Red Bull has commented on the cost cap ruling. Team boss Christian Horner explains why his own bill deviated from the FIA test by £5.6million. And he lamented the draconian penalties of the world association.
Somehow a sigh of relief went through the paddock. The Red Bull cost cap affair is finally off the table. Finally there is a verdict that is both a signal and a deterrent. Signal, because the FIA does not let anyone get away with it, even if, according to Red Bull, it is only a trifle and there are differences of opinion in the interpretation of several cost items. Deterrence, because it is now clear that the penalties for breaking the rules in the 2022 season must be even more severe.
Red Bull grudgingly accepted the verdict and the penalty. "In the spirit of the sport," as expected, as team boss Christian Horner commented. The matter could have been fought all the way to the cost-cap jury and the Court of Appeals, but that would have served no one.
"It's a new and complex set of rules that the FIA has inherited. If we had exhausted all legal avenues, the process could have dragged on for another 12 months. That would be months of more speculation, accusations of tail gunners and defamatory comments. So let's swallow the toad and close the book."
Always acted with good intentions
Horner repeatedly emphasized that Red Bull had never acted with bad intentions, that they never wanted to cheat and never kept anything secret. There were only differences of opinion on 13 points, which then led to a deficit of £5.6 million.
They also misbooked a tax return to their detriment, reducing the account overdraft from £1.864 million to £432,652. So you are not talking about a violation of 1.6 percent but only 0.37 percent.
Of course there is also window dressing, because the tax refund came late in the year and had no effect on the money already spent. It is not without reason that the FIA report repeatedly mentions the 1.864 million pounds and mentions the subsequent correction for the tax refund in a paragraph below the list of misconduct. The penalty is therefore measured against the 1.8 million.
In his statement, Horner once again pointed out that it was much too late to find out about the deviating interpretations of the cost cap administrator. "We submitted a preliminary breakdown of our 2020 costs to the FIA in April 2021. For us, this was to replace the dry run that was offered to teams in 2020 but which we did not participate in. We never heard from the FIA again after that heard and therefore had to assume that everything was in order."
According to Horner, the response to the cost statement for 2021, which was sent out in March 2022, was also a long time coming. "We didn't get an answer until September and were surprised and shocked at the same time that there were different views. "
During the Singapore GP, Red Bull found out that they were being put in the dock. The night of Max Verstappen's title win, the details were then submitted, culminating in Red Bull changing the budget from the permitted £118,036,000 1.84 million and should therefore expect a fine and loss of wind tunnel time.
Wind tunnel penalty is a serious competitive disadvantage
After much back and forth, Red Bull accepted the verdict and the penalty. Horner thinks that his team for a relatively small offense was penalized excessively severely, of course he's assuming the £432,652 left over from the tax bonus mis-booking.
"It's a draconian penalty. Seven million dollars, payable in 30 days, is no small matter. The deduction of ten percent wind tunnel time is a serious disadvantage. As world champions, we already have the least use of the wind tunnel. Together with the penalty, that's now 15 percent less than second in the World Cup and 20 percent less than third. Converted to a lap time, that corresponds to between a quarter and a half of a second," Horner calculated.
For the wind tunnel tests, this means 202 runs per year for Red Bull, 240 for Ferrari and 256 for Mercedes. That's why Red Bull is making an effort "Now that's a good thing." We take that as motivation and have to work even more efficiently in the wind tunnel to make up for the disadvantage. The penalty will affect the performance of our car over the next two years," says Horner, describing the damage. "As an additional handicap, we also have an old wind tunnel. We can no longer afford to make mistakes. Every shot has to hit the mark", added sporting director Helmut Marko.
Canteen food for £1.4 million
Horner then listed a few points on which the auditors of the FIA and Red Bull contradicted each other. For example the famous canteen food in Milton Keynes, which Red Bull takes full responsibility for and, according to the cost-cap administrators, should also be fully booked in the budget.
The auditors didn't do that. That makes a difference of £1.4 million. "We count all the meals, also for the employees of our engine factory. At Mercedes, only the food subsidies for the racing team are paid," Horner complains about another injustice. Because of the different locations, Mercedes has its own canteen in the engine factory in Brixworth.
There were also differences with unused spare parts. Red Bull counted them among the museum cars In fact, they are a budget item."The clarification on this point didn't come until June. Overall that makes a difference of £1.2million," Horner clarified.
There were also different opinions about sick leave and employees who switched to other departments. "We continue to pay our sick employees. Then there was an engineer who was poached by another team with a princely salary and we then put him in Red Bull Advanced Technologies, which builds boats and the like. These costs also have a counter counted our understanding to the budget."
Horner denied that Red Bull was pretty much alone with his interpretations. "The procedural errors that Aston Martin is accused of are similar to ours in many cases. They just had more room for improvement than we did. And we're honestly surprised that others didn't feel the same way."
After all, the whole affair also has a good side. "What happened to us can happen to anyone. We will all learn from this and I think some of the still immature rules need tweaking in the future."
Horner insists that the money saved would not have provided any competitive advantage. "Max Verstappen became world champion on his own in 2021. To claim otherwise is grossly exaggerated." And he warned of the next reckoning. "It can affect up to six teams due to inflation. Our penalty sets a precedent. Next year's penalties could be even tougher."