Cost cap breach ‘like running underweight or using too much fuel’ – Steiner

2022 United States Grand Prix

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Red Bull should receive a penalty which cancels out any advantage they gained if they exceeded the budget cap, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has said.

The FIA announced last week Red Bull had overspent during the 2021 season and committed a procedural breach of the Financial Regulations which were introduced last year. The team disputes the charge.

As Red Bull could be the first team to be punished for exceeding the budget cap, the FIA faces the difficult decision of how to penalise them in a such a way which discourages others from exceeding the spending limit in the future. Steiner, who was part of Red Bull’s technical team during their first season in F1, said the infringement should be considered “cheating” because “it is like going underweight [or] using too much fuel.”

He pointed out Haas had been excluded from races for technical infringements in the past. Kevin Magnussen lost eighth place at the Circuit of the Americas in 2018 because he exceeded the maximum fuel limit and his team mate Romain Grosjean lost sixth place at Monza the same year when part of his car’s floor was found not to comply with the technical regulations.

“We got excluded from a race because of a radius of three millimetres on a part which didn’t make a difference going faster or not,” said Steiner. “So it is cheating.”

However while breaches of the technical regulations result in disqualification, the FIA has a range of penalties to choose from to penalise a team which breaks the financial rules.

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“As the rules are written, the penalties, we need to respect them as well,” said Steiner. “There it is not written [that] if you cheat you are excluded, so there you need to find the right penalty for that.”

Steiner wants to see a penalty which deprives Red Bull of the benefit they may have gained by over-spending. “There needs to be a penalty for that,” he said. “It needs to come out somewhere because they obviously gained an advantage by spending more money.

“So you need to take that advantage away: Taking budget cap money away or wind tunnel runs away or something like this should happen if they cheated.”

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown wrote to the FIA, F1 and other teams last week calling for stiff penalties for any team found to have exceeded the spending cap. Steiner, who received a copy, said “I don’t know if it was needed, this letter, or not. Everybody can do what he wants and Zak did. If he felt that’s what he should be doing, maybe he was right.”

“I think if you don’t know what we are talking about and how much is cheating, I always have an opinion ‘innocent until proven guilty’,” Steiner continued. “Maybe he knows more than me.

“But this stuff, I think I live with the authority. He felt that this is something to do and I think if he wants to do it, it’s fine.”

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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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42 comments on “Cost cap breach ‘like running underweight or using too much fuel’ – Steiner”

  1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    21st October 2022, 12:06

    I have to agree on this one. It’s not how anyone wants a title deciding 12 months later (and I’m sure that won’t happen anyway it well get swept under the rug) but for the integrity of the sport and for setting the tone on how budget caps will be enforced going forwards and making an example of wrongdoing there is only one correct outcome.

    It’s a lot easier to DSQ if they’d have come second (1997) I have no doubt they would be deducted points if Max hadn’t won the championship but because he did I can see some kind of “Misunderstanding, don’t let it happen again type punishments.”

    For me though this has to be some kind of Lance Armstrong TDF style retrospective punishment. I’m so disappointed Red Bull have put the sport in this position because it absolutely stinks.

    1. Red Bull did come second @rdotquestionmark.

      But there are obvious reasons why the financial regulations are not black-and-white like the technical rules are. For me the penalty needs to be robust, but the idea that Red Bull (and Verstappen) must be retrospectively excluded from the championship or else it’s a total whitewash is just setting up grievances for the future. Which, of course, is exactly what some of those answering (and asking) the questions want.

      1. How is it a total white wash? That is the correct penalty and will stop any team from doing it again. People have been atripped of championships and medals far beyond what has been not even a year in F1.

      2. Maybe we should just wait, as some spendings and thus infringements are black-and-white.

      3. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        21st October 2022, 12:39

        Yes @red-andy when I say ‘they’ I incorrectly imply they won the constructors which they of course did not. That being said maybe we’ve just stumbled over the arbitrary light touch punishment. Max will be left alone as WDC but RB DSQ from the constructors for 2021.

        1. Tommy Scragend
          21st October 2022, 13:18

          Max will be left alone as WDC but RB DSQ from the constructors for 2021.

          This of course is what happened with Spygate – McLaren were disqualified from the championship and heavily fined, but Hamilton and Alonso kept their points.

        2. Weirdly, it could actually benefit RBR if they are excluded from the WCC or have constructor’s points deducted in either 2021 or 2022. The lower you finish, the more testing time you are allowed (wind tunnel etc), and they have plenty of cash so the reduction in prize money would make little difference.

    2. I’m sure I read something that said as the breach did not fall within the ‘materials’ category it would be highly unlikely that any points deduction would be issued.

      1. Well part of the overspending seems to include “materials” but by a changed ruleset after the figures were entered.

        The overall figure involved is believed to be around $1.8m, which puts the offence well within the “minor breach” limit of 5% over the cap, or just over $7m.

        The team appears to have fallen foul of several areas of the FIA’s financial regulations, which have regularly been updated by amendments that have not been published on its website or made public.

        One is the allocation of the cost of catering at the factory and at the track. In addition, there are believed to be redundancy and sick pay issues related to key employees.

        A subject more directly involved to the cost of running the cars is the allocation of the value of unused spare parts.

        They were passed to the heritage department at the end of the season for use on show cars and any testing of the 2021 model in 2022, which falls outside the cap restrictions.

        It’s understood that the FIA issued a clarification in June this year, three months after teams submitted their documents, about how such parts were to be considered by teams.

        There is also a UK-specific tax issue which is believed to be similar to a procedural breach involving Aston Martin.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    21st October 2022, 12:06

    It’s not and he knows that but it makes a good headline…. Having a car running underweight or using too much fuel is a direct advantage to performance. An overspend might be but we don’t yet know how it’s come about, what the overspend went on or whether that would translate to any actual benefit to performance.

    Team LH have already decided that it was a case of Red Bull developing the car more than their budget allowed but it could have been that they purchased some equipment they believed was outside of the scope of the cap – had they believed it would be in the cap, they wouldn’t have purchased it but would have still developed the car the exact same amount.

    Until we know the facts, it’s all just speculation and pretending it’s anything else is ridiculous.

    1. And creating backroom agreements does nothing but stoke that fire, the Ferrari deal the other year, “an offer to Red Bull” for settlement, which I believe doesn’t even have to be made public or to other teams, is frankly against the health of the sport.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        21st October 2022, 12:55

        Definitely. I don’t think they have too many options though…. You’ve got a governing body that no-one trusts making a decision over something where the details are confidential. If the FIA strongly believe that they are right and are confident they can back it up in court, they’ll just say “here’s your punishment – feel free to lose to us in court if that’s how you want to deal with it.” The fact that they want to make an agreement to resolve this suggests that they are aware there are some grey areas that could go either way.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      21st October 2022, 12:32

      If you read the financial regulation for the cost cap the list of items excluded is very extensive which means that everything that is included is for the development of the car. If money appears to be available then it is conceivably spent on a new part else there is no new part is my simple interpretation.

    3. No, the fact is known, Red Bull spent over the budget caps. What they spent that on is irrelevant… That argument is used by Red Bull Dan’s to spin the narrative.

      1. According to the FIA after they changed the rules in 2022 for 2021, but not to RBR who claims to be under the budget cap based on the rules which were established in 2021.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        21st October 2022, 12:48

        Yeah except that isn’t a fact. That facts as we know them are currently that in the FIA’s interpretation of the rules, Red Bull overspent whilst in Red Bull’s interpretation, they didn’t. This is currently being debated between the two parties.

        Another fact is that the teams all agreed to under 5% being considered a “minor” breach and that no punishments were agreed on. They can whinge all they like now about it but they’d have been better placed doing that when the cost cap rules were first discussed.

        1. Another fact is that the teams all agreed to under 5% being considered a “minor” breach and that no punishments were agreed on.

          Not quite, a list of all possible penalties is outlined in the Financial Regulations, both for procedural, minor and material breaches. The FIA cannot in advance say what exact penalty will be applied in each case. The CCAP is an independent panel and needs room to weigh all elements of the case. This isn’t unlike normal laws.

    4. If they overspent in any area then it means they should probably have either cut back in those areas or cutback on development. Either way they gained an advantage or they would have stayed under the cap like every other team…

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        21st October 2022, 13:39

        Well they should have cut back in that area if they knew they were overspending. We don’t know what that area was, why they feel that spend should be excluded from the cap, why the FIA feel differently or to be honest, anything else about it.

        For all we know, they could have run their figures past the FIA and they said “all is fine” but have now changed their mind! Or, Red Bull could have just blatantly cheated. Either (or a vast amount of other possibilities) might be true.

        No-one is going to be happy here because we’re never going to be given the detailed information we need to come to our own informed conclusions and no-one trusts the FIA. It’s one of the many reasons why lots of us said a budget cap isn’t a great idea.

    5. As I understand it (at least according to the rumours); the issue comes down to Adrian Newey’s contract. Red Bull say as he’s one of the top 3 earners at the team his salary is excluded from the budget cap. Therefore they would have spent the season with that calculation in place (and likely this season too).
      The FIA however claim that Newey is not directly employed by Red Bull but rather as an external contractor from Newey’s own company, and as such this is an expenditure not a salary and should have been included in the budget.
      If this is true the overspend wouldn’t be the full amount of Newey’s salary, it would be the difference between his and the next highest paid employee at Red Bull, which would then have their salary excluded from the cap now being the 3rd highest paid.
      From what I’ve read elsewhere also, as the overspend was not within the ‘materials’ category of the cap, a points deduction would be highly unlikely; but they should ensure that at a minimum very harsh fine (9 figures?) is issued, to dissuade anyone from trying the same thing, or any thing in the future.
      I think that any breach should also result in a reduction of resources for the season following the report of said breach.

      1. Dan,
        There are two main issues with regard to RBR’s accounting : A minor spending breach regarding their catering expenses and their employees’ sick leaves and a procedural breach. According to rumours the procedural breach is about Newey and Marko contracts and they way their salaries should have been reported according to the FIA.

        Red Bull, which is now divided into six branches, only one of which is the actual F1 team Red Bull Racing Limited (former Jaguar and Stewart). Between January and May of 2022, three other companies were created by Red Bull in addition to the three already existing in 2021. Red Bull Advanced Technologies Limited, Red Bull Powertrains 2026 Ltd and Red Bull Advanced Services Limited.

        If you look at the Companies House, you’ll find that the nature of the business of all the companies – apart from Red Bull Advanced Services Limited – is “29320 – Manufacture of other parts and accessories for motor vehicles”. The nature of business of the Red Bull Advanced Services Limited is “Other business support service activities not elsewhere classified”. The companies share the same corporate structure and are managed by the same people Mateschitz, Marko, Horner and Alistair David Rew (Red Bull CFO).

        As you’ve mentioned, the top 3 managers salaries are excluded from the budget cap ; In RBR’s case Marko, Newey and Horner who earn ~ 15 million $, 15 million $ and 10 million $ respectively can be excluded from the budget cap. In the case of Newey, the rumours suggest that he has been contracted always to RBR though this year he is contracted to Red Bull Advanced Services Limited. Same goes for Marko who is an external contractor but I didn’t find to which entity he is affected. By doing so, RBR are now able to write off the salaries of their n°4 and n°5 top earners since they have replaced both Marko and Newey as n°3 and n°4.

        I’m not a lawyer or a certified chartered accountant to tell if RBR are “legally” right or wrong. I believe there is “legal justice” and “real justice” and the type of justice you get depends on how much your pocket afford. Though as the casual fan with a functional brain, it’s clear to me that RBR have mounted all this scheme to take advantage of something.

        Knowing how RBR operates, they certainly have “legal” arguments with regard to their submission and will not refrain to drag everyone in the mud and bring the sport into dispute.

        1. since they have replaced both Marko and Newey as n°3 and n°4

          since they have replaced both Marko and Newey as n°2 and n°3

          1. But if Red Bull are saying that Newey’s contract should be excluded, then they aren’t excluding the next top earners, as they believe Newey is one of the top 3.
            Surely doing as you describe disadvantages them because having the 4th and 5th top earners being excluded wouldn’t result in more being in the budget; unless you’re also saying that Newey and Marko’s salaries are not taken into consideration because they’re not part of RBR – but then again this would go against Red Bull’s argument that their salaries don’t need to be included because they’re one of the top 3 earners.

    6. Having a car… using too much fuel is a direct advantage to performance

      Not necessarily. That’s only a direct performance benefit if the engine uses it correctly. If it’s running too rich, for instance, it could be giving a performance deficit. It’s only a performance advantage of the engine uses the fuel correctly. However, the penalty is the same whether they gained an advantage or not. In fact, it’s the same even if the team can show it cost them performance.

      This is similar to exceeding the cost cap: the money will give a near-direct performance benefit if the team use the money correctly. If they don’t, it won’t. The penalty, therefore, should not depend on whether they have gained an advantage or not, only on whether they breached the cap.

      Full disclosure: I believe this should be the case with all rules in F1. I strongly dislike the “gaining an advantage” part of the track limits rules, for instance.

  3. Itsmeagain (@)
    21st October 2022, 12:10

    Great headline to feed the fans here. I wonder what the opinion of Frans Tost is. Till now I read opinions of team who have an indirect line with MB or Ferrari.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      21st October 2022, 13:13

      @itsme your mean his personal opinion or his public opinion? :-) I don’t believe they’d be the same in this case.

  4. Toss RB out and put in Team Andretti. Solved.
    Oh, and get rid of Merc, just cuz.

  5. Tommy Scragend
    21st October 2022, 13:20

    Why don’t we have a poll on this website to decide the punishment? Or maybe a live vote on the next episode of Drive to Survive?

    Because all the fans are bigger experts on the details of the matter than Red Bull/the FIA, it seems.

    1. Well to be honest it seems the fans were far more knowledgeable of the rules than the FIA were in Abu Dhabi…

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        21st October 2022, 13:46

        Nah – they weren’t. After months of arguing over every letter of the regulations, they probably understood the rules better than Masi did at the time it happened but at the time the decision was made, most people didn’t have a clue what the specifics of the rules were. If they were placed in Masi’s situation with seconds to make the right decision, two team managers screaming at them over the radio, a Championship-defining decision in their hands and all of the pressure from Liberty and Sky weighing on them to “think about the show”, they’d have struggled just as much as he did.

        1. Well said Pete Baldwin, and back to the main point, If Lewis and Fernando kept their points in 2007 after McLaren were caught ACTUALLY cheating, like actually stealing details from another team, not some grey area over budget cap spending that doesn’t even fall under materials, then Max will be keeping his 2021 title, so all the talk from the Mercedes and Lewis and their partisan fans calling for it to be handed to their favourite driver should stop immediately!!! All its doing is driving further division amongst fans. It time to move on from 2021. Its almost time to move on from 2022 for crying out loud. Let the FIA sort out the fine/restrictions from next year for Red Bull Racing and lets all just sit back and enjoy what hopefully should be a good race at a great track this weekend!!

          1. MacLaren did not steal the data, they were given it by a disgruntled Ferrari staff member who was disillusioned by Ferrari running an Illegal flexible floor (as far as I remember). MacLaren were cleared of gaining any advantage and were punished just for having the data in their possession. However if we are to apply that same punishment then Red Bull should be stripped of their constructors title (and the money they got for coming second) and also should have to pay £50 million out f this years budget.

          2. McLaren were caught ACTUALLY cheating, like actually stealing details from another team,

            As Lee1 says, they didn’t steal it, it was sent.
            Even the recipient was surprised, and I believe the timeline of events involving Alonso trying to use it as leverage to get Ron to give him preference over Lewis is suspect.
            If they occurred as described by Alonso himself as well as others, then it implies that Alonso knew the data was with Stepney, before Stepney had it.
            Ferrari also had to do a bit of downplay on the existence of IP from various other teams in their design.

        2. Lol, My wife and I were watching it live and were both aware of the rules… We both commented on what needed to happen and then were baffled by what we saw! Massi was Race Director! He has dealt with safety cars many many times under similar situations. He knew full well what the rules were and how he had applied them every single time before and decided to disregard them…

        3. No, that’s clearly not the case.

          There was plenty of time. And plenty of precedent.

          Even Masi made the correct call.

          BUT THEN, after input to him from RB – he changed it.

  6. Oh no, look everyone, Toto got to Guenther as well! First it was Zak, now Guenther, when will the Mercedes machine stop?! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!

  7. I just wish FIA would deal with this quickly now. It’s putting a cloud over the whole sport. If the FIA are confident RBR have broken the rules, they should just explain why and let RBR decide on their course of action i.e. accept the decision or go to court. The idea of making a settlement offer to RBR just smacks of uncertainty on FIAs part or a cover-up.

    All of this is getting quite boring now.

  8. Haha, lets keep trying this narrative. After all the Pirelli tyre test, oil burning and spygate were handled really well. Grasping for straws here

    1. Grasping for straws here

      It sure seems you are grasping for straws.
      Those cases were at least dealt with in a more transparent way than the “Ferrari deal” so although I don’t know what/if anything will come of this I do hope the results are at least transparent because this will set the precedent for future cost cap interpretations or infringements.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    22nd October 2022, 15:48

    This is getting ridiculous… Apparently, Red Bull is negotiating the penalty.

    Look, we hear what you’re saying but we think you’re not saying what you mean…

    What you mean is that we pay a 20 million dollar fine, we keep all the championships , and we dominate over the next 5 years.

  10. Even the “OFFICIALS” at F1 say it is only a “Minor Breach.” Lewis and Steiner can’t have it both ways. At the 2021 Brit GP Lewis spun out Max, and the repair cost to Red Bull were over $1,000,000. Lewis, Toto and Steiner and the other teams were all ok with that one!
    Even in years past, Mercedes reportedly out spent everyone else on engine development. Again Lewis, Toto, and Steiner said nothing.

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