AUSTIN, Texas – Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says he is “appalled” by allegations from a rival during the Formula 1 cost cap controversy after McLaren CEO Zak Brown said violating the cap would constitute fraud.
After analyzing the accounts of all 10 teams, the FIA found that Red Bull was the only one to have exceeded last year’s budget cap.
Although the numbers have not been released, the overspending is believed to be $1.8 million, while Red Bull says accounts filed in March were below the $145 million cap.
Red Bull claims the difference was partly due to clarifications made in June about what fell below the cap last year, while sources suggested Red Bull also failed to file a $1.4 million tax refund dollars, which contributed to his overspending.
The FIA is currently discussing the details of the breach with Red Bull ahead of the next phase of the process, where the governing body will present the team with an Accepted Injury Agreement (ABA), giving Red Bull the option to accept a penalty dictated by the FIA .
If it rejects the penalty, the case will be referred to the FIA’s Cost Cap Arbitration Board, composed of independent legal and accounting experts.
Ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, Brown wrote a letter to the FIA outlining his views on how an infringement should be dealt with.
The letter didn’t mention Red Bull directly, but said exceeding it “would constitute fraud by offering a significant advantage over technical, sporting and financial regulations” before setting out a proposed penalty.
The letter enraged Horner, who voiced his feelings in a press conference at the US Grand Prix while sitting next to Brown.
“Obviously, Zak’s letter, which wasn’t copied to us, but we saw that letter, was hugely disappointing,” Horner said. “For a competitor accused of fraud, it is shocking to accuse you of fraudulent activity. It’s absolutely shocking.
“Without the facts, without knowing the details to make these kinds of allegations. Since then we have been on trial for public allegations [the race in] Singapore. The rhetoric of the scammers, the rhetoric that we’ve had this tremendous benefit, the numbers that have been released in the media are miles from reality.
“The damage this is causing to the brand, our partners, drivers, our workforce, at a time when mental health is rampant, we see significant issues in our workforce. We have children who are bullied in playgrounds are staff children – not true by fictional claims made by other teams.
“You can’t just make a claim like that without any fact or substance. We are absolutely appalled by the behavior of some of our competitors.”
Given the opportunity to respond, Brown added: “My letter states that if a team spends more than the cap, they will take advantage of the cap, as is the case with the technical rules of sport.
“We don’t judge whether they did it or not. My letter said, ‘If someone has done it,’ then here are the things we think should be addressed.
“Not unlike when a ride height was wrong or a flexi wing or whatever the case may be. I didn’t mention teams it was a general answer now that we are in the cost cap era so if someone breaks it here what we think the impact is.
“I have no idea what the number is, I don’t know the details, if we had more money to spend that would have put us in a better light with more people and more upgrades, whatever the case may be of performance.
“We believe there will be a performance benefit and if someone has spent more than the allocated cost cap then it is for the FIA to determine whether or not they have.”
Horner also denied that his team’s overspending gave Red Bull an advantage in last year’s championship.
“Absolutely not,” Horner said. “I think you need to look at what the relevant costs are? And were the relevant costs within the cap and what was outside the cap. Hence the interpretation and we believe that our relevant costs are within the cap.
“Obviously we are in discussions with the FIA on what that cost is and what mitigating circumstances etc. So we haven’t had any benefit for either 2021 or 2022 from a development perspective or from an operational perspective from the way we are within the cap operated .
“Our submission was well below the cap. We anticipated that certain things might be questioned or clarified, as is the process in a brand new rulebook, but based on external, third-party accounting professionals, these rules’ interpretations of a 52-page police document were ours page very clear.
“So we absolutely and categorically don’t feel like we had an advantage in 2021 or 2022 or 23 or 24 or some teams even talking about 26 – that’s totally fictional.”
Horner said the penalty system needed to be reviewed and clarified before next year, as the wide range of sanctions allowed Red Bull’s rivals to lobbied for the harshest penalties available for a minor infraction without knowing the specifics of the case.
“The range of penalties is entirely subjective,” he added. “I think that contributed to a concerted campaign to punish Red Bull with a draconian penalty for what, at the end of the day, we’re probably talking, is in dispute with the FIA of a few hundred thousand dollars.”
“I’ll say later why I think we have a different opinion within this template as to what our position was compared to another. What was just hugely disappointing throughout this whole process was the leak that happened, suddenly we are being tried and exposed to three weeks of effective abuse.
“Zak has a very pleasant memory of the letter he sent accusing us of cheating and cheating. It’s just not right and it has to stop.”
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