Formula One made its biggest attempt in a generation to level the playing field for the competing teams following years of Mercedes domination of the sport. The German auto manufacturer spent a reported $1bn on research and development of its 1.6 litre turbo hybrid power unit which left the rest of the F1 field trailing in its wake for years. The FIA introduced new financial regulations in 2021 that restricted the competing teams ability to merely outspend others in the form of a budget cap, though for now the costs of the power units are not included in the restrictions.
The new power units for 2014 were lauded as the most thermal efficient engine designs ever created however the push for ever more advanced technology meant the competitive aspect of F1 racing was compromised.
Second biggest fine in F1 history
Red Bull Racing were the first team to fall foul of the cost cap on spending which created a huge furore in the paddock. Yet the world champion constructors’ eventual submitted to a settlement agreement that sanctioned them for a 0.37% overspend on the budget limit.
This transgression cost Red Bull the second biggest fine in Formula One history and a further 10% reduction in aero testing time for 12 months.
Christian Horner described the FIA penalty as “draconian” claiming the car development restrictions would cost the team up to half a second per lap over the 12 month sanction.
Potential 1 year legal battle
Helmut Marko now reveals why the team accepted the penalty despite believing they were in fact not in breach and under the budget cap.
“We accepted the penalty because we wanted to avoid a possible year-long legal battle,” Marko revealed.
The process designed by the FIA to handle the cost cap is less than efficient. Red Bull were deemed to have made a ‘minor breach’ in overspend which then forces Formula One’s governing body and the team into a bargaining process.
Had Red Bull refused to agree a settlement with the FIA, then the matter would have gone to a panel of judges who form an appeal court. The preparation of these submissions would have taken weeks if not months and had the court ruled against Red Bull again, the team would have been entitled to appeal further to an International Sporting Court.
Clearly given the uproar created when the Red Bull alleged cost cap was leaked during the Singapore GP this would have damaged Formula One’s image as the matter rumbled on for 12 months.
FIA punishment will hurt Verstappen
Speaking to Laola 1, Marko insists the Red Bull punishment was in no way light weight. “I agree with Christian Horner, who spoke of ‘draconian’ and estimates that we lose two to five-tenths per lap.
“The key will be to work even more efficiently to offset the disadvantage…
Much of the design work for the 2023 Red Bull car will have been completed before the aero testing restrictions come into force, so it will be the in season car development that is impacted the most together with the early designs for the 2024 F1 car.
Given Toto Wolff believes his Mercedes team is 10 months behind Red Bull in terms of car design and finding a competitive solution to the new technical regulations, it may be Verstappen will fid his main challengers over the 12 month sanctions are again Ferrari. Yet with the Maranello team’s ability to shoot itself in the foot, the punishment Red Bull have received may be less severe than could otherwise be expected.
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Toto is a master of deception, obfuscation and sandbagging. It is not believable when he says they are 10 months behind. We saw in the second half of 2022 that, raising the ride height and additional stays have brought MB almost on an equal footing. Now the ride height will be increased further in 2023. You can trust Toto and MB to have secretly developed some illegal features (as they did with DAS) and gain further advantage.
What with the zero-side pod and everything, it must be Toto’s dream to spring a massive surprise right in the very first race of 2023. He must be waiting to again crow from the rooftop and wreak his vengeance on RedBull towards whom he bears unlimited spite and animosity.