Red Bull breaching F1 budget cap is ‘cheating’, says McLaren boss Zak Brown

McLaren boss pens letter to FIA president calling for action over rival team spending.

Red Bull breaching F1 budget cap is ‘cheating’, says McLaren boss Zak Brown

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Red Bull Formula One team breaching the budget cap is akin to 'cheating', according to a letter written by McLaren boss Zak Brown to the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

The letter, dated 12th October and seen by the BBC, is addressed to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and copies in Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

Last week, Red Bull were found guilty of a 'minor' breach of the sporting regulations, which amounts to less than five per cent of the budget cap - around US$6.3 million.

The document was sent around to fellow teams who hadn't breached the cost cap on 17th October, including Ferrari and Mercedes.

Zak Brown writes: 'The overspend breach, and possibly the procedural breaches, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting and financial regulations.

[The FIA has run an extremely thorough, collaborative and open process. We have even been given a one-year dress rehearsal (in 2020), with ample opportunity to seek any clarification if details were unclear. So, there is no reason for any team to now say they are surprised.

'The bottom line is any team who has overspent has gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year's car development.

'We don't feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach. There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA.

'We suggest that the overspend should be penalised by way of a reduction to the team's cost cap in the year following the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspend plus a further fine - ie an overspend of US$2 million in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a US$4 million deduction in 2023 (US$2 million to offset the overspend plus US$2 million fine).

'For context, US$2m is (a) 25-50% upgrade to (an) annual car-development budget and hence would have a significant positive and long-lasting benefit.

'In addition, we believe there should be minor overspend sporting penalties of a 20 per cent reduction in CFD and wind tunnel time. These should be enforced in the following year, to mitigate against the unfair advantage the team has and will continue to benefit from.'

At the time of writing, there has been no further news from the FIA on any possible punishment for the Red Bull team.

BlackBook says...

Whichever decision the FIA reaches over this transgression is crucial for the future of Formula One. There are now no doubts that Red Bull have exceeded the budget cap, but what repercussions will there be?

Brown's suggestion is a sound one, but it would open up the door for a team to go all in on a championship victory with no regard for their spending and take the pain later on. A team could also decide to drop out of the series following a title win, so how could they be penalised the following season?

When we should be celebrating the greatest talent to enter Formula One since Lewis Hamilton, far too much attention is being diverted by off-track matters. We should not have to look at a driver winning a world championship and wait for auditors to confirm its legitimacy. A better and more efficient solution is required, but the FIA has not recently covered itself in glory for the efficiency of its decision making.