Red Bull demand rivals withdraw ‘fictitious, defamatory’ claims they broke cost cap

2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has vehemently refuted suggestions his team exceeded Formula 1’s cost cap last year, and said the claims were timed to overshadow Max Verstappen’s likely championship win.

Reports emerged yesterday claiming the FIA has found two teams were not in compliance with the new financial regulations which were introduced last year, and Red Bull could be one of them.

Verstappen beat Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 drivers’ championship in a controversial finale last year. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said yesterday that if Red Bull over-spent in 2021, it could give them a development advantage this year and next.

Horner reiterated his team did not exceed the $145 million spending limit last year and says that is supported by the data it submitted to the FIA earlier this year.

“We made the submission in March,” he said. “We stand absolutely, 100% behind that submission that we are below the cap.

“That submission has to be signed off by your auditors, obviously ours is one of the big three, and then it goes through a process with the FIA, a little bit like an audit, where there are questions and interpretations that are raised and discussed.

“That process is ongoing with the FIA who haven’t, obviously, completed their process at this point in time. I think they made that clear in a statement they put out yesterday evening. So we await with interest to see the final outcome of that process which is hopefully in the near future but remain absolutely confident that we’ve absolutely complied with the cap.”

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The team was “a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday”, said Horner, who questioned how they had learned the details of his teams’ submissions to the FIA.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Singapore, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Singapore Grand Prix practice in pictures
“The submission between the team and the FIA is one that is confidential,” he said. “I have no idea what the outcome of our rivals’ submissions are or their accounting treatment and so on.”

Horner insisted there is no truth to his rivals’ accusations. “I’d be intrigued to know where their source of information for these fictitious claims have come from,” he said.

“They’re hugely defamatory. We take umbrage to them. One can only assume it’s not coincidental that this is at a point where Max has his first strike at a world championship.

“How on earth do they have this information, where do they have this knowledge? The FIA have even stated they haven’t even completed their process.”

The team will consider its reaction to the claims made by their rivals if they are not withdrawn, said Horner.

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“Unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options available to us are because it is absolutely unacceptable to be making comments of the type that were made yesterday.

“It’s totally defamatory to the team, to the brands and even to Formula 1 and I’d be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from.”

Horner said there is no doubt his team was the focus of the claims over the cost cap. “I think they were very clear in naming Red Bull,” he said.

While Wolff claimed yesterday it is an “open secret” in the paddock that one team had significantly breached the spending limit, Horner questioned how that could be so when Red Bull do not know the consequences of their submission.

“The facts are such that a submission is made to the FIA and it is a private submission between the team and the FIA,” he said. “So how on earth can any team know the detail of our submission? How can any team know that a team is in breach or not?

“We don’t even know if we’re in breach. We don’t even know until next week, when the process has been completed. So perhaps, when these accusation are made, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

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“We take umbrage and extremely seriously the remarks that have been made because is it any coincidence that Max has his first shot at winning a world title and here we are talking nothing but cost caps rather than the phenomenal performance he has had this year? I think it’s an underhand tactic that’s been employed to detract from perhaps a lack of performance this year.

“Of course when references are made to last year, this year, next year, we’re going to take that extremely seriously. So this is an issue for the FIA to deal with but also for Red Bull to consider what our position is with those comments that have been made.”

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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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61 comments on “Red Bull demand rivals withdraw ‘fictitious, defamatory’ claims they broke cost cap”

  1. Wow an audit by one of the big three audit firms. They’re always bulletproof and never get picked apart…. Just look at some of the fines handed out to PWC and the like for serious errors over the last few years.

    1. Didn’t German Wirecard also have their books signed off for years? As did Trump org @squeakywheel – as you mention, being audited can be very far away from saying that everything was alright and all within the rules.

  2. Well. That’s that, then.

    Whinger spice says it’s false accusations, so it can’t be true.

    1. @sham it’s more that he’s adamant that the submission that Red Bull made shows that they were under the cap, which is subtly different – because that is not what the FIA is claimed to be disputing. Whilst Horner’s saying that their figures show they were under, the accusation is that the FIA doesn’t agree with the way that Red Bull came up with those figures in the first place.

      One major source of contention appears to be around the way that Red Bull has employed staff at Red Bull Powertrains Ltd and Red Bull Advanced Technologies Ltd. The accusation is that Red Bull has transferred engineers into those subsidiary companies, and has then claimed that those engineers were exempt from the cost cap: the claim is that the FIA’s auditors have disagreed with this and decided that, given the work that those employees did would have counted towards the wider budget cap, the salaries of those operatives should also have been counted towards the budget cap, irrespective of whether they worked for the main parent team or for one of their subsidiaries.

      That difference, along with differences in the way that materials were accounted for in terms of when they were classified as being used, is claimed to be rather substantial and would put Red Bull into the “major breach” realm – figures of more than $10 million are being suggested.

      1. Thanks anon. I haven’t really delved into this story yet as it’s frankly all a bit dismal. If the difference is substantial and it’s clear that the budget deception was deliberate, then FIA action – to be a viable deterrent – has to be hard-hitting and relative to 2021 (retrospective). Meaning another huge row…

      2. Yeah wright and we should believe somebody with no inside knowledge! I am not saying they did not over run the budget. But nothing has been proven yet, so let’s wait for the FIA to answer the question. They are the only ones who have the real numbers and none of us have them.

  3. Leonard ‘Big Lenny’ Persin (@)
    1st October 2022, 10:53

    The desperation and delusion from racefans and hammy fans is hilarious 😂 good luck 🤞 😂 🤦‍♂️

    1. @theessence The story is literally everywhere in the F1 news and its promulgation not limited to the Mercedes team (or its fans). That said, if Red Bull did massively overspend in 2021 – as determined by independent accountancy – then Verstappen’s first title really does start to look unmerited through no real fault of his own. Any sanction from FIA would have to be extremely tough, given the pressure from all the other teams – and any future ones – not to let one team benefit in such a huge way (bar Alpha Tauri presumably). But maybe Horner is right or the amount over isn’t that substantial. We’ll have to see.

  4. Christian & Toto are more like Hollyoaks characters these days.

  5. I can see it now.

    Max doesn’t quite lock down the WDC this weekend and then the FIA (at the behest of Liberty) exclude RBR from the next 3 races in an attempt to manufacture a close finish for the season.

    Of course it will all blow up in their faces when Sainz, Russell and Hamilton all beat Leclerc and Perez in those races and Max still ends up with an unassailable lead.

    1. @dbradock How is Perez going to race if RB is excluded? Does he drive for an AlphaTauri-liveried Red Bull instead?

    2. FIA won’t do that, not after how the end of season was so badly scripted in the last race last season. Red Bull will get a $10,000,000 fine or some other minor slap on the hand. Bigger question is how the other teams will react to a team that won a championship doing it by breaking the rules. Will Ferrari and Mercedes and others purposefully go over budget if a precedent is set with a small penalty?

      1. If I were Toto or Binotto, I would purposefully go over the budget if it is found that Red Bull did, but only get a slap on the wrist. I mean, what’s the point of the budget cap to these big teams if they can just go over it, get a $10 million fine, and then just keep breaking the rules? Might as well just do it if the penalty is so light.

      2. 10 mill is not enough if the breach is by 10 mil, you need 100 mil, and even then teams like the top 3 might consider breaching it again.

  6. A lot of people are going to have egg on their faces if it’s not Red Bull. The only other team I have heard mention is AM but possibly as the team with the minor infringement.

    You would have to think the main issue is going to be with one of the larger teams. I wonder who…McLaren, Alpine?

    1. @phil-f1-21 None of the teams have mentioned Red Bull. Christian getting ultra-defensive is a bad look for him.

      1. I think it’s all part of his act to pretend to be some sort of underdog.

      2. Itsmeagain (@)
        1st October 2022, 11:52

        I see a lot of accusations from Wolff and also on this website. The only thing is Wolff is not mentioning RB but everyone knows he is pointing at RB. Where did Horner mentioned MB than?

        1. Who complained about Horner mentioning MB? RBR was the team reacting, while close to all other teams only spoke about “one other team”.

    2. None of the teams have said it is Red Bull, it was from a leak to the media, a leak which seems credible. Horner is talking like a politician saying ‘what we submitted we believe is correct’ but it probably turns out it isn’t correct or they hid some things. Have to wait for FIA to release info for the truth,but Horner is going on the offensive to try to get a slap on the hand. He wants to stir up the court of public oppinion because he could have just swept away the questions.

  7. What a ridiculous fuss about some rumour. Boring. But if it rocks your boat then knock yourself over tittle-tattle.

    1. If it was just a rumour, Horner would not be going full politician to the media about it. Politicians pre emptively do this kind of defense. This is something that will make millions of F1 fans livid if shown to be true as it will further illegitimatimise last year’s championship result.

  8. Has any of the other teams actually claimed that it’s Red Bull that is over the cap? I know rumours say it is but as far as I’m aware I haven’t heard any of the other team principals state that it’s specifically Red Bull.

    1. No, but everyone in the paddock knows it is them. Notice none of the other teams came out as defensive as Red Bull and all talked about another team. There has been a leak somewhere, perhaps a scripted leak by FIA to gauge reaction and to better know how much to penalize Red Bull. Horner reminded me yesterday of the old ‘Ron-speak’ that the once legendary McLaren team principal Ron Dennis used to use.

    2. No, but Red Bull is the only one crying foul while many of the other teams are stating they want the FIA to be firm.

      Horner, who is a known teller of untrue tales, might as well preface his statements with the infamous “If I did it”.

  9. He’s right to be annoyed. The FIA themselves have said the reports are unsubstantiated rumour and yet this website and others names Red Bull by name. According to Wolff it’s an open secret – stops short of naming Red Bull but it’s obvious who he’s talking about. Sky discussing different punishments, other websites reporting the title could be given to Hamilton in the event of a ‘deserved’ disqualification and social media calling for Red Bull to be ejected from the championship. Words like ‘fixed’, ‘cheaters’, ‘Red Bull are cheating again’, even the comments above essentially ridiculing Horner for defending.

    And yet currently there’s no proof whatsoever.

    If Red Bull don’t even know if they broke it how does Wolff? How is this an ‘open secret’ when it’s meant to be confidential? How are we discussing how to punish Red Bull having breached the cost cap when there is currently zero proof they did? Talking as though they’re already guilty when at the moment we literally don’t know if they did is monstrously unfair.

    1. Agreed. Just want to add something: if red bull is in the clear then the other teams look like idiots for making a false claim (and are open to liability claims), if Toto and Mekis are right then the FIA has some explaining to do how the information came out in the open before RB was made aware of it and could/should face a lot of backlash for it. Anyone know of someone from one of those teams getting hired by the FIA in a position that could have known about these issues?

      FIA can’t really win here in my opinion.

      1. I don’t think any team is open to liability since no team has specifically named another team as breaching the budget cap. Plus who says it’s the FIA that leaked the info (if true), could have been a loud mouth from within one of the teams. All in all, I’m going to wait for the report. This is just a DTS scenario till we have some concrete information to look over.

        1. “I don’t think any team is open to liability since no team has specifically named another team as breaching the budget cap.”

          Depending on the jurisdiction you don’t need to name someone specifically to fall under defamation case. This was one of the issues of Heard vs Depp earlier this year.

  10. Has any of the other teams actually claimed that it’s Red Bull that is over the cap?

    Well, Horner says RBR are being accused:
    The team was “a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday”

    and very specifically:
    “I think they were very clear in naming Red Bull,” he said.

    In which, he seems to not only accepted that the comments are about RBR (no one, other than Horner, has named a team) he seems to have miscounted, as I’ve seen comments from Mekies (Ferrari) Wolff(Mercedes) and Vasseur (Alfa) I make that three teams having commented on the major breach and zero naming RBR.

    Or, technically, four teams commenting and one (RBR) saying it is RBR in the hot seat. Foot –> shoot?

    Popcorn, comfy seat and a good supply of beer required I think.

    1. Missed a damned /bold end -and no edit. pah!

      I make that three teams having commented on the major breach and zero naming RBR.

      Or, technically, four teams commenting and one (RBR) saying it is RBR in the hot seat. Foot –> shoot?

      Popcorn, comfy seat and a good supply of beer required I think.

      1. Horner does say TW was ‘clear in naming Red Bull’ and certainly I didn’t see that anywhere. So, if so, it’s a dead duck in terms of any litigation I’d have thought and even exposes him to counter litigation.

        1. Not quite, you don’t need to specifically name someone to fall under defamation law, depending on jurisdiction as Heard Vs Depp proved earlier this year.

        2. It’s on this website even, Wolff saying that Horner should talk to his financial director as they are under investigation because of the budget cap. Or am I misinterpreting Wolff’s statement?

  11. We were always suspicious of RB as they were the only team of bringing a host of upgrades at nearly every race last year,

    Even Ham was shocked at one point being asked from the media about RB upgrades.

    If they are deemed to have gone over, then a strip of points for WCC and DC must be implemented for when they went over the budget, could be the last 6 races etc.

    Would anyone really be upset if they strip VES of the title from 21 and give it to Ham? He only one it after dubious circumstances anyway.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      1st October 2022, 13:08

      Imagine the size of the asterisk on Hamilton’s record though then… Not sure even he’d want that.

      1. Hamilton already has an asterisk next to his record, because he should have won the 2007 title if the FIA didn’t wiggle its way out of disqualifying Williams and BMW for obvious technical rule breaches from the season-ending 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix. Breaches that suddenly became a lot less obvious when it became clear what this meant for the title fight.

        1. Breaches that suddenly became a lot less obvious when it became clear what this meant for the title fight.

          You’re almost implying that Max Mosley might not have been that keen on the young Hamilton…

        2. Given that Hamilton was only allowed to compete for the 2007 WDC *at all* because of undue pressure being placed on the FIA (the WMSC had originally decided to ban McLaren from the whole of the 2007 and 2008 championships as a result of Spygate, before Bernie leaned on them to impose a more lenient punishment), the Brazil stewards’ non-decision is insignificant really.

          1. @red-andy mind you, Bernie did suggest at the time that Mosely wanted to levy a particularly harsh penalty on McLaren because of his personal animosity towards Ron Dennis, rather than because of the offence itself.

            After all, it was pointed out that Ferrari itself was allowed to keep results from that season, even though the FIA found Ferrari guilty of breaking the technical regulations.
            In fact, Ferrari only began looking for a possible leak of information because the FIA told them, after the Australian GP, that they knew Ferrari had an illegal floor (it broke the regulations on the way it was constructed and fixed to the chassis, as it was designed to deflect beyond the limits allowed by the regulations) and instructed Ferrari that, whilst they would allow them to keep their points from that race, Ferrari would be disqualified from future races if they used that floor again.

            Other teams were also caught red handed that season with large quantities of confidential information that came from other teams – that same year, Renault was caught with, to quote from the World Motorsport Council investigation into Renault, information “including, but not limited to the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the McLaren fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars” given to Renault’s engineers by Philip Mackereth, a former McLaren employee.

            In their judgement “the WMSC notes with strong disapproval the fact that there were individuals of sufficient seniority within Renault who should have known that the drawings that Mackereth showed them contained proprietary confidential information.”. Renault was found guilty of possessing confidential information from McLaren and the senior management guilty of knowingly not reporting that information to the FIA – the WMSC only let them off because they couldn’t find evidence confirming that Renault had then used that information in the design of the R27.

            Kolles, over at Spyker, wasn’t even being remotely subtle about it when he launched a series of protests against Toro Rosso running an illegal customer car built by Red Bull – as part of his protest, he submitted copies of blueprints of Red Bull’s RB3 and Toro Rosso’s STR2 supporting his claim that the latter was illegally using components designed by the former.

            We know those were genuine blueprints because Red Bull confirmed they were – and wanted to know how exactly Kolles was getting blueprints of their cars. In the end, the whole affair was quietly brushed under the carpet – the implication being that Kolles kept quiet, and in return the FIA didn’t ask Kolles why exactly was he walking around with blueprints for somebody else’s car.

            Also in 2007, you saw the completion of the legal action that Ferrari had taken against some former Ferrari employees that had moved to Toyota over the theft of intellectual property.
            Back in 2004, quite a few individuals commented that Toyota’s new car, the TF104, seemed to bear a suspiciously large number of features in common with Ferrari’s 2003 car, the F2003-GA. It later turned out that some former Ferrari employees had taken information with them from Ferrari to Toyota, with suggestions that the TF104 was, shall we euphemistically say, “inspired” by the F2003-GA.

            That incident later resulted in Toyota’s offices being raided by the police in Cologne, and in April 2007, Mauro Iacconi and Angelo Santini – two of the engineers involved – were both convicted in a criminal court on charges of espionage, including unauthorised access to Ferrari’s computers and misappropriation of files, with the former receiving a 9 month jail sentence and the latter 16 months in jail. However, the FIA declined to take any action against Toyota for their employees having engaged in industrial espionage – it seems that the FIA allowed Toyota to quietly sack the engineers involved instead.

            We therefore had, at around that same time, three other notable instances of espionage involving other teams in F1 – one of which ended up with jail sentences being handed down to those involved – and yet, in all three of those other cases, the teams involved did not receive any punishment from the FIA. You might think that McLaren was treated leniently – but when the FIA didn’t even bother investigating another team where the team boss was showing the FIA’s own scruitineering team blueprints from another team, it suggests that the scale of the punishment was unusually harsh compared to what other teams were doing at that same time.

      2. It shouldnt be his option to want it or not.

        If it’s proven that Red Bull only kept competitive until the end because they massively broke the rules, something significant should be done.

        Or else other teams will be over spending and only facing the consequences later when it will be to late to change the results.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          1st October 2022, 13:32

          “If it’s proven that Red Bull only kept competitive until the end because they massively broke the rules, something significant should be done.”

          That I would agree on however at the moment, we don’t know if that’s the case. It could be due to the fact that they became an engine supplier past a certain date so the FIA consider the Red Bull Powertrains staff as members of the team and therefore fall under the budget cap… In that case, whilst Red Bull would have breached the cap significantly, there isn’t actually any material benefit as they were working on the engine.

          Until we know specifics on why the FIA feel they breached the cap (if indeed, they do) and why Red Bull feel they didn’t, any talk about what punishment they should be given is meaningless.

      3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        1st October 2022, 14:16

        @petebaldwin yeah but the asterisk should be on the FIA for allowing all the transgressions over an entire season. There are so many folks who have stated that Max would have been disqualified from the championship long before Abu Dhabi under any other leadership but Todt/Masi who both left the sport in disgrace.

        At Abu Dhabi, there has never been a clearer championship winner. He demolished Red Bull as a team and they threw more cars and tires at him than any driver has had thrown at them in their career. It was a coronation and they stole the crown with the help of the FIA.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          1st October 2022, 14:18

          The situation was so desperate that Horner asked for a miracle, iirc.

          He was wrong – Red Bull needed two miracles, not just one.

        2. There are so many folks who have stated that Max would have been disqualified from the championship long before Abu Dhabi

          Yes, but most of them are being paid by Mercedes to say that.

  12. The budget cap does not cover driver salaries or engine costs at present and it appeared the lack of a universal agreement to include all spend be problematic. A cynic may suggest part of the motivation for Red Bull Power Trains is because unlike Ferrari and Mercedes, RBR have no other automotive manufacturing activity where research and development costs can be “shipped off,’.
    Of course power units are set to become part of a budget cap, but for now its a convenient place for manufacturer teams to get a little bit of work done ‘on the side’

  13. This hadn’t sunk in with me. Just thought it interesting, probably obvious to others though.

    From the
    (Still haven’t figured out bold & quote thingy on phone.)

  14. Toto shooting his mouth off again ? We have had other Austrians with lud mouths……………..
    Oh wait !!! that was before F1

    1. Its about RBR, you know

    2. @keithcollantine how is this sort of comment being allowed on this site?

      1. He’s not using any swearwords, I’ve seen far worse on this site!

  15. I don’t know the truth but Horner should consult his lawyer before accusing people of “defamation”. He may win the battle but lose the countersuit and a pile of cash with it.

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    1st October 2022, 14:10

    This will all play into Red Bull’s hands. If they exceeded the budget, the FIA will probably penalize Red Bull by awarding the WCC along with the WDC last year to make it a set.

    It’s the only reasonable course of action given last year’s season. Horner’s already celebrating, I’m sure.

  17. If Red Bull are found to have seriously broken the financial rules last season, they must have their manufacturers and drivers titles taken off them.
    To leave them with those titles in the event they’re found guilty would be like leaving Lance Armstrong with his 7 Tour de France trophies.

    1. If Red Bull are found to have seriously broken the financial rules last season, they must have their manufacturers and drivers titles taken off them.

      I’m trying to figure out whether that was badly worded irony about the FIA always doing the wrong thing, or you mistakenly assuming RBR were the victim. Stripping them of titles, well:

      1. RBR haven’t won a constructors title recently, 2013 was their last. I’d say stripping them of the 2010-2013 titles is a bit excessive.
      2. Masi cheated the whole world with a made up result, so amending the records to remove the wrong recipient of the WDC is a very mild punishment.
      3. 2022, can’t take away what they don’t yet have, but you could strip this year’s points (it’s been done before)

      That last one would set up an interesting season’s end 4 drivers inside a 53 point margin and three times that number of points up for grabs.

  18. Funny he says they absolutely have not breached the spending limit, then later on says the process hasn’t finished and they don’t even know if they’ve breached… Which one is it?

  19. Right now, Formula 1 and the FIA have a really disgusting stench about them.
    Sort it out quickly!

  20. I presume there were rumours of accountancy ‘irregularities’ that somehow reached the paddock (other teams) and those teams feared or fear that the issue would end up buried if those rumours weren’t made public via some vague comments in the media. Or something like that.

  21. Has RBR got enough money left in their budget for legal proceedings?!

    1. Legal proceedings are outside the cap, so yes, plenty.

  22. It is beyond any doubt that the timing and approach of these leaks are intentional and aiming to achieve a delegitimisation of Red Bull’s 21 and 22 championships, and it’s possible future ‘domination’ too.

    The leaks come from Ferrari (Gazzetta) and Mercedes (AMuS). The issue is clear in that it’s an accouting issue – incredibly complex and subjective. This means that it is entirely possible that FIA accepts the Red Bull submission after some back and forth.
    What these leaks, and especially Wolff, Binotto, Mekies but also Sky and all the other neutral media, are doing is casting aspersions. It means that when the FIA notes that the submission is clean or only fractionally over and hands down a small penalty / slap on the wrist, for certain followers of the sport, it will be evidence of Red Bull cheating, FIA favouritism, the system not working, etc. And that serves to delegitimise the championships of Red Bull and Verstappen.

    It is transparent as can be. It is also pretty brazen.

    Only nuance so far can be found in Dieter Rencken’s analysis.

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