“Underhand” rival used budget cap breach to court Red Bull sponsors – Horner

2023 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claims a rival team targeted their sponsors after they were penalised for breaching F1’s budget cap last year.

World champions Red Bull were the only one of the ten teams whose budget cap declaration for the 2021 season was not certified by the FIA following a lengthy auditing process, although Aston Martin and Williams were also found to have committed procedural breaches by the governing body.

The team denied knowingly overspending but later signed an agreement with the FIA accepting a ‘minor’ breach of the spending cap and were punished with a fine, a reduction in their spending cap for 2023 and a 10% reduction in their aerodynamic testing allowance for 12 months.

Speaking to the i newspaper, Horner claimed an unnamed rival team deliberately used the furore over their budget cap breach to target Red Bull’s sponsors.

“It tainted us,” Horner said. “These things get used by your rivals. We had one of them contacting our sponsors and partners making suggestions that we would be bringing their brands into disrepute. That was just underhand.”

Despite winning the last two drivers’ championships with Max Verstappen and dominating the 2022 season on their way to their first constructors’ title since 2013, Red Bull have at times been the subject of controversy.

The team’s intense fight with Mercedes in 2021 – where Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton clashed on multiple occasions fighting for the championship – led to heightened tensions between fans of both drivers on social media which flared again after Red Bull were found to have breached the budget cap. Horner suggests that the intensity of criticism they face would be reduced “if we had a British driver like a certain team in Brackley [Mercedes]. We are too easily seen as the bad guys.”

Red Bull have dominated the start of the 2023 season, taking two pole positions and two one-two victories in the opening two rounds in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. However, Horner says he does not expect their dominance to go unchallenged throughout the entire season.

“There is always something, always a technical directive that drops, a game changer,” Horner said.

“You can guarantee that the others will be scheming, ‘how can we slow them down’. It’s part of the game. Having lived through it before you become more seasoned in how to ride it out.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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52 comments on ““Underhand” rival used budget cap breach to court Red Bull sponsors – Horner”

  1. What an unclassy act.

    1. CheeseBucket
      26th March 2023, 9:12

      Yes, to cheat is awful.

      1. Itsmeagain (@)
        26th March 2023, 10:27

        And before that you could lean on the illegal floor, the immense amount of teamorders for Perez, the sisterteam (at) for ruining LH race at zandvoort, Max aggressive driving, the sabotage of Danny Ric’s car etc etc….oh, and AD’21 of course. In other words. Fans like to accept the teambehavior of the driver they support, … and on the other hand there are no boundaries in bashing the competitors. The budgetcap issue, which is framed as cheating, cuze it’s sounds so much better, has been made as the general excuse for the negative reactions towards RB. But we all know if that didn’t happened there was a box full of other excuses for the ‘fans’ to keep this negativity keep on going. And that fans go in that flow of framing RB as ‘the bad guy’ (like Sky) and at the same time have a blind eye for misbehavior is pretty scary.

        1. Charlie Racing
          27th March 2023, 18:13

          Enjoying the rabbithole?

          1. Itsmeagain (@)
            28th March 2023, 11:34

            If it doesn’t suit your opinion that’s fine. No, never been into the rabbit hole. But I know the way out. Do you need help?

  2. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

    1. It’s strictly business…

    2. Not a fan of Horner and especially not Max and Jos, but Horner is right that if their lead driver was a popular Brit the media would actually be pointing out how hilariously small the breach was, how unlikely it was to changed anything. That and they would just mention it a lot as a $400,000 (the amount applicable to performance) is basically the equivalent the annual budget advantage to being given 1 more lap during the three-day preseason testing at Bahrain.

      As for the sponsor thing…yeah, not the classiest, but business is war.

      1. Horner is just an abrasive narcissist and he is the image problem of Redbull. I bet you Max would have been seen as just plain Max had he not been driving with Redbull.

      2. Charlie Racing
        27th March 2023, 18:15


  3. Should not have cheated I guess.

    1. It’s unfortunate in a way that the hard and clever work of so many of Red Bull’s excellent engineers and other employees is forever clouded by Horner’s inability to keep the finances of the business under control. But it is what it is; Red Bull broke the rules. Even those who argue their benefit was small still can’t escape the fact that Red Bull broke the rules, and that they spend more than was allowed. That they “just so happened to win” in that situation will be debated for a long time.

      1. That is copium. Even now 2 years later sone people claim that Red Bull is fast because of extra 400k spent. Not Newey who worte a thesis on ground eff3cts in the 70s.

      2. Well, I’d add: Broke the rule allegedly.. claimed by certain FIA officials that worked there in that specific period of time only and with strong ties to another team and merely a 0.7-0.8% breach, in the first iteration of enforcement of the cap. Gives a bit more balanced view than just parroting the press.

        1. Indeed, not massive at all, and I don’t buy it that 1% or less makes 5 tenth of lap time difference like someone suggested, just look at toyota, they had a 500 mil budget back in the 2000s and did nothing with it, there are diminishing returns with this stuff, and also look at force india for a counterexample, many times competitive for 4th team despite the lowest budget or thereabouts.

      3. And every championship team broke a rule at some point. If RBR won by spending .03% more than their rivals, makes you wonder why Toyota never won when spending double the nearest team at one season, Ferrari getting beaten forever despite much bigger budgets than competitors and so on.

        People can whine forever, but many, many times the highest spending team lost. It’s down to Adrian Newley’s brilliance. They could have spent $5m under the cap and still be dominating this season.

        1. They could have spent $5m under the cap and still be dominating this season.

          Maybe, but they didn’t and so Horner’s complaints have little substance.

          He gets to command a premium from Oracle by saying he’ll put their name on the champion’s car, and other teams get to point out that Red Bull is racing under a penalty imposed on them because they broke the rules. That’s the game.

  4. Horner can say a lot of things. Doesn’t make it true.

    1. Horner can say a lot of things. Doesn’t make it true.

      Past experience suggests that if Hans Christian Horner said it, then it probably isn’t true.
      Last season he made noises about legal action against anyone in the pitlane that suggested they had breached the cost cap, right up until the FIA documented the fact that they had breached the cost cap…

      This time it’s suggesting that a close rival had been nasty enough to suggest that what RBR did wasn’t within the rules , which it wasn’t.
      So, he’s basically whinging that someone, allegedly, told the truth about RBR. Which would mean that even if it is true, it’s fair comment.

      1. SteveP, you’re assuming that you are the target of these sorts of comments from Horner, but these comments are far more likely to be oriented towards Red Bull fans. It’s the tactic of creating and maintaining a stream of outrage and using that to then encourage those fans to reject any alternative point of view – just look at the way that sethje is reacting below, and you’ll see that the tactic works as a way of manipulating their fans.

        1. So you are biased and do not like other viewpoints… Nothing new there …

  5. It’s the way humans are unfortunately.

    1. CheeseBucket
      26th March 2023, 9:13


    2. Horner or the competition?
      Well.. it seems entirely reasonable that a team would go after sponsors of a rival team that cheated. Horner needs to shut his trap and stop whinging. He loves playing the victim even after he’s the one that broke the rules.

  6. There are 2 ways about it. Either way Horner is lying or in case he is honest he deserves it so no harm done in my book.

  7. Christian is the main reason I don’t like Redbull as he winges about everything and its always something against Redbull so an so did that etc etc
    If he just shuts up and take things on the chin stop making headlines about everyone picking on Redbull and to stop being hypocritical

    1. @mpt2201 Red Bull Gives You Whinges.

    2. Hypocritical and Underhanded themselves, how did he manage to forget that Redbull lobbied the FIA controller in 2021 so hard that he caved in and gave RB the pitstop for New Tyres AND took away the gap between MV and Lewis so that they walked orft with the Champion crowing about his superior skills making him the Champ – Yeah Right !

      Then add in the Budget Cap breach and he wonders why someone “UNDERHANDEDLY” stole away their sponsors – (as if they’d have stayed anyway).

      My opinion, if the cheat cap fits – then wear it !

      1. Liberal augmentation of the situation I’ve seen. Listen to the team radios — Arrows and RBR were both on the horn the whole time with their own perspective. That’s not the way it went down, that’s just the way it ended up. But whatever, if it was Lewis that was second and had the opportunity to pit with the safety car, I’m sure all would have been right with the world. Oh wait, that happened earlier the season prior — yup, check, it was ok then.

  8. The longer Horner goes on about this the clearer it is that he is living in denial like Trump denying he lost the election. They cheated. By any definition of the word. Cheaters bring their accomplishments into disrepute. And they bring those associated with supporting them into disrepute. The other team wasn’t underhanded. They were speaking facts. He can try all the revisionist history and crocodile tears he wants about how the team is persecuted but they cheated and it is a fact.

  9. Well that’s what you get for breaking the rules? Any sponsor can also go sign to another team right? Respect the rules and there would not be any of these tensions. But as if Red Bull cares right? They have been part of many cheating/rule breaking actions in F1.

    if we had a British driver like a certain team in Brackley [Mercedes]. We are too easily seen as the bad guys.”

    I also don’t think, if for example Hamilton is at Red Bull, this will change either. I don’t think anyone is capable of defending or supporting teams that are well known for breaking/disrespecting the rules and regulations of the sport.

  10. Underhand is the name of the game! Horner would do exactly the same thing in a heartbeat, and I’m sick of seeing him play the media constantly.

    1. @ciaran Yep, and how did all of those Mercedes engineers end up at RBPT? That’s right, they were deliberately targeted.

      Underhand or fair game? Largely a point of view, but being hypocritical about it, as Horner nearly always is, is what rankles.

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    25th March 2023, 15:45

    Man, Red Bull was so mistreated over the budget cap breach. Ross Brawn said teams would lose championships if they break the rules.

    The children at school were mistreated, the sponsors were contacted by other teams, and Red Bull paid a penalty that has no bearing on anything and lost valuable time in the wind tunnel which Red Bull desperately needs after finishing last in every race of the season.

    The penalties were draconian especially for Mateschitz whose net worth is much less than the average individual.

    1. That takes tongue in cheek to new levels, I loved every word – lmao.

    2. A fun comment, but I have to say ross brawn said they risked the championship in case of major breaches, and this was under 5%, hence classified as minor breach. I think if they commit another minor breach they would be in trouble, but wouldn’t be fair to lose a title cause you go 1% over the cap, especially in the first iteration, and there were some kind of mistakes made by williams and aston martin as well if I recall.

  12. How does Horner think he got those Honda engines on the same day that McLaren dumped them? It couldn’t possible be because – gasp! – he was talking to Honda long before and arguing his case to them?

    It’s totally normal for a team to approach a (lucrative) sponsor and make an argument for sponsoring them. If Red Bull doesn’t want the “do you want to be associated with teams that break the rules” line to be used in such discussions, maybe his team shouldn’t be breaking the rules?

    1. Keep your facts straight: Honda was very reluctant to supply alpha tauri with engines. After the humiliation with McLaren (Alonso) the Japanese would have rather withdraw from F1 altogether than facing a same fate with alpha tauri and Red Bull at a later stage. There was a very high chance that that would be the case.

  13. It’s barely worth commenting. Red Bull have made a business of poaching staff from rivals recently, as just one example. Driver 61 has a video on Horner’s career as team principal that is worth checking out to give an idea of his motivation, kind of admirable in its determination at least. But any notion that he hasn’t engaged often in similar practices is ludicrous.

  14. Wow, that’s a lot of proof Horner’s statement’s were true reading this topic.

  15. That is underhand.
    Because Red Bull had already brought their sponsors into disrepute….

  16. You eather play the game or you follow it. You will lose on both occasions but by playing you have a chance to win

  17. Ginger is going to have some serious cancers on his forehead if he doesn’t start wearing a hat or something. Worse than the cancers Newey was covering up in the last race.

  18. Nick Gillon
    26th March 2023, 8:10

    Simple : Change the channel man…Not difficult :)

  19. If Toto would have said this everyone would still be on Horners case hahahaha

  20. I think he is correct, I feel there is a clear bias in British media and the comment section underlines his points…?

    But that being said, by being correct 2 times a day still doesn’t make a broken clock trustworthy. His story obviously omits all underhand tricks they pulled on other teams.. So swings and roundabouts. Suck it up Horner

    1. The British media is biased against a British team boss?

      1. @kartguy07:
        Are you deliberately trying to misinterpret what was said, setting up for the classic straw man logical fallacy?

  21. Sore winners are the worst

    1. We gave seen that multiple times at Mercedes. So you’re probably right 👍

  22. “There is always something, always a technical directive that drops, a game changer,” Horner said.

    “You can guarantee that the others will be scheming, ‘how can we slow them down’. It’s part of the game. Having lived through it before you become more seasoned in how to ride it out.”

    Yes. Just like the one that was introduced for the 2021 season which negatively impacted Mercedes and benefited Red Bull.

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