“We can tell two top teams are about the same but another spends more” – Wolff

2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says it is clear one of the leading teams in Formula 1 has been spending more than the others.

His opposite number at Red Bull, Christian Horner, yesterday criticised rivals for alleging his team exceeded the budget cap during 2021. It followed reports the FIA, which is completing its assessment of data submitted by teams on how much they spent last year, has found two teams in breach of the Financial Regulations, which were introduced last year.

In response to Horner’s claim the comments made about his team were “defamatory”, Wolff called the exchanges between team principals over the row “noise”.

“There’s a process,” he said. “On Wednesday there’s going to be certificates of compliance that are going to be issued or not and then if somebody has not complied, there’s a process and a governance that’s in place.

Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal, Singapore, 2022
Report: Red Bull demand rivals withdraw ‘fictitious, defamatory’ claims they broke cost cap
“For me, I’m 100% sure that the FIA is going to do the right thing. So everything else is all chatter until then. For us it’s important that the cost cap is being complied with. It’s cornerstone of the new regulations and I very much hope that all the teams have done that.”

Horner raised doubt over the accusations levelled at his team, asking how a competitor could have knowledge of their finances. Wolff said the information Mercedes had gathered by observing their rivals indicated one team’s spending was out of line with the others.

“We obviously monitor closely which parts are being brought to the track from the top teams every single race, ’21 season and ’22 season,” he said. “And we can see that there is two top teams that are just about the same, but there is another team that spends more.

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“So we know exactly that we’re spending three and a half million a year in parts that we bring to the car and then you can see what difference it makes to spend another 500,000 – it would be a big difference.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Singapore, 2022
Mercedes had to slow their development due to the budget cap
Wolff said his team had to make compromises in order to keep their spending within the cap. “We haven’t produced lightweight parts for the car in order to bring us down from a double-digit overweight because we simply haven’t got the money,” he said. “So we need to do it for next year’s car.

“We can’t homologate a lightweight chassis and bring it in because it’s just two million that we would be over the cap. So you can see every spend more has a performance advantage.”

He pointed out that even a “minor” breach, which the regulations define as up to 5% over last year’s $145 million cap, could run to several million dollars and confer a major advantage.

“Is it a so-called ‘minor’ breach? I think the word is probably not correct because if you’re spending five million more and you’re still in the ‘minor breach’, it still has a big impact on the championship,” said Wolff.

The financial regulations stipulate a variety of possible penalties for any team which has overspent, including fines, a reduction in future spending, points deductions and more. Wolff urged the FIA to impose a stiff sanction if a team is found to be in breach of the rules.

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“So in terms of the penalties, there is a catalogue of penalties that the FIA needs to decide what’s appropriate or whether this goes to the cost cap adjudication panel, which is the governance and we have no say in this. We shouldn’t have an opinion on this either, we need to see what the outcome is and then one can comment.

“But again, all the stakeholders in the sport, all the teams that have complied to the regulations, the FIA, Formula 1, need to make sure that these regulations have teeth because of the reasons of performance – you can gain a real competitive advantage.”

However he admitted it is a difficult call to hand down a penalty which could affect a driver’s finishing position in the championship.

“I tell you, I don’t want to be in the shoes of judges. To judge on that, drivers driving their guts out in order to be on top and there are decisions that the team takes that they are not involved in. But still, at the end, you sit in a car that’s maybe on steroids. So it’s such a tough, tough call.

“I wouldn’t want to make a judgement call. And to be honest my thinking isn’t so far [ahead], it’s more about the principle of how is this going to pan out in the future.

“How robust are these regulations? How are they being enforced and policed? How is the governance process going to run? Because we don’t know when it goes to the adjudication panel how the judges will decide. Then it’s learning by doing, I think, for all of us.”

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2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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63 comments on ““We can tell two top teams are about the same but another spends more” – Wolff”

  1. Team bosses in F1 would earn a lot more respect if they stopped acting like children who think they know an important secret.

    Even though I was never going to buy a Mercedes or drink Red Bull, these people – as representatives of their sponsors/employers – do nothing but make me want to not support their respective brands more than I did before.

    1. Pretty much.

    2. That’s what I do not understand either. No one comes off helping their brand.

    3. Exactly – even if they have been tipped off by the FIA (which if so now undermines the professionalism of the FIA), or that they’ve done some of their own homework and come to this conclusion. In any scenario that there is for them to think this way. They should shut up regardless, there is no need to be in the press with this – nobody comes out of it looking good.

      We get it that you hate each other. Everyone knows that. And lots of people hold resentment against others in life. But whether you work on a construction site / IT / astronaut or restaurant, eventually the boss will say ‘shut up – it’s not professional’.

      I’m surprised nobody at Daimler or whomever Toto’s bosses are or Mateschitz or Marko haven’t told them to reign it in. They’re making their organisations look like school kids. Toto could’ve at least waited until the results were published.

      1. Toto could’ve at least waited until the results were published.

        If you check, the timeline is that someone leaked info to a couple of media outlets (Only the teams in question and the FIA had that info – pick one as the source)

        At the first race weekend after that, a media bod asked Toto for comment and got a response that it was an open secret in the paddock that someone had a minor “procedural” breach and there was a major breach. No mention of any specific teams. On the Ferrari side, Mekies echoed this, again no mention of specific teams.
        We’re running out of teams with big budgets and a reason to put in a bit more than they should…

        Then, when no one has named names, Horner chips in with a defence that was phrased like a “guilty, but extenuating circumstances” plea.

        1. So you obviously missed the ” Horner should consult his CFO” remarks.
          Toto simply stated rbr cheated.

          1. If so, RB should be penalized. If not, FIA really needs to restrain Wolff. This can not continue. I hold Wolff (and to a marginally less extent Horner) responsible for the increased tension between fans and the undesired behavior flowing from it. He is making F1 a worse place. FIA should act and govern team boss behavior. Two clowns can not spoil our party.

        2. Backatitlikeacrackaddict
          2nd October 2022, 11:56

          Well, that is not how I read it. First of all you say that only the investigated teams and FIA have that info, you don’t know that. There can always be a leak. The media outlets pointed the finger at Red Bull saying it is probably them. Horner reacts to that saying they are not. After that Wolff reacts a little strange saying that Horner should check with his CFO, because they are being investigated. If Horner says it is not them, he did check this with his CFO, so why is Wolff saying this? That’s what I don’t get. Or is my timeline wrong here?

          1. Well, that is not how I read it. First of all you say that only the investigated teams and FIA have that info, you don’t know that. There can always be a leak.

            Er, where exactly would the leak come from other than the teams being investigated or the FIA?

            Once it’s leaked, the whole paddock knows that specific teams are being investigated. That would include Toto, along with the rest of the team heads. Most of whom have contributed comments, and some of whom are asking for the maximum penalty. Note that Toto is not one who has voiced that, just that he trusts the FIA to do the right thing.
            Past record suggests that his trust maybe misplaced.

            Interesting race today, demonstrating how much faster the RB is than the Ferrari, such that the #2 RB driver can easily outpace the #1 Ferrari driver.

          2. Backatitlikeacrackaddict
            2nd October 2022, 18:17

            Er, where exactly would the leak come from other than the teams being investigated or the FIA?

            Yes true, you are right about that.

            Once it’s leaked, the whole paddock knows that specific teams are being investigated. That would include Toto, along with the rest of the team heads.

            I saw Toto mentioning Horner and their CFO, that is the part I don’t get, especially when it is still a rumour.

            And yes, the race was fun. Hopefully some more drama in the next couple races.

    4. @bernasaurus
      Hear! Hear!
      The disgusting stench coming from Formula 1 and the FIA is getting stronger by the day!

    5. And the “journalists” who incessantly stir the pot and ask them about it over and over, do they escape your ire?

  2. I think it’s fairly obvious what is going on here.

    Wolff and Mercedes are pre-emptively trying to undermine the process, so that when the compliance certificates are issued next week and everything is in order, Merc’s army of paid sockpuppets can immediately plaster social media with further allegations of corruption.

    It is another part of their strategy to undermine the legitimacy of the championship they lost last season.

    The FIA really need to get a handle on the online disinformation operation coming out of Brackley. It is bringing the sport into disrepute.

    1. Since the Championship 🏆 was awarded illegally, the honorable thing would be to hand it to the rightful person.

      It will forever be shrouded in controversy.

    2. With any luck, the noisy few at Mercedes will disappear from the media for a few months again.
      Was quite refreshing last time.

    3. The FIA really need to get a handle on the online disinformation operation coming out of Brackley.

      I thought the bull was coming from a building adjacent to Milton Keynes station.
      Let’s see if Wednesday brings any clarity, shall we?

      Meanwhile, comfy seat, decent view, popcorn, beer.

      1. Itsmeagain (@)
        2nd October 2022, 10:08

        Well, most of the unfundamented bull came from Brackley this year (and before). As Wolff is seeking attention and makes accusations (like he did at Sky when Tsunoda had a dfn) and his unfundamented claim about illegal floors. Like Toto I believe in karma…..

    4. It’s Flexible Floors 2.0 isn’t it? Waiting for the TeamLH tantrums when the certifications come through …

    5. The guy from MB just implied all are noise before actual certification, and this is disinformation? The bias for RB is rich here

    6. I think it’s fairly obvious what is going on here.

      Yep, leaked information and the media working on whipping up a storm. Filled more than a few column inches.

    7. I have got exactly the same feeling, but let’s await the outcome first. If Toto is right, fine. If not, he should somehow get a kind of restriction. If you are right FIA really needs to get hold of his constant and consistent political agenda and undermining of their authority in this sport. But as said, he could be right in this case. His previous antics just makes us suspect he is at it again (which he might be)

    8. I think you are spot on. Toto is a snake.

    9. This, I think this a a slippery slope and FIA should act upon what Toto is doing.

    10. It is another part of their strategy to undermine the legitimacy of the championship they lost last season.?

      You mean the illegally won 2021 championship due to the incorrect actions of a FIA employee?
      That championship?

      1. You mean the illegally won 2021 championship due to the incorrect actions of a FIA employee?
        That championship?

        The “illegally gifted 2021 championship” is the phrase you mean, I’m sure.

    11. @red-andy I would advise you to rethink the sort of comments that you are casually throwing around here, because I don’t think you realise quite how serious the allegations you are making are.

      Casually claiming that Mercedes is running sockpuppet accounts and accusing them of running a disinformation campaign is opening both yourself and this site open to libel claims, given you are directly accusing them of engaging in a criminal act. Are you really sure that you want to make such careless accusations, particularly since I suspect that you are making claims that you would be unable to prove beyond any form of reasonable doubt in a court of law?

  3. Wolf makes Briatore look like a saint.

  4. If you are over the budget, that should be instant disqualification from the time they went over. Minor/ material breaches is poorly worded, if you spend 1m over that could be 0.5 gain.

    I remember Ham was DQ for Brazil pole for being 1mm out of the wing, VET in Hungary for not enough fuel sample.

    It’s pretty much black/white.

    FIA will need to come down hard as other teams will like go over budget and get a fine.

    1. Absolutely agreed

    2. Even though the rules clearly state that Hamilton should have been disqualified for the event, he was not

      Anything else?

  5. Let’s wait and hear the verdict from the FIA on Wednesday. If Red Bull is to be found guilty*, then they should be punished (retroactively) as they have gained an unfair advantage to the rest of the field. We fans have been fooled as well, as we have been watching a skewed Championship (last year and this year) that has been cut short this year by the now all conquering RedBull car.

    (*) Let’s keep in mind that Red Bull has the benefit of doubt until Wednesday: They are innocent until proven guilty.

    1. They are innocent until a court decides one way or another, which could be many months away.

      1. You mistake the roles here.

        They will be guilty and penalized by next wednesday, if done so by FIA. Then its theirs to go to courts, if they think they got legal options and are willing to use them. There the FIA audit results are deemed to be correct unless proven otherwise.

      2. Not 100% sure on this situation, but in most technical and sporting matters the FIA doesn’t need to prove ‘guilt’, but merely be unconvinced and they can then proceed to disqualifications. Just like in scrutineering, it’s up to the teams to prove they weren’t breaking the rules.

  6. Mercedes are terrible losers.

    When they were dominant, they constantly hyped up the opposition to make themselves look even better and make it seem like there was actually a race. To the point it became comical. Now that they are losing, it must be others cheating or corruption. Wolff is a master of managing the narrative and using the media to get the best out of the situation. Seems to be working once again. He should go to politics later.

    1. Counter point to this, what if they’re right and one team has massively exceeded their budget and have gained a lasting advantage? Surely that’s not within the spirit of fair competition?

      If an overspend of let’s say £5mil one year gives a lasting advantage of 0.25 sec to the next year, then surely that should be addressed? Doesn’t seem like much, but if said team continued to overspend and continued to gain advantage then what’s the point in the budget cap?

      1. Being retroactively right is the same as being retroactively wrong. You spoke out before there was anything to speak out about and it’s never a good look.

        A second element is the way you speak about things. Like what’s happening in your comment right here. From all the rumors so far it seems they aren’t massively over budget, but at most 5% over budget and it is likely coming down to which way of creative accounting is deemed acceptable and what not. And don’t for one second think none of the teams are doing creative accounting at that, but that’s besides the point. The way Toto has been talking has already planted the seeds in the heads of people. Like you’re saying here. Now 5 million overspend on a budget of 145 million is a full .25s of lap time for three years. Why do you think that? Because Toto told you this. He told you it was an advantage last year, it’s an advantage this year, it’s an advantage next year. And you read that and thought. Oh yeah, Toto’s got a point right, I know no details, but Red Bull must be ahead because of the overspent.

        And that is ultimately what Toto’s goal here was. He wants you to doubt last years title. He wants you to doubt this year’s title. And next year, if there is a close fight with Mercedes, Toto wants to go back to it and tell you about how Red Bull has only been close to them because of this one time overspending. And even if Red Bull are cleared or if the spending is only 1 million pounds instead of 7 million pounds, he’s already made sure the #TeamLH Twitter fiends will keep reminding everyone how the FIA covered up this massive quarter second lap advantage for Red Bull Racing.

        If the FIA find Red Bull in error, then yes, it’s not fair and Red Bull should receive an appropriate penalty. And Red Bull should accept it and stop doing whatever it is they are found to have done. But Toto’s end goal is not to have a penalty and have fairness. Toto just wants Red Bull out of the picture and in constant doubt. It’s that kind of mud slinging and nonsense F1 really could do without. Let the governing body govern. Call them out if they do it wrong based on facts, otherwise, let them do the process.

        1. Yeah you kind of missed the point. I was trying to debate the issue, not take sides. It’s called objective reasoning. The numbers I pulled were purely arbitrary for the sake of the discussion.

          It’s reasonable to assume that if a team massively overspends they will carry a lasting advantage into the next season due to the fact that the rules are stable.

          I think what you’ve done is jump on me for your own bias. I never named any teams, I’m not pointing any accusations at anyone. Just making the argument that if one team overspends it’s can have a lasting advantage.

        2. Perfectly worded!

      2. In 2007, the FIA initially disqualified McLaren from both the 2007 and 2008 championships for that very reason. McLaren’s cheating gave them an impossible to determine advantage in 2007 and in the development for 2008, so the FIA felt it was right to ‘reset’ the illegally obtained advantage. Due to the intervention of FOM/Ecclestone, who saw this was about to ruin the Hamilton-mania sweeping England, this was changed to a ‘thorough investigation’ of McLaren’s 2008 car. Which, predictably, got the all clear (and allowed them to win a title in 2008).

        Disqualifying teams over the spending cap, especially when it concerns big teams, would allow the FIA to do a big power grab and regain some serious control over a sport that has now pretty much been captured by the three European engine suppliers.

  7. Remind me what you did say about 2mm last year in Brasil, Toto ?
    You had another opinion of firmness, at that time …
    I dont people, him or Horner, who have double standard.
    Playing victims when they are said to be in fault, playing inquisitor when rivals are.

    1. Maybe it is just Wolffs tenacy or maybe it is a result from too much being at stake when a manufacturer enters F1. The more this circus continuous the more I start believing F1 has no place for manufacturer teams. They are just way to occupied with revenue and their corporate instead of loving the sport and just wanting to compete. In their corporate divisions they are used to travel with batteries full of lawyers from one project to the other. Mercedes seems to have copied that into F1, even going as far as placing former council at the top of FIA. It is all just getting way out of hand. I would advise Liberty to take a step back to the core of the sport which is about chassis builders that want to race each-other. The engine component and where it comes from should be no point of competition and be hardly a topic to talk about. Get rid of Mercedes, Alpine and Ferrari. I understand the latter is being sacrificed in this process as they have historically been more or less the exception to the rule (although they haven’t shide away from politics from time to time in their past), but something has got to give before Toto lawyers the .. out of all of it.

  8. Is this from the same crystal ball that allowed Wolff to spot flexing wings, dangerous pitstops, secret engine development, deliberate crashes, flexing floors, and whatever else has come out of Mercedes’ bag of explanations for poor results?

    If someone has overspent, the FIA will deal with it. If Wolff had just left it at that, it’d be a much better look for Mercedes.

  9. @red-andy
    That is exactly as I see it. Toto seems to have mental issues to me and these manifest themselves in a nasty way now that Merc aren’t dominating F1. Also, he has way too much influence with the FIA and irrespective of cost-caps etc to level the playing field (sort of) his FIA influence gives Merc yet another competitive edge in reality.

  10. Tommy Scragend
    2nd October 2022, 12:00

    And people say Horner is a whinger…

  11. Stupid Merc hate club again all over the comments here.

    1. @romtrain fully deserved though. Wolff is the worst of all the whingers, and Mercedes have built a dog of a car this year, so he’s just fishing for excuses as the why other teams have done a better job.

    2. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
      2nd October 2022, 16:51

      Truly despicable. They could not wait to jump on bandwagon.

    3. It is pathetic. People trying to deflect from a team not only cheating but also illegally winning a WDC.

  12. Wolff is the most toxic person in the paddock. If it turns out on Wednesday that RedBull have not broken the limits then RedBull should accuse Wolff of deliberate slander aimed at undermining the team’s reputation.

  13. I believe Mercs, Ferrari, & Alpine power units and R&D are exempt from the cost cap at the moment but will be included soon. Seems like an enduring advantage to me.

  14. The thing that is really messing up my sense of justice here is that currently as of typing this reply, Red Bull have done nothing. There is no proof. Zero. So many words are being written of them being cheats and should be punished and Hamilton be given the title back and they have – at this moment – no basis in truth. You are damning Red Bull based entirely on a rumour by a magazine that have no access to Red Bull’s accounting submission.

    Wolff opening his mouth, as others have pointed it out is largely to place that seed of doubt. Instead of talking about Red Bull having built a great car and won a deserved championship we’re talking how they ‘overspent’ and they’re only ahead because they cheated – when we quite literally do not know. He’s talking about locked in advantages and thus punishments should reflect that based on numbers he’s pulling out of thin air – he has no idea about what those advantages would represent any more than he knows what’s in Red Bull’s accounting, yet here he is. Fuelling this.

    The man is an utter, unabashed and unapologetic snake.

    1. Let’s see on wednesday @rocketpanda. You may regret your words if RB are found guilty of breaching the cost cap.

  15. Those who whine about team bosses or drivers making comments like this would likely also be whining if those same people had refused to answer the questions they were been asked.

    That is the thing to remember. This quote and others we have seen from him and other team bosses this week aren’t things they have said out of nowhere, They are quotes taken from answers they have given after been asked the question.

    Also remember that this whole alleged budget overspend discussion and the talk Red Bull are one of the teams who may have done so isn’t something that has come from Toto or Mercedes. It is something that has come from alleged FIA leaks which were reported in multiple news outlets and been discussed within the F1 paddock.

    Toto & the other team members that have talked about it are again just responding to those reports and answering the questions they are been asked by the media & the responses from Horner are the same.

    If you don’t want to hear all these quotes then maybe ask the media not to ask the questions.

  16. Toto is pond scum.
    The sooner he’s out of F1, the better for the sport.

    Perhaps he should explain exactly how he supposedly knows private information about another teams financial records.
    Same way he gets technical directives before any of the other teams … or should I say dictates technical directives … through his embedded staff at the FIA / F1?

    1. Toto is pond scum.

      Careful there, people might think you’re slightly biased.

      Perhaps he should explain exactly how he supposedly knows private information about another teams financial records.

      Which part of “open secret in the paddock” did you not understand?

  17. Why are so many now convinced that Adrian Newey can’t design a car that utterly dominates without cheating? It’s not as if there isn’t prior precedent for this being the case. Additionally, I find it to be very coincidental that throughout this entire season, Toto continues to somehow be tipped off on internal FIA matters as it’s well know his former staffer is supplying the tips. Lastly Toto does not work for Daimler. He is an equal partner in the team with them (33.3%) with Jim Ratcliffe owning in the other third

    1. @spencer 2021 was the first year in the entirety of F1 existence that a cost cap existed. All the dominant Newey cars were designed with virtually unlimited funding. Either from Williams, McLaren of RedBull.

      1. This is my point. All things being equal, I have far greater faith in Newey to provide a winning design than the others.

  18. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

    1. dont think that bad about yourself

  19. I’m pretty sure this is the tactic called deflection.

    DAS in 2021? I’m pretty sure MB has a great accounting team, and I’m sure they also dump more money than an energy drink company.

  20. DAS in 2021?

    Totally legal when on the car, ruled out for the following season as rival teams lobbied that it would be too expensive for everyone to develop their own version. Argument accepted by FIA, end of DAS…

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