In addition to Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 world championship title and the constructors’ championship, Red Bull’s end of season was also marked by sanctions for exceeding the budget cap in 2021. Zak Brown sent a letter to the FIA demanding exemplary sanctions. Two months later, the McLaren boss is not backing down.
“The budget overrun and potential administrative infractions constitute cheating offering a significant advantage through the technical, sporting and financial regulations.” said Brown.
At the time of the revelations about Red Bull exceeding the Formula 1 budget cap, Zak Brown had called for exemplary sanctions, including sporting ones. The McLaren boss even sent a letter to Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the FIA, and Stefano Domenicali, CEO of F1. The Austrian team was finally fined €7 million and a 10% reduction in the development time of its car in the wind tunnel.
“I take responsibility for my letter”
Two months on, Zak Brown “takes responsibility for his letter”, he told Motorsport.com.
“I think when you break the rules, whether it’s technical or financial, there are many ways to characterise that. I know the word [‘cheating’] is strong, but I don’t see any difference between breaking the budget limit and having too low a ride height, for example.
“Whether it’s sporting, financial or technical, it’s an offence, I suppose you could call it a few different things. Some people, more simplistically, would call it that.”
“Some things didn’t add up”
Red Bull’s justification was that the team believed that some costs were not included in this famous budget cap, particularly those for catering. Here again, Zak Brown has his doubts.
“I found that some things didn’t add up. We all have to take care of our employees. We have our employees coming to us saying this team is doing this, this team is doing that on expenses, this team is doing this on catering, this team is doing that on hotels.
“This puts us all in a competitive position in terms of recruiting and retaining staff. Whereas I find that pointing the finger and saying ‘that’s where we spent more money’…
“Collectively, if that’s part of the cap, then you have to spend less money elsewhere. I think it all goes to performance, I don’t think you can pick out things to isolate and say they weren’t subject to the cap,” he added.
“I don’t think what they did was intentional.”
Red Bull thought they were €4m under the budget cap, Zak Brown continued on the subject, “The object of the game is just to get as close to the cap as possible.
“And they are one of the teams that said they couldn’t get down to the cap. So how could they be four [million] below? It’s not desirable to be four million under the cap, it’s desirable to be $400,000 under the cap, so personally I would have handled it differently.
“But I don’t think what they did was intentional. I know it’s a bit of a ‘sandwich controversy’, but I think it downplays what it was. It all doesn’t add up.”