Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023

Red Bull’s dominance partly due to “very light” penalty for cost cap breach – Vasseur

2023 F1 season

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Red Bull has made a dominant start to the new Formula 1 season partly because their penalty for breaking the budget cap in 2021 was so lenient, Ferrari believe.

The reigning world champions have won every grand prix so far this year and 13 of the last 14 rounds stretching back to July.

In October last year the FIA found Red Bull overspent the budget cap in 2021 by £1.864 million – 1.6% over the spending limit of £118m. The team was fined $7 million (£6m) and given a reduction in their development allocation under F1’s Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions.

However Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said the severity of Red Bull’s penalty is “very low” and likely to only cost them around a tenth of a second in car development over the course of the year. The fine does not come out of Red Bull’s capped spending and the money they saved on the enforced reduction in their wind tunnel runs and Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling can be spent elsewhere.

Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Red Bull’s penalty was “too light”, says Vasseur
“It means that for me the penalty is marginal,” Vasseur told media including RaceFans yesterday.

“They did a good job but I’m still convinced that the penalty was very light,” he explained, pointing out the impact of the ATR cut may not be felt until later in the year. “You should consider the rate of development that we are doing this season – if you consider the fact that if you have a 10% ban it’s at the end, it’s not something linear.”

“And then you can spend what you are saving in the wind tunnel, you can spend it somewhere else, on the weight saving and so on,” he added. “I’m not sure that the effect is mega if you consider that you had an advantage at the beginning of the season because you spend more the year before.”

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However Vasseur acknowledged that despite their penalty Red Bull have also made good progress with their car.

“I don’t want to say that they didn’t do a good job because I think honestly, that they did a very good job on the car. I am not trying to make an the excuse at all. It’s not this. But if you ask me if the penalty is too light, I say yes.”

Red Bull and Ferrari’s Australian Grand Prix lap times

The performance gap between Red Bull and the Ferrari drivers was consistent throughout much of the last race, where winner Max Verstappen was seldom stretched, except when he passed Lewis Hamilton for the lead on lap 12, lapping significantly faster than the rest of the field as he did. Charles Leclerc retired his Ferrari on the first lap of the race.

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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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25 comments on “Red Bull’s dominance partly due to “very light” penalty for cost cap breach – Vasseur”

  1. That is total nonesense the penaulty we will see this season coming to effect as their updates will be lesser coming then the other teams as the season continues.

    This design was finished before any penaulties were even know. Also having a designer understanding groundeffect has more todo then any windtunnel times …..

    1. Indeed! Just a pencil and some paper will do.

    2. This is exactly why the password was so light, though. Any advantage which may have been gained through breaching the cap is kept for, potentially, two seasons before the penalty can even start to bite.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, if you allowed a team to keep an illegal car design for a season or more, you’d likely see a great deal more technical breaches. Similarly, if drivers were given a grid penalty in the following race for overtaking off track, more would do so. People will often take an advantage now for a penalty later: who knows what will happen later, but the advantage now is real and immediate.

  2. The headline is WAY off. This happens more often, but in this case it is extreme.
    He never said that and he also didn’t imply that! Vasseur even said the opposite:

    and likely to only cost them around a tenth of a second in car development over the course of the year.

    Please adjust the headline, this is bad

  3. If the other teams had done a better job of building a car to challenge Red Bull at the start of this year, then perhaps, yes, the penalty would have a bigger impact during this year.

    But Fred’s team did not do that, so in essence they’re as much to blame for the penalty’s potential lack of impact on the championship than anyone else is.

    1. @sjaakfoo That is because it shouldn’t have been something that affects them over time, but immediately. Something like loss of championship in offending season, plain front wing for next season, halving of budget for next 3 seasons. That would stop any shenanigans immediately. With this they gambled and clearly won.

      1. They would just quit and F1 could close with 16 cars running.

        1. Absolutely, that’s too much, but indeed I think the penalty looks too marginal, seeing how it won’t affect them till later on this season, when they will have the championship wrapped up.

      2. @losd I’m guessing that you don’t like Red Bull then.

        1. Or maybe they want to have a penalty for breaching the budget cap actually be enforced properly. If we are going for a budget cap then it should either be enforced where any team that exceeds faces expulsion or what’s the point in having a budget cap.

  4. This design was finished before any penaulties were even know

    However, RBR managed to stall and delay and drag their heels long enough that they’d already done their main design updates by the time that the penalty was announced and since it only limited aero development RBR were free to put more money into weight reduction development etc.
    Which just happened to be the main “problem” with last years car, if you can say that the fastest car on the grid actually had a problem.
    We’re assuming that there was some truth in Horners statements that the car was “overweight”

    1. The penalty has never affected any development done in 2022 in the first place.

      Claiming anything about the penalty on the basis of the current results is nothing more than gaslighting. Creating a false reality to hide one’s own failures.

    2. They should have given them a performance penalty, something like additional ballast, reduced ers output, etc…something that woukd affect performance seriously enough so that noone would ever dream of breaching the cost cap ever again.

  5. Yellow Barron
    7th April 2023, 9:47

    Sad to say but F1 is going down the drain as a Motorsport. it’s been a steady decline but it’s obvious to a fan of Motorsport. Thank goodness for indycar

  6. Like a lot of people on many endeavours today are more concerned with penalising others than improving their own performance.

    1. That’s quite a liberal interpretation.

      As is often the case he is likely responding to a question on the matter, and he is entitled to believe the penalty is light just as much as others are entitled to believe it was harsh or appropriatte.

      If you are perhaps aware of other information that suggests this was a point made to perhaps deflect from questions regarding his own teams performance, or for other unjustified reasons then it may be helpful to share that so we can appreciate your context.

  7. Partly, yes, but the impact will be even bigger on next season’s start than this season’s later development phase.

  8. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    7th April 2023, 12:13

    Even if that were objectively true and not debatable, why are Ferrari considerably worse than last year despite not having such a lenient penalty? Keep hold of your stones while your house is made of glass.

  9. Difficult to argue that RBR hasn’t gained an unfair advantage. Maybe other teams should now have their budgets increased by the amount RBR went over to make things fair.

    1. No otherwise the sister teams are going over the limit so the main teams can spend more……

      1. Surely, you’re not suggesting that RBR use AT to test designs ;-)

  10. I guess Christian just have someone added into his “picking to fight”.

  11. It will probably have a bigger hit later in the year, However even then I don’t think the overall impact of the penalty is going to be that significant as not only were they starting out with a good platform anyway but they also seem to have very good correlation from Wind Tunnel & CFD to real world so as long as updates they bring continue to work as expected they should easily be able to maximise what they can do while minimising the impact of what they will lose.

    Additionally of course given the advantage they have now even if they start to be hit by the penalty by mid-season (In reality it will likely be later than that though) they are going to be so far ahead that I doubt anyone will actually be able to catch them in the championships.

    Maybe it will hit them with the 2024 car but again they started out this new set of regulations with such a good base & with good correlation and developments that maximise gains been able to evolve what they have rather than start from scratch will likely make any hit for 2024 fairly minor as well.

    I do also wonder if how restrictive the regulations are now are going to make big gains for the rest much harder to find than we may have seen in the past where teams could bring ‘B spec’ cars that could be significantly faster than what they had before (McLaren in 2004 for example).

  12. Horse manure. The reason is simple – Adrian Newey.

  13. Nice try. Very thin and false argumentation. I am getting an image of where the incompetence at some teams comes from: wrong focus.

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