Breaking Red Bull’s budget cap ‘represents fraud’ – McLaren boss Zak Brown

Red Bull hit a $145m (£114m) spending cap during 2021

McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown has written a letter to governing body the FIA ​​in which he says Red Bull’s breach of the budget cap is “fraud”.

Brown is asking for penalties that will hit Red Bull financially and on the track.

“Any team that has overspent has gained an unfair advantage in the development of both current and next year’s cars,” he wrote.

Brown added that the FIA ​​”needs to communicate further actions and penalties at a pace to maintain the integrity of F1″.

The letter seen by BBC Sport is dated October 12 and is addressed to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and has been copied to F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

It was sent on Monday to the teams that have not breached the cost limit apart from McLaren: Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

The FIA ​​announced last week that Red Bull had committed “minor” cap breaches – the lowest category of offense under F1’s financial regulations – as well as a procedural breach.

The threshold between “minor” and “material” offenses is 5% of the limit – or $7.25 million in 2021.

The FIA ​​has not yet released details of Red Bull’s wrongdoing, negotiations between the two sides before settling the team’s final accounts, or any possible penalties.

Aston Martin has also been found to have committed a “procedural” breach.

Williams was fined $25,000 earlier in May for a procedural violation.

Red Bull declined to comment when approached by BBC Sport about Brown’s letter. The team said last week it was “surprised and disappointed” by the FIA’s decision, adding: “It is our belief that the relevant costs are below the amount of the 2021 cost cap.”

McLaren was contacted about the leak of the letter but declined to comment.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won last year’s tight title battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in controversial circumstances at the final race of the season, and secured his second championship at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix with four races of the 2022 season remaining. .

What does Brown’s letter say?

Brown’s letter does not mention Red Bull or Aston Martin by name, and appears to be an attempt to clarify that he is expressing his views on any possible breach of the cost cap.

However, it refers directly to violations announced last week.

Brown praises the FIA’s work on cost containment, which police say is “critical” to the future of the sport.

It suggests that any group found guilty of overspending should be fined twice the amount of the breaching amount and that research and development allowed for the next year be curtailed.

He writes: “Overspending and possibly procedural violations are fraud, offering a huge advantage in technical, sporting and financial regulations.

“The FIA ​​has done a very thorough, collaborative and open process. They have also given us a one-year trial (in 2020) with ample opportunity to clarify the details if they were unclear. So there is absolutely no reason for the teams to say they are surprised now.

“As a result, any team that has overspent has gained an unfair advantage in the development of both current and next year’s cars.

“We do not believe that a monetary penalty alone would be an appropriate penalty for an overspending offense or a serious procedural breach. It is clear that in these cases there should be a sporting penalty, as determined by the FIA.

“We suggest that overspending be punished by a reduction in the group’s cost limit in the year after the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspending and another fine, that is, spending $2 million in 2021, which is identified in 2022, a deduction of $4 million in 2023 would result ($2 million in overspending plus a $2 million fine to offset).

“For context, $2 billion is (a) 25-50% increase in (a) annual car development budget and would therefore have a significant positive and lasting benefit.

“Also, we believe there should be minor sporting penalties to reduce CFD and wind tunnel time by 20%. These should be implemented next year to mitigate the unfair advantage the team has and will continue to have.” “

What rule changes does it propose?

Brown is proposing rule changes to address what he sees as his weaknesses, revealing the cost cap management process in the first season.

“To benefit from group stacking and the multiplier effect of multiple minor violations, we suggest that a second minor spending violation automatically moves the group to a major violation,” he writes.

“Finally, given the finances involved, a 5% threshold for a minor excessive violation seems too wide a variance. We suggest a lower threshold of 2.5% is more appropriate.”

A call for transparency

Christian Horner and Zak Brown
Brown (right) talking to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner online in 2021

Brown makes it clear that he believes the FIA ​​should release details of the offenses as soon as possible.

“The most important thing is to continue to govern within a very transparent cost cap, both in terms of the details of violations and the associated penalties,” Brown wrote.

“It will also be important to understand whether, after the first full year of running and researching the scheme, there is further clarification on certain issues or key learnings. Again, any insights or learnings should be shared across groups. It cannot be for loopholes. no place.”

He concluded that the introduction of a budget cap has been crucial to the success that F1 is currently enjoying.

The cap was introduced in 2021 as part of a package of changes designed to close the field and make the race more competitive.

Brown writes: “The introduction of the cost cap has been one of the main reasons we have attracted new shareholders and investors to F1 in recent years, who see it as a way to promote financial and sporting fair play.

“It is therefore crucial that we are very firm in setting the rules for F1’s integrity and cost containment for the future.”

It has not yet been made public whether Red Bull will accept the FIA’s findings and enter into what is known as an “accepted infringement agreement”, or whether they will reject them and request to go before a so-called cost cap jury.

The budget limit was established last year, and it took until October of this year for the FIA ​​to publish its conclusions, due to the complexity of the process.

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