Formula 1’s Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner has denounced McLaren’s CEO Zak Brown and the letter he sent to the FIA, in which the American boss of McLaren claimed that exceeding the sport’s $145m budget cap “constitutes cheating”.
After the Japanese F1 Grand Prix earlier this month, the FIA announced that Red Bull was guilty of a “minor” cost cap breach in the 2021 season. There have been calls for severe punishment to be meted out to the Milton Keynes-based team, claiming that Red Bull would have gained a track advantage in 2021 and 2022.
Red Bull has claimed for some time that the accounts that were submitted to the FIA earlier this year were below the cap, a position that team boss Christian Horner again defended in Austin on Saturday, when he also took aim at McLaren CEO Zak Brown [present alongside him at the press conference] who sent a letter to the FIA a few days ago in which the American called on the governing body to get tough with “the cheats”.
Red Bull defends itself in press conference
“Our bid was well below the ceiling,” Christian Horner told a press conference on Saturday.
“We expected some things to be potentially challenged or clarified, as is the case in a brand new set of regulations, but based on external professional third-party accountants,
“The interpretations of these rules of a 52-page document to control this were very clear on our side,
“So we absolutely and categorically do not believe that we had any advantage in 2021 or 2022, or even 2023 or 2024 when some teams are even talking about 2026 – that’s totally fictional,
“Obviously the letter from Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO], which we were not shown but were able to see, was extremely disappointing,
“That a fellow competitor could accuse you of cheating, accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking. It is absolutely shocking. Without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, you can’t make that kind of accusation,
“We have been on trial because of public accusations since Singapore. The rhetoric of cheaters, the rhetoric that we had this huge advantage, the numbers that have been published in the media are miles away from reality,
“The damage that this is doing to the brand, to our partners, to the drivers, to our workforce, at a time when mental health is prevalent, we’re seeing significant issues with our employees. Some of the kids [of employees] are being bullied on the playground – it’s not just because of fictional allegations from other teams,
“You can’t just make these kinds of allegations without any facts or substance. We are absolutely appalled by the behaviour of some of our competitors.”
McLaren boss strongly defends his actions
Zak Brown for his part defended his letter and said it served as a reminder to the FIA, adding that he had not mentioned any particular team.
“My letter stated that if a team spends more than the cap, they will get a benefit from the cap as with the technical rules of the sport,” the American said.
“We don’t look at whether they did or not. My letter was ‘if someone did it’, then these are the things we think should be dealt with. It’s no different than if a ride height was wrong or a flexiwing or whatever,
“I didn’t mention any team, it was a general response now that we’re in the cost cap era, so if someone breaches that, here’s what we think,
“I have no idea what the figures are, I don’t know any of the details, if we had more money to spend it would have put us in a better light in terms of performance with more people and more upgrades, whatever the case may be,
“We think it would be a performance benefit and if someone has spent more than the allocated cost cap, it’s up to the FIA to determine whether they have or not.” concluded Brown.
There is still no news from the FIA about a possible sanction against the Red Bull team, although Christian Horner confirmed that his team had received an offer from the governing body, but that no decision has yet been made.