One Formula 1 team was “massively over” the budget cap in 2021 – Wolff

2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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One Formula 1 team was “massively over” the budget cap when it was introduced last year, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Two F1 teams are potentially in violation of the regulations which imposed a $145 million limit, with some exceptions, on their spending last year. Red Bull is believed to be one of them, but their team principal Christian Horner insisted today their spending did not exceed the cap.

Wolff said it was “funny that Christian says that because it’s been weeks and months they’re being investigated, so maybe he doesn’t speak to his CFO [chief financial officer]. As a matter of fact all of us have been investigated, diligently.”

He believes one team has significantly over-spent. “As far as we understand there’s a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another than another team that is fundamentally and massively over and that is that is being still looked at,” he told Sky. “So that’s an open secret in the paddock.”

The FIA is assessing teams’ compliance with the spending limit during 2021. However Wolff pointed out any advantage gained that year could have carried over into subsequent seasons, as Red Bull would have developed their current car last year.

“There’s a governance in place that is very solid that the FIA have set up and this is you’re going to be issued a certificate of compliance and then if you’re not compliant, it goes goes to the cost cap adjudication panel with independent judges and they can then choose from these penalties, the appropriate ones.

“But the crucial part is that if you’ve been over in ’21, then you’ve been over in ’22, that means you have an advantage into ’23.”

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He referred to rumours Red Bull, whose RB18 is already the class of the field, have had sufficient resources to develop a lighter version of their car. “If it’s true that they’ve homologated a lightweight chassis this year, they may use it the next year. So it’s a really a cascade of events that can be influential in all of the three championships.”

A team that exceeds the spending limit by less than 5% is considering to have committed a “minor” breach under the rules. Wolff said the FIA must consider the scale of advantage a team may have gained by exceeding the cost cap and impose a penalty which is enough of a deterrent to prevent teams repeatedly over-spending by that amount.

“I think it would be important to have a certain degree of transparency [about] where the alleged breaches have happened or the alleged misinterpretations in order for us to assess. Because you need to imagine even if it’s the so-called minor breach that can be below 5%, you can spend 7 million more than everybody else and that means if this is a light penalty, we will be all pushing that 5% more going forward.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the world championship by eight points from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton last year. Confiscation of points is among the wide range of possible penalties with could be imposed on a team which overspent, including fines.

Wolff said “it’s not up to me to judge, that’s not realistic, for me to judge what the penalties could be. The judges have all that scope to analyse, but I wouldn’t want to be in that position because of the impact it had over three years.”

Horner accused other teams of stirring up speculation over the budget cap. “There’s an awful lot of rumours and gossip, we know where most of that permeates from,” he said.

“[The FIA] haven’t issued certificates of compliance to anybody yet. There’s a lot of conjecture about Red Bull but that could well be about four or five teams in the pit lane.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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84 comments on “One Formula 1 team was “massively over” the budget cap in 2021 – Wolff”

  1. Probaly Mwercedes as they were producing updates after updates in 2021.

    1. You drink your lunch today? Merc produced very few updates last year compared to red bull.

    2. After the Spain update Mercedes went A LOT of races without bringing any update.

      Who did brought a lot of stuff was exactly Red Bull.

      Interesting to see where this will get. Likely nowhere, but getting there is half the fun.

    3. Your talking complete rubbish.

    4. And engine after engine after engine… Sacrificing Bottas in the process. All in favour of their princes.

      1. How many more engine penalties did they take, compared with others. And the trophy of most sacrificed last year and this year goes to Perez.

  2. Things could be about to get very interesting.

  3. How does Toto know the internals of the FIA certification process of teams he doesn’t hold a partial ownership interest in?

    1. “As far as we understand there’s a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another than another team that is fundamentally and massively over and that is that is being still looked at,” he told Sky. “So that’s an open secret in the paddock.”

      Education standards really aren’t whet they used to be.

      1. QED

      2. So let’s educate ourselves. I’ve just spent a lot of time reading “Formula 1 Financial Regulations, 18 February 2022, Issue 9” (latest from FIA.) I’m pretty certain that the teams had to “sign it”, but it’s a love-fest for accountants and lawyers, who can easily squabble, dispute, rewrite, re-interpret, waffle, deny, philosophize, complain, delay, manipulate – and even fantasize – about its meaning and outcome for years, with an hourly “professional fee” that brings tears to my eyes.

        The intent was good — big teams shouldn’t be able to shut out technically “small-fry with good ideas” and shouldn’t use big-buck market power to create an exclusive “big-boy” club. End result: Marketing budgets/expenses are specifically excluded and (a few accountant’s shenanigans excepted) if you’ve got years of expensive development behind you, nobody else can get into the club.

        Worse — the “decision” control of all this is purely FIA, you can only “appeal” to their own internal ICA. The “monetary” control nowadays makes Bernie Ecclestone look like a rank amateur. FOWC has got 100 years “rights”, FOM makes money that most of us can only dream of (even if we can understand all the multiple “000”s at the bottom of their balance sheets), and the teams get nickled and dimed for a few million dollars…

        In the end, we, the fans and supporters, are just supposed to watch sky, have a beer and a bag of chips, and put up with it. The teams and drivers are losing relevance in the big business entertainment world. And we’ll be lucky to see “one driver, one car” motor racing again.

  4. So AM for minor & RBR for massive breach.
    Let’s wait until FIA’s official statement before making definitive judgments.

    1. You literally made a judgement, and then told us to wait for FIA’s statement before making judgement.

      1. @Raymond Pang, I merely referred to Toto’s indirect reference.

        1. But he didn’t say which was which. Could be AM’s the major offender, and Horner’s just whining.

          Toto didn’t say who he thought was which– I’m not even sure he narrowed it down to AM and RB.

          But by and large, Red Bull has been consistent under Horner’s watch for their blatant disregard for the rules, and to usually get away with it.

  5. No idea if this is true and personally nothing against Red Bull if they are Wolff’s target but I would drop one constructors position and one drivers position for both drivers for every percentage over the limit.

    1. This would get as confusing as grid penalties. Who fesses up to being over the limit first gets their penalty applied first, or gaming the system so as to guess how many millions that the other teams have overspent.

      Maybe have points penalties (e.g. 5% of a team and both driver’s points for every 1% overspent), in conjunction with an accordingly adjusted limit for that team the following year. But then you might run into problems with teams not being able to see out the year or skipping the long haul races)

      The fact that we’re trying to work out the implications of all of this suggests that the FIA are going to make it up on the spot. Can’t see that going well.

    2. Electroball76
      1st October 2022, 9:30

      Or just disqualify any team found to have cheated. If I massively broke the rules at work I would be booted out. Especially if millions of dollars (billions of £) were involved.

  6. I mean, it is absolutely transparant what is happening here. From the leak in Gazzetta, to AMuS, to these comments…

    1. Yeah… Gazzetta is notorious for never exaggerating or pushing a half-baked story simply to be first.
      Maybe it ends up being true, but Gazzetta is to F1, what News of the World was to real news in the UK

      1. @ajpennypacker


        AMuS is a serious publication, but when it comes to German motoring it is about as neutral as Putin.

        1. @hahostolzeYeah, they are very good, but they also are close with Dr. Marko and do tend to give him more deference than perhaps warranted. It means they have good insight into what the team are thinking, and what they know is going on in the paddock, though filtered a bit. Of course they have other sources and they are solid at checking their stories too, so I do appreciate them a lot.

  7. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    30th September 2022, 16:56

    Even if Red Bull are/were well over the limit I can’t see the FIA retrospectively doing anything. At best it’ll be a 2023 penalty onwards.

    If it was anyone else outside of Red Bull / Mercedes / Ferrari then they’d be clobbered.

    If Aston have also fallen foul here then the fact a big boy has fallen more foul has probably saved their bacon.

    I’ve seen mixed reports of it being 2 or 3 teams, I think the 3 includes Alpha in with Red Bull group.

    1. So 2 asterisks for last year’s wdc then. As well as one eachb for the two titles this year

  8. An accounting championship. How exciting.

    1. Not exactly the sporting spectacle we want to see, is it?
      But if rules have been broken, punishment needs to be metered out. And severe punishment, as it was the first year the rules have been in place – precedent needs setting to prevent teams seeing the punishment as a worthwhile business expense.

      1. Spot on

      2. If you just watch the races you’d have no idea this stuff is going on. And the racing is great.

        For the rest of us, well we love it, don’t we? Even those moaning — they enjoy moaning!

  9. Confiscation of points is among the wide range of possible penalties with could be imposed on a team which overspent, including fines.

    A fine for a team who overspends is not a penalty. It really ought to be strictly confiscation of points and the argument ought to be to the degree that happens. Given the FIA have the company books it may be a matter of declaring any points scored by the drivers after the date the team’s budget is exceeded are null and void. Trophies for wins and podiums from that date on should also be reassigned retroactively. Such an extreme measure is the only way to show teams that a budget cap is for everyone.

  10. The 2021 season is now really reminding me of 1994. In both cases, a fairly young driver with wins in the past, expected to win many titles, finally gets a chance to drive a potential championship-winning car, and is clearly the best performing driver over the season. However, bad luck during the season causes him to only just lead the championship going into the final race, and a controversial incident gives that driver the title that many feel they don’t deserve. As well as this, the team is also found to be cheating, giving a second reason why that driver shouldn’t have won the title, although the team has lost the constructors’ championship anyway. However, the following season, the driver takes a dominant title victory and confirms their place in the record books despite a controversial first championship.

    1. @f1frog great post. I think there’s a lot of post hoc “fitting” going on but I like it anyway. You could add that Williams and mercedes were both the long term dominant teams leading up to the controversial season.

      The budget cap cheating was widely predicted – my surprise is that it has actually been identified but identifying it this late in the day was always one of the major problems with it – but the fact there is no defined penalty even now just shows how totally unenforceable it is.

      In rugby, Saracens were relegated from the premiership – what chance we see red bull in F2 next year?

      1. In rugby, Saracens were relegated from the premiership – what chance we see red bull in F2 next year?

        If it was actually possible to relegate any team, and it isn’t, or you would have seen the bottom 1 or 2 teams slide out previously.
        So, even if it were possible, I’m sure Red Bull would take their bat, ball and all other toys away from the FIA playground.

        What actually puzzles me is that the FIA take so long examining accounts. Do they allow the use of antiquated hardcopy accounts, or can they not afford a decent forensic accountant to check the electronic submissions?

        1. It takes ages because they’re having to audit multiple companies books for each team. In most teams you have different companies responsible for the engine and chassis but you could go as far as having one for engine, chassis, transmission, electrics, sensors etc etc etc. Each added company adds in the ability to hide something in the books. All that goes into the team books is a single line entry figure E.g. engines $150m, tyres $20m (dummy figures but you get the idea).

      2. You could add that Williams and mercedes were both the long term dominant teams leading up to the controversial season.

        Williams weren’t exactly the “long term dominant” team going into 1994.

        They dominated the 1992 & 1993 seasons, and were strong in the second half of 1991 once they got their reliability issues sorted. But before that they hadn’t been dominant since 1986 & 1987. And that was pretty much it.

        1. Still, I think the point is they were the team to beat, after what happened the previous seasons.

    2. That’s true, it’s very very close what happened in both years.

    3. @f1frog – Wasn’t clearly the best, but rest I’ll agree with.

  11. So Aston Martin spent more than 145milion and are still on the back of the field how embarrassing.
    Can we please go back to no limits F1? Special qualifying engines of more than 1300 bhp, T-cars, no enginepenalty’s or fuel limits and bring back the grid girls as well.

  12. Christian thought it was clever to ‘jerk Toto’s chain’. Perhaps he forgot Toto ousted the great Ross Brawn.

    And after all, it’s a persuasive point that an overspend has a knock on benefit year after year, well worth making.

  13. Why does Toto have to comment on every current issue in the paddock? I would like to hear the opinions of other bosses. Unfortunately for the British media there is only one camp they create content with. Alternatively, they also talk to the rival camp…

    1. Alternatively he was in the press conference and was asked about it?

  14. Its only Rumor and Toto talks like its Fact… How Desperate he had become.

    1. Marco also confirmed it. Not only rumors, but not all known to public yet.

      1. Itsmeagain (@)
        1st October 2022, 10:36

        Source please, as this is confidential information between RB and the FIA. You better read the reaction of Horner on these bold accusations of mister ‘framing’ Wolff.

        1. Austrian TV coverage showing live interviews with Marco.

  15. Who thinks the FIA will use this for “the show” and try to engineer a closer championship … but Verstappen will win anyway

  16. So just for arguments sake. Let’s say Red Bull has been overspending massively and thus is gaining advantage in all the above points mentioned by Toto. What can the FIA and Liberty really do? They can’t risk losing the Red Bull team (and subsequently Alpha Tauri, Honda) . Losing two teams this big on short notice would be quite a disaster for the F1 show. Especially since Liberty and the teams are so reluctant to accept new teams (like Andretti) – the whole ‘we don’t need more teams’ stance from domenicali is gonna bite them in the ass – they can’t punish cheating teams too hard, because they can’t afford to lose them. On the other hand not punishing the ‘cheaters’ might be the last straw for Toto and Mercedes. So yeah, well played FIA. Looking forward to watching 24 races with 8 or less teams..

    1. Raise every other team’s budget caps by the amount the cheating team exceeded their limit, and lower the cheating team’s budget by that amount. If it’s over halfway through the season, continue the penalty for the next season.

      Oh, wait– that would be fair, and might help Mercedes. Never mind… slap on the wrist for Horner it is.

      1. and lower the cheating team’s budget by that amount

        What’s the point? Red Bull are accused of exceeding the budget cap for 2021 and 2022. Reducing the budget cap for a team that is shows to pay it to mind will not stop them from exceeding any budget in the future.

    2. What can the FIA and Liberty really do? They can’t risk losing the Red Bull team

      First: yes they can risk that and Porsche would gladly take their spot.
      Second: that would be the most childish reaction (threatening to quit a sport because you were found to have been cheating)

      1. Well I think that might be a problem, with their self imposed strict rules for joining F1 – why would Porsche be allowed in and Andretti not? Could give F1 some lawsuits and headaches. I think teams pulling out for cheating wouldn’t be so hard to imagine.

    3. lol @JezH79, they have a huge queue of outfits desperate to get into F1! F1 would be perfectly happy to swap a drinks company for Honda or Andretti or Porsche. But F1 is a huge thing for Red Bull they won’t just stomp off in a sulk.

      Generally FIA are timid, but they need a deterrent, so let’s see. If they don’t do deterrence this time, it’ll be a huge problem forever as the other teams will get into it as well.

    4. How do you make the connection that a punishment would lead to Redbull leaving the sport? It makes no sense. They won’t be disqualified and lose all constructor’s points like McLaren in 2007.

    5. What can the FIA and Liberty really do? They can’t risk losing the Red Bull team (and subsequently Alpha Tauri, Honda)

      Are you perhaps too young to remember what happened to McLaren? As André points out it happened before:
      $100 million fine, stripped of all points – and that was after Bernie allegedly talked Max Mosley down from a two-year ban and more.
      (and my top suspect for the origin of the offending documents **********************)

  17. Toto didnt seem to have the same notion of « firm » about 2mm in brasil .::.
    No matter wich time is it, it amuses me how positions change in speech when teams are blamed by the fia or rival teams are blamed ….

    1. Well, same penalty and everything is fine. Exceeded budget cap by some minor amount, DSQ. Guess the orange guys would like that.

      1. Itsmeagain (@)
        1st October 2022, 10:33

        I bet that the keys O,R,A,N,G and E on your keyboard are worn out.

        1. If I’d reply to all orange stupidity here, then I’d probably need a new keyboard.

    2. Mercedes threw engines at trying to steal the championship, they tried claming the Redbull was illegal and rammed into them on purpose. But still there are people that mistake Toto’s BS for factual information.

  18. I sense a very long drawn out, very bitter very public spat and everyone on sites like this at each others throats over it all. Fun times 🤣

    Seriously though what are the repercussions for anyone way over budget?? I presume there’s something in the rules?? Surely?

  19. And again, the FIA has managed to come up with rules that trigger controversy. I’ve not made a study of it, but to me, it feels like the vast majority of the rules the FIA have come up with over the last couple of years, fall under this category. They keep coming up with rules that are very hard to check and enforce, and/or they lack the means and knowledge to check and enforce them.
    Funny how everyone blindly accepts the budgetcap as being a logical and sensible thing to do. Right from the first talks, it was evident this was going to be a rule that was hard to check and enforce. Apart from that, to me, it’s a rule that limits the health of a constructor, in favor of constructors that are less healthy. As F1 is also a championship between constructors, it’s an equalizing measure between the health of the constructors involved.
    Try imagining health equalization in other sports, like athletics, or cycling.
    All other formulas race with equal (or equalised) material, this rule takes chunks out of the core aspect of the only formula that didn’t: F1. As do many other rules the FIA introduced to F1 over the last couple of years.
    In short: This is an FIA self induced row that should never have been an issue in the first place, as it is the result of poor, ‘show over sports’ induced choices. There would have been so many other solutions to keep racing affordable and still make it a championship of cleverness. That’s what ‘formula’ means; defining rules that everyone has to stay within. To succumb to the Mercedes lobbying, and come up with a ridiculously expensive, obligatory hybrid PU formula was a dumb choice, for one. It did absolutely nothing for the sports aspect of F1. To the contrary actually; F1 was way more interesting when there was a large(r) variety in make and type of engines.

    Now that they don’t win everything there is to win anymore, Saint Wolff is the first to jump on it ofcourse, instead of keeping his slithering tongue behind his teeth and let the ones in charge sort it out themselves – and wait for the verdict they come with. And then talk about others putting pressure on the way racing is led.

    1. Try imagining health equalization in other sports, like athletics, or cycling.

      Do athletics or cycling put heavier emphasis on the equipment over the athlete’s ability and allow the richest competitors to simply spend their way to victory?

      Ok, yes, cycling allows a team to buy better performance enhancing drugs, but motorsport simply gives massive advantages to the deepest pockets and the only way to level the field and improve the sport is to stop people spending their way to victory…

      1. That was a response expected. And fully besides the point: If there’s a competition between athletes, you apparently agree it’s nonsense to have regulations trying to have them at the same health or ability level.
        Now if there’s a competition between teams, I think we agreee that it’s the same thing.
        Yet if those teams happen to be constructors, so the fight is among conpanies, it’s suddenly different?

        1. conpanies = companies

    2. the hybrid PU idea was pushed by Renault. I don’t know where you got your info from

      1. Coventry Climax
        2nd October 2022, 1:16

        I thought the consensus was that Mercedes pushed a motorformula they had been developing for quite a while, thus knowing they would have an advantage. So, likewise; I don’t know where you got your info from.
        But even so, the argument was not about whether it was team Y or Team X.

  20. Here’s a thought – what if the real reason the RB-Porsche deal collapsed was because they had ‘materially’ broken the rules and when the German’s did their due diligence, they ran a mile?

    1. Total fantasy… Porsche wanted to replace Redbull at Redbull… First buy 51% then have it all your way. But Redbull was never going to give away their decades of investment and kick their staff to the kerb just to get Porsche in. Porsche was quite delusional.

    2. It’s possible.

  21. Just another Toxic Toto story. The man should be ousted out of F1 with peck and feathers…

    1. At this point I’m starting to wonder if Toto is so acidic about losing he’s going to destroy himself from the inside out

    2. again not able to handle the truth, not fitting your bias?

  22. No way mercedes is on budget, they make 2 specs per season, this season alone we have seen again 2 aero packages, 6 rear wings, a heap of floors and lots of little bits. Rb also looks fishy but nowhere near mercedes level.

    1. FIA audit of last years figures proves you wrong

  23. And people thought all the excitement of this season was over.

  24. I think Mercedes way overspent and is just spreading lies to cover up their horrid mistake.
    The spent a lot of money trying to get a super special car that turned out to be a dud. The must have fallen victim to some scam artist pushing the radical Rocket technology. I would have loved to see Newey face when he first say the disaster that turned out to be the Mercedes entry. He probably is still laughing a little bit. JMHO>

  25. Torsten still salty after all this time.

  26. The man is still sour.

  27. When Ferrari had an illegal power unit in 2019 all that happened was they weren’t allowed to use it in 2020. I can’t see anything happening with this cost cap nonsense and this feels more like a smear campaign to sour max winning the championship this weekend (not because I’m a fan, but him and red bull are on another level of performance).

  28. Itsmeagain (@)
    1st October 2022, 10:22

    Would be great if this website also publish the answer of mister Horner about these bold accusations of mister ‘framing’ Wolff.

    1. There is an article of mister Horners statements even linked in the article. Do you even care to read the article, or just read the headline and comment?

  29. How would he know if thats RB, or he must have got some inside info….We will hear from FIA preferably and not by Toto. As long as nothing is clear he should be quiet and not feeding the media.

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