Christian Horner came out fighting the F1 team principals press conference at the US GP. He made several revealing claims and slated those who have accused Red Bull of “cheating”. Sat beside the Red Bull boss was the sometimes brash American McLaren chief Zak Brown who was exposed and appeared to blatantly lie.
Due to an FIA leak prior to the Singapore GP, Toto Wolff came out against his rivals accusing them of “massively” overspending and “gaining a competitive advantage”. The rumoured amount of the Red Bull budget car breach was $10m.
10 days later the FIA officially revealed Red Bull had overspent the $145m cost cap for 2021, but classified it as ‘minor overspend’. This meant the amount was less than $7.25m.
Wild gossip about $10m overspend
Yet the paddock gossip continued claiming even what the FIA classified as “minor overspend” would improve a team’s performance.
Zak Brown, McLaren CEO, then wrote to the FIA outlining his views on the kind of punishments a team should receive for even a minor overspend. At the time he knew only Red Bull had been deemed to have overspent and his letter stated his view any team overspending
Following the opening questions which revealed breaking news Logan Sergeant had been recruited for 2023 by Williams, the inevitable query arose about the FIA alleged cost cap breach by Red Bull Racing.
Christian Horner was defiant and angrily accused Zak Brown of talking up something of which he had no information and claimed his accusations had led to “bullying” of Red Bull staff members’ children.
Brown’s letter to FIA was “shocking”
“Zak’s letter wasn’t copied to us. Obviously, we’ve had sight of that letter and it’s tremendously disappointing for a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating – to accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking,” said a furious Christian Horner.
His vitriolic attack on Brown continued.
“It’s absolutely shocking that another competitor without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, can be making that kind of accusation.
“We’ve been on trial because of public accusations since [the] Singapore [Grand Prix]. And the rhetoric of cheats, the rhetoric that we’ve had this enormous benefit. The numbers that have been put out in the media are miles out of reality.
“And the damage that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce, in an age when mental health is prevalent, we are seeing significant issues now within our workforce.
“We are getting kids that have been bullied in playgrounds that are our employees’ children – that is not right through fictitious allegations from other teams, and you cannot go around just making that kind of allegation without any facts or substance.
“So we are absolutely appalled at the behaviour of some of our competitors.”
Zak Brown unconvincing and lies
Brown appeared to squirm at the reference to children being bullied and desperately attempted to back track with the following explanation.
“My letter set out that I think if a team spends more than the cap, they’re gonna get an advantage and the cap was a rule, no different than the technical rules in the sport.
“We are not taking a view whether they did or didn’t. My letter was if someone has, then here are the things we think should be addressed.
“We didn’t mention any teams. It was a general response, now we are into the cost-cap era, that if someone breaches that, here’s what we think some of the ramifications are.”
Horner was unimpressed and clearly Brown’s letter was written with the full knowledge it was Red Bull who were accused by the FIA of overspending.
Hence the claim that his letter to the FIA was merely about “any team” – whoever they may be – was transparently disingenuous.
Shock revelation by Horner on tiny overspend
Given the speculation of Red Bull have overspend by $10m and the more recent $1.8m, Horner took the audience by surprise when he revealed the following.
“The area of contention between ourselves and the FIA is literally a couple of hundred thousand dollars.”
Interestingly this is less than the $300,000 amount Lewis Hamilton previously claimed had Mercedes overspent by this figure would have seen him claim the 2021 world drivers title.
Horner promised when the confidentiality period is over he will explain in detail the exact areas of dispute between the FIA and Red Bull Racing.
“And when we present the facts over where the differing of opinion is [between RBR and the FIA] over where that money has been spent – it has nothing to do with car performance – ZERO to do with car performance.”
Horner promises when allowed to go through it publicly “line by line”
Horner promised journalists when allowed by the FIA, he would take them through the dispute line by line promising “full transparency”.
This saga has again reflected poorly on the all new FIA of Mohammed Ben Sulayem. How anyone I the paddock knew Red Bull were in breach of the cost cap limit two weeks before the FIA made the official announcement sits at Sulayem’s door.
Further Horner confirmed the FIA had changed their interpretation of how unused parts would be treated after the teams had submitted their financial statements for audit this March.
$100,000 to do with unused parts dispute
RBR run a significant number of historic promotional events with previous seasons F1 cars and it appears the FIA have now counted unused parts prepared but unused that relate in no way to the current F1 project.
The FIA apparently told one paddock insider, the ball is now with Red Bull Racing. They have been made an offer of punishment and if they agree, championship points deductions are off the table.
Yet President of the FIA Mohammed ben Sulayem should be in no doubt, Christian Horner will take this all the way to the International court of appeal – which in his own words could take “9 months” – unless the FIA agree they may have been over zealous.
"It's tremendously disappointing for a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating"
Christian Horner says "it's shocking" for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity as he responds to Zak Brown's letter. pic.twitter.com/r2acWmm9LK
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 22, 2022