Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2021

Red Bull may have broken spending limit in Verstappen’s title-winning 2021 season – reports

2021 F1 season

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Two Formula 1 teams are believed to have exceeded the sport’s budget cap in the first year it was introduced, according to reports in German and Italian media.

Red Bull, who took Max Verstappen to the world championship last year, is one of the teams which may have overspent, according to reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport and Auto Motor und Sport.

F1 introduced its budget cap last season. Teams were required to keep their spending below $145 million, excluding some items such as the salaries of its drivers and top management.

Any team which exceeded the spending limit stood to gain an advantage over its rivals as the additional funds could allow them to employ more staff, conduct more testing or produce more parts.

Red Bull were involved in a year-long fight with Mercedes for the championship. Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton arrived at the final race tied on points. While Verstappen narrowly won the drivers’ title, Mercedes took the constructors’ trophy for the eighth year running.

Despite Red Bull’s development push, which secured the first championship for one of its drivers since 2013, the team began the new season in strong shape. Its new RB18 has proved the car to beat since its early reliability problems were cured. Verstappen can win the drivers’ championship in Singapore this weekend, and Red Bull are unlikely to be overhauled in the constructors’ standings.

The development poses the first significant test of F1’s budget cap rules. A wide range of penalties are available to the FIA if any team is found to have exceeded the spending limits. These include fines and further restrictions on spending in future seasons.

The available penalties also include points deductions for the season in question, for both the team and driver. Verstappen beat Hamilton to the title by just eight points last year, but a retroactive change to the championship outcome nine months after the season ended would be an enormously controversial and unpopular move.

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Last year’s championship was already overshadowed by the mishandling of the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by the FIA’s F1 race director Michael Masi. He lost his job after the sport’s governing body admitted he made an “error” in arranging a final lap restart having only allowed a portion of the lapped cars to regain the lead lap, instead of all of them as the rules required.

Teams were required to supply details of their 2021 spending by the end of March this year. Williams became the first team to fall foul of F1’s Financial Regulations in June, when it was fined for submitting its paperwork late.

An FIA spokesperson told RaceFans: “The FIA is currently finalising the assessment of the 2021 financial data submitted by all Formula 1 teams. Alleged breaches of the Financial Regulations, if any, will be dealt with according to the formal process set out in the regulations.”

The possible penalties for exceeding the budget cap

If a team has overspent on their cap by up to five percent, the cost cap adjudication panel have the ability to apply a variety of sanctions on offending teams. These include:

  • Fines (to be determined on ‘case-by-case’ basis)
  • Deduction of points from the constructors’ championship for the season in which the breach occurred
  • Deduction of points from the drivers’ championship for the season in which the breach occurred
  • Suspension from sessions during race weekends such as practice, qualifying, or sprint races but not grands prix themselves
  • Limits on aerodynamic testing allowances
  • Reduction of cost cap for the season following from a year when the sanction is applied (breaches for 2021 will result in reduced caps for 2023)

For teams that overspend by more than 5%, the cost cap adjudication panel can apply the same sanctions as above, but with the additional option of excluding teams from the championship.

All of these penalties can be suspended, meaning they will not be applied directly but if a team commits a similar breach a second time. The panel may also place offending teams under increased scrutiny and supervision for the future.

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92 comments on “Red Bull may have broken spending limit in Verstappen’s title-winning 2021 season – reports”

  1. The 2021 season just keeps giving, doesn’t it?
    RBR arguably influenced the race directors decision – at the very least added pressure to it – to restart a race that either should have started with cars between the title contenders, or finished under the safety car…
    Then there was the various decisions throughout the season, that came down in favour of either driver at various points to artificially promote a close season.
    Now this?

    Now, if RBR did overspend… Then what? Because that’s cheating, and with such a close championship a fine doesn’t cut it… It sets a very dangerous precedent to punish such a gain with a fine.

    Mercedes already feel very aggrieved over last year, to hear this on top is going to make those sour grapes even worse.

    Popcorn time. Again.

    1. You are talking about F1. Precedents have been set many times before. You can say it has become part of F1. The last time for example was Ferrari with the illegal car that got Leclerc multiple race wins.

      Ps. What is precedent is the fact that many times the team gets punished for something the driver has no influence over, not the driver. So whatever happens, Verstappen will keep the title.

      1. To be fair that’s Ferrari, so they’re biased.

    2. Well RB did have some hefty repair bills to pay after various incidents (though most of them not by their fault).

      1. Exactly.
        There will be uproar if the Silverstone shunt not only robbed them of a big swing of points, but also contributed to tipping them over the budget cap.
        I’d love to know how Merc kept inside it with all the engines they used. Did Bottas not say he had like 6 or so last year?

        1. In respect of the repair bill for Silverstone – in the words of Michael Masi – “they went racing”. Ergo the cost of the crash is the cost of going racing. Now Hamilton was deemed “predominantly” at fault for Copse whereas Verstappen was also deemed predominantly at fault for the crash as the Rettifilio. Its swings and roundabouts.

          1. Rettifilio being one of the slowest corners on the calendar and Copse being one of the fastest, I’d say comparing those incidents is unfair with the amount of potential danger involved. Never mind the fact that Max was only predominantly at fault through a technicality of being behind at the first part of the chicane. The momentum of him closing on Lewis with tyres up to temp seemingly wasn’t considered. He was alongside when Lewis closed the door late.
            Brundle commented at the time that “Max hasn’t done anything wrong going for that gap” and he took the chance while it was wide open.
            While at Silverstone, they were immediately questioning whether Lewis could have stayed closer to the inside. Hardly swings and roundabouts.

          2. @G I fail to see how the velocity of these comparisons are relevant. The Rettifilio incident, despite being the slower corner had a very real potential of either decapitating HAM or causing life changing spinal trauma whereas the Copse shunt just triggered VER’s medical light.

            You quote Brundle who went on to later call it a racing incident. We can all find a sound bite that suits our narrative can’t we? For example Damon Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart were both highly critical of Verstappen’s role in the crash at Monza.I seem to recall TW even calling it a “tactical foul”.

          3. A tactical foul, even though he was trying to avoid the contact while being squeezed to the inside onto the sausage kerbs vs. being clipped by a car who completely missed the apex in an insanely fast corner.
            I don’t think either of the incidents were deliberate but the Silverstone shunt was by far the most reckless and desperate.

      2. Your palms must be sweaty clutching that straw

  2. Gazetta actually said it was three teams. Very odd that AMuS then limited it to two.

  3. Get the popcorn! Here we go again. If this turns out to not be true I feel we should put the media parties that have launched the narrative out of business. There is a need to build a framework in which media is held responsible for what they do. I am pretty sure this is frustration and boosting media/edition numbers driven. Let’s see. Bit uncareful for this site to post it at this stage with nothing confirmed or proven. Usually we do not see rumours driven content here.

  4. My guess is that the teams concerned (if indeed there are any) will get a slap on the wrist and told “please don’t do that again” because anything else would just be all too hard for the regulators.

    They can’t (or won’t) do anything retrospectively so they can’t really penalise a team that won a WDC or WCC by overspending and hand it to another team that didn’t and I doubt they’ll have the will to severely penalise a team for the next season because those teams with power would just threaten to withdraw and F1 wouldn’t want those teams (let’s face it they’ll be the top teams) to exit.

    I’d much rather see their accounting looked at more regularly during the season so they get pinned during the current season and maybe excluded from any races if they’ve gone over the cap.

    1. The issue is that those publications have alleged that Red Bull is under investigation for breaches of the cost cap for 2021 and 2022, meaning that Red Bull is accused of repeated breaches of the regulations.

      If true, it’s going to raise the question of what happens if a team repeatedly breaches the cost cap rules.

      1. These publications aren’t alleging that – they are quoting speculation within Ferrari and Mercedes who can’t believe that RB are this fast and have certain updates without having broken through the threshold. Which means literally nothing.

        1. It’s not just the upgrades – Marko has indicated the issue appears to be with Red Bull’s subsidiary companies, with a difference in opinion between Red Bull and the FIA on how money spent by those subsidiaries should be accounted for under the overall cap. There is a secondary issue which relates to how the cap applies to components, which depends on the definition of when a component counts as being used – because that then impacts on whether that component does officially count towards the cap or not.

          As Red Bull and the FIA have taken the same approach to their 2021 and 2022 budgets, it does potentially impact both seasons, not just 2021.

      2. No, only 2021, because that’s what FIA is assessing right now, 2022’s paperwork will be in 2023.

    2. Red bull can’t threaten to pull out, they have heavily invested in building f1 engines.

  5. If you can exceed the amount of engines without a proper sanction than this will probably be a storm in a teacup

    1. What you determine as proper is irrelevant, teams who exceed the engine limits have been penalised as per the written rules. If those rules are too lenient then the teams should campaign to get them changed but they have been given a penalty for their transgression.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        30th September 2022, 13:33

        The trouble is that using an extra engine is a very simple thing to monitor and police. There are no exceptions or exclusions and there is a single punishment. Use an extra engine – get x grid penalty.

        A budget cap is different because it’s so massively complex. If the teams believe they have come in under the budget cap but the FIA disagree, it’ll end up in court so it’s almost guaranteed that the FIA will tighten up the rules, issue some warnings and then move on from it. They aren’t going to start throwing around major punishments unless it’s been found that a team blatantly cheated and wouldn’t have a good position to argue in court.

      2. The point is there is no clear penalty for the BC so dont think it will change anything . My point for the Engine penalty as long as teams take a strategic engine change in Monza rather than sticking to the rules its not a proper penalty. I’m afraid the same will happen to the BC.

        1. There are explicit penalties for breaching the budget cap in the sporting regulations, ranging from financial penalties (such as the team having the amount they overspent by deducted from their allowance for the following year, or just a direct fine) through to disqualification from the championship depending on the severity of the breach.

          1. But its not clear when wich penalty is applied. Its F1 so they probably take the penalty and spent more

  6. That Masi guy wasn’t cheap, but he was totally worth it.
    (just kidding, I don’t actually believe he was on RB’s pay roll)

  7. It would be enormously funny if the teams that supposedly broke the budget cap rules aren’t even Red Bull.

    1. what, you mean like RBR’s illegal flexi floors that was all the chatter over the summer break? LOL

      1. The flexifloors were thinner, so cheaper. So that can´t be it ;-)

  8. I’m not surprised at all. Heck, in the pre season poll, my guess for the biggest controversy of this season was the breaking or ‘loopholing’ of the budget cap. I knew it was going to be one of the big three teams involved, but it became quite obvious early on the Red Bull were overspending early on in the season.

    Honestly, it just taints a momentous season in Verstappen’s career. He would have taken this championship with ease either ways, but now Red Bull will be tagged as cheaters and that will rub off his shine. It’s a lose-lose situation for the FIA right now… docking points for Red Bull or limiting their participation in the remaining GPs will be looked as an artificial way of making the championship interesting, and if they do nothing, they would continue with a reputation of mending or breaking rules to favour Red Bull, like they have since Abu Dhabi 2021.

    1. You do realise the reports are about last season, not this one?

    2. They can just add a second asterisk to Verstappen’s first title.

      1. @slowmo oh you would love to that isn’t. And with you millions of ‘fans’

    3. @todfod Verstappen’s 2021 title, and his inevitable 2022 title, will go down in history the same way people view Schumacher’s 1994 and 1995 titles. Basically he first one was won by the guy who arguable deserved the title most, but in less than clean conditions. It was then followed up by an emphatic, dominant defence. Over time, people have mellowed about how the 1994 title was won, even devout Williams fans like me, people will do the same over Verstappen’s 2021 title win. It’s raw now, but eventually people will get over it.

      1. 2021 will forever be disputed by Hamilton/Merc fans disputing Max got lucky by gaining one controversial place in AD and Max/RedBull fans disputing Lewis got away with foul play in Silverstone and gained a massive points swing. It is what it is.
        What is obvious though, is that Max was more consistent and made less errors. He had the lion’s share of bad luck with DNF’s while Lewis was benefitting from red flags and gaining points he didn’t deserve.
        As much as I am grateful for the drama and seeing Max crowned deserved champion, he really should have won a lot more comfortably last year.

        1. Why do Max fans bring up Silverstone – the one time last season Lewis ran Max off – but not mention ALL the other times last season, Max ran Lewis off the road? Like at Imola, and Portimao, and Monza, and Brazil, and Saudi…?

    4. Red Bull have always been tagged as cheaters tbh

  9. It’s very annoying that it is up to the FIA to choose, rather than there being a set procedure. Surely that has to change.

  10. “We have internally discussed this with RBR & AM and come to a conclusion that we will not disclose. However, RBR & AM will work closely with the FIA to make the process more transparent.” – FIA.

    1. @hatebreeder

      Feels like all the teams are entitled a bailout. Ferrari with their cheat engine from 2017 to 2019. Red Bull with their breach of the cost cap in a championship winning season. Mercedes seem like fools for getting a bailout for something as small an illegal tyre test back in 2013.

      1. Well, if they got multiple titles following that test they don’t look like fools at all!

  11. Constantijn Blondel
    30th September 2022, 11:44

    So who is / are the other team(s) ?

    1. Aston Martin.

      1. Constantijn Blondel
        30th September 2022, 13:41

        Interesting … … and thank you for the info, because I didn’t find it mentioned anywhere (which may just have been my eyes :) )

  12. I have smelled this already. But if this is true, then the sport might have another embarrassment. How will they apply those rules to already something decided?

    1. Well in athletics they retroactively strip medals, why can’t they do that in F1?

  13. How ironic

  14. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this turned out to be true, and RBR + Max ended up getting demoted from their 2021 official points finishes? The Mercedes F1 social media person would have a field day!
    Gotta add that it would also give F1 a nice way of getting out of their self-inflicted lack of credibility after the farce of Abu Dhabi 2021.
    Wait, what’s that I hear…rumbles in the distance about the RB car’s 2022 floor in the first half of the season? Infamita! Surely not??

    1. Yeah would be ironic when this subject disappears like the so called flexfloors of Redbull. MB framed it so well with george naming the illegal floors of RB and that they will reach the 2 top teams after the belgium GP. Feeding de public opinion … nothing else, and looking at the comments it works.

  15. I bet the Silverstone and Hungary crash caused by Mercedes costed RB a lot of money.

    1. Irrelevant, the Monza crash likely cost Mercedes a lot too. Accidents happen, you need to budget for them.

      1. @slowmo so there is always an answer on everything if you like. I think a 53G crash does something else with your budget than parking it at slow speed above another car.

  16. I’m sorry but in any other sport, say athletics for example, if you cheat and are caught later you get stripped of your medals. Only in Formula 1 can you win and cheat and still keep all your prizes by paying a fine. It makes F1 governance look like a mockery to other sports in the world.

    1. But this is F1 – no one is going to get stripped of anything – too embarrassing to the FIA for them to openly admit any cheating has happened, so no one is getting stripped of anything!

  17. Absolutely nothing will happen from this and the budget cap will fail it’s first test and so teams will continue to breach it.

    The only fair outcome for this is a percentage removal of points from the team and constructors points for being above and beyond the limit. If they overspent by 5% then they and their drivers should lose 5% of their points for the year the transgression that happened. Instead they’ll at best make a token gesture of fining the teams and removing some constructors points that ultimately will make no difference to their actual championship position.

    I would like to know the actual breach amount though as if we’re talking a fraction of a percent then some leniency is appropriate. If it’s a blatant breach by several percent then it raises very serious questions.

    1. As the other article that has gone up has shown, Red Bull at least seem confident this is a non story so it doesn’t sound like a huge breach if any to me for them at least.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      30th September 2022, 13:35

      If there is only a fine and that is how it will always be we know for sure that the top 3 teams will gladly pay to spend more over the cap.

      I don’t know what the penalty should be but surely it has to be something that really hurts as a deterrent going forward.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        30th September 2022, 13:37

        It is probably the media though that anything that happens is either ORBR or MB involved.

      2. @andyfromsandy that was my thoughts about it too. Without competitive or serious penalties teams will happily pay extra to gain an advantage.

    3. I think everyone thinks the same… regardless of what seems fair and open, the FIA and FOM will keep the results of the audits secret (as they did with Ferrari) and there will be a minor slap on the wrist for RBR.
      In my opinion it’s unfair and unsporting if that does happen – especially as any overspend hasn’t just influenced the 2021 championship, it has obviously come over into 2022 and will probably go onwards to 2023, such is the dominance of the current RBR car!
      If any of the teams have exceeded 5% (which is the implication that RBR has!) and they don’t get a meaningful punishment (financial isn’t really meaningful!), then it gives the green light to the other teams to ignore the financial regulations to develop without regard to the cost cap surely?

  18. Sometimes I think these articles are there just to arous the Lewis fans. If RB exceeded the BC its probay a smart accountant because they know the money you book in 2021 leaves more room in 2022. Just keep it within 5%

    1. Or this could be like them thinking they were smart about the fuel flow limit which they tried to get around which ultimately was proven against the rules. So for example they could have thought they were being smart but the FIA say, errr no, that’s not right and you broke the rules.

  19. Jonathan Parkin
    30th September 2022, 13:30

    Oh dear. This is going to turn into a right bowl of porridge isn’t it

  20. “a retroactive change to the championship outcome nine months after the season ended would be an enormously controversial and unpopular move”

    It would be popular with quite a lot of people I think.

    1. This would be popular, as long as the evidence are publicly disclosed. Cheaters should be punished to save the sport’s integrity. This is a popular move in any sport.

  21. It is hard to see how you can sensibly have a rule where violations of it are only detected nine months after the championship was awarded.

    1. It’s the nature of preparation of financial statements. They always take 6-9 months to be prepared, signed off and released. Issues like this are always going to take months to uncover.

  22. This was always going to happen. Rules aren’t rules until someone looks to see where the line is – and then what punishment follows once the line is understood and crossed. There was never a scenario where all teams would just follow the text.

    I was surprised that Christian seemed somewhat evasive and nervous when questioned. I’m not saying they’re guilty, I don’t know – none of us do. But he normally has a ‘smug guy at a wedding’ persona, he comes across quite different on this subject.

  23. I think we’ll find that Red Bull did not exceed the limit but their junior team did and was providing spare parts to Red Bull

  24. I don’t know what the outcome of this can be. But seriously. Its almost OCTOBER. If you need a entire year to control a thing, better don’t control it at all.

  25. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
    30th September 2022, 14:33

    I hope, if any team is found guilty of exceeding the cap, that the punishment will be so severe no one ever tries to do it again.

    I’m thinking Mclaren copygate size punishment. You want to cheat? Fine, your budget cap is 100 million less than other teams for a season.

    1. Or how about a 90 million fine shared equally amongst the other 9 teams who also get a extra $10 million added to their budget for the next year too.

      1. Seems very minor in effect, doesn’t it? For red bull that fine is nothing and 10 mil for a team like renault does nothing, they would make a midfield car with 200 mil budget, and 10 mil for the only competitors, ferrari and merc, doesn’t seem effective enough. I think the other idea proposed would be much more a penalty for red bull.

        1. @esploratore1 I confess I misread his post as a 100m fine not off the cap, that indeed would be quite the deterrent :-)

  26. Its amazing how you can title an article but nothing pertains to your title! All you talked about is how budget cap works!

  27. The budget cap is a scam with números loopholes, nearly impossible to police. The rich just get richer.

  28. I have already predicted that this is going to happen on this same forum as the casual fan that have never ever been involved in motorsport whatsoever. How on earth that people in charge of sport at both the FIA and FOM didn’t see this coming is beyond me. They seem like those delusional politicians believing in their own hype.

    If any team will have the choice between challenging for the WDC or an important finish in the standing and breaching the cup and get a “bailout” à la Ferrari PU saga then the answer is obvious… The FIA have demonstrated that it cannot take organizations with the caliber of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull… to court and the big teams would have never gave up an advantage without getting another one.

  29. Well, what now?
    In F1, history is written on the track. They can fine Red Bull now, they’ll gladly pay and still be champions. A great deal anyways. Nobody will even remember the fine in 5 years.

    The system is flawed.
    The day they have the courage to revert results and actually strip a win or a title, they’ll be taken a bit more seriously.

    1. I think you’re forgetting the nature of discourse now and social media. Everyone will remember.

  30. Red Bull over the budget cap?

    Well I, for one, am shocked.

  31. Sounds like a double * beside Max’s 2021 championship

  32. It perplexes me how Red Bull have the audacity to claim last year’s drivers championship as legitimately earned. And now this. If I were Verstappen, I would be mortified having to put that fraudulent number one hat on every race weekend. But there he goes, golden shoes and all. And these engineers clipping that new floor on this weekend willfully knowing they’re gaining an unfair advantage against those who respect the nature of the sporting regulations. Absolutely shameful. They should be thrown out of the sport for bringing F1 into disrepute. Either respect the rules or stop tainting our sport.

    1. Budget cap broken or not, merc was marginally the best car and verstappen drove better, don’t see what’s wrong using number 1.

      1. He drove consistently over the limit. Agreed made fewer errors but over the limit. You know what? beginning to care less and less.

        Nothing will change last years result, nothing.

    2. @Jazz
      Audacity to claim last year’s driver’s championship?
      I’d say Max and RedBull felt like they were close to being robbed in the final races.
      Adrian Newey stated in an interview after the championship win that he was still fuming with the Silverstone incident. You might try and play it down but it was a major turning point in the championship battle.
      I can see how the Lewis/Merc fans were devastated as everything seemed to be falling into their lap as usual, but you can’t deny Max drove better in 2021.

      1. @G well of course Max “drove better” (brake testing, swerving under braking, ignoring flags, divebombing, pushing other cars off track aside) they strapped FIVE MILLION QUID to his car and hoped they could dodge it with creative accounting. If you’re defending that, then that’s up to you.

  33. Never a boring day in this sport. I feel like I’m watching my mother’s TV soaps.

  34. If Red Bull are found to have broken the budget cap, no matter by how much, the one thing you can guarantee is that the results of the championships last year and this year will not be changed.

    This is not because the FIA have any bias to Red Bull or any other team, but simply the fact that they would not change the winner of a championship, if a team or a driver who had finished down the table significantly broke the spending rules I could see a meaningful punishment being handed out, but for a team who won one of the championships the only punishment would either be a slap on the wrists or if it is was a substantial penalty something which would only affect future seasons.

    It is like Michael Schumacher in the 1994 and 1997 title deciding races, the moves he made were similar in both years but the difference was he won the title in 1994 but in 1997 he only finished second. It is much easier to exclude someone who finished second from the championship than the person who finished first.

    Whether or not Red Bull did break the budget cap, there will come a point when a team who is successful on track ends up breaking the spending rules and how the FIA decide to punish them is key to if the rules are respected.

    If a team knew they could overspend by X% and it not affect their finishing position in a season they would be tempted to bring some more updates in a close title fight to try and win the championship even if it meant punishments for the next season.

    If the punishments were limited to the season of the overspend then a team may go all out with R&D in one year safe in the knowledge that although they would be punished in that year, the car they would have in future years would be better.

    History has shown that teams will always be looking for loopholes in the regulations and will try to push the rules to the limit, as long as the car can pass any tests the FIA have then the car is legal.

  35. Irrelevant. If the FIA implements rules and does’t check them, it is advantage for the teams involved (if there are any). Next item please.

  36. It wasn’t Red Bull’s development push which secured the 2021 championship, Michael Masi’s rule bending got them over the line. Most tainted championship ever.

  37. Deduction of points from the constructors’ championship for the season in which the breach occurred

    Deduction of points from the drivers’ championship for the season in which the breach occurred

    Does anybody believe either of those would ever be used except where it maybe makes little difference? Like Schumacher being retrospectively disqualified when he’d lost the title to Villeneuve anyway, but not the year he won the title against Hill. And that was for events in full view of the fans, you can’t see the budget cap as a fan.

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