It’s still ongoing and at the end of the day it’s not my job – it’s between the team and the FIA.”
Verstappen calls Red Bull’s critics “hypocrites”
Referring to the furore surrounding Toto Wolff’s accusations of cheating and Zak Browns ‘leaked’ letter to the FIA, Verstappen explains its just how the F1 Piranha club has always operated. To kick a competitor and try to gain an advantage – even over public opinion.
“That’s how F1 works as well, everyone at the end of the day is a bit hypocritical. I’m fine with that. We just have to focus on our job.”
Of course the current process where Red Bull have been found in breach is not necessarily the final outcome.
Red Bull maintain their innocence
Christian Horner maintains the team’s submissions on 2021 spend were under the cost cap limit. It is the adjustments made by the FIA that have caused the limit to be subsequently declared in breach.
However, the “settlement agreement” process designed by the FIA to follow them declaring a team in prima facia breach of the financial regulations is not concluded.
The final “agreement” may well see the FIA back down and agree the additional items of spend they have identified – not included in the original Red Bull submission – are in actuality items not covered by the spending limit.
Were this to happen, Red Bull would receive a belated “certificate of compliance” with the FIA’s 2021 F1 financial regulations.
Horner happy for a public debate
Red Bull are keen for the matter to go public and argue their case in front of the media. They see this as a categorisation error from the FIA and nothing to do with an extra front wing or other performance component that gave them a sporting advantage.
However, the “settlement agreement” phase the FIA and Red Bull are currently involved with must remain confidential until it’s concluded.
BREAKING: The FIA have offered Red Bull a “settlement agreement” which sees them remain in ‘minor breach’ of the cost cap rules. However, if they conclude the matter now, the team will receive a less severe punishment.
However given Red Bull’s adamant claims they did not overspend, they appear likely to refuse the offer and allow the matter to go to arbitration.
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