The FIA is assessing its next steps after announcing last week that Red Bull had breached last year’s cost cap, as well as committing a procedural breach.
Aston Martin also failed to fully comply with the rules with a procedural violation.
Both Red Bull and Aston Martin have the option of reaching a so-called ‘Accepted Infringement Settlement’ if they are happy with the FIA’s findings, or they can choose to contest the matter through the ‘Cost Cap Award’ panel.
Although it is unclear which way they will go, McLaren F1 managing director Zak Brown has written to the FIA to let them know how important it is, in his opinion, that the matter is 100% clear.
In the letter, a copy of which Motorsport.com has been able to view, it says: “Failure to pay, and possibly failure to follow procedures, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage in technical, sporting and financial regulations.” .
He added: “The bottom line is that any team that has overspent has gained an unfair advantage in both the development of the current car and that of the following year.”
Brown wrote the letter to FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali privately last week.
However, the content of the letter has come to light after Brown also sent it to all teams that meet the cost cap over the weekend. That is, to Mercedes, Ferrari, Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams.
Brawn asks for a sporting punishment, and not a financial one, for Red Bull for the cost limit
In the letter, Brown expressed confidence in the FIA’s cost cap control process so far, but said how the FIA now acts is very important.
He argued that there was no excuse for any team to have overspent, especially since all had gone through a dress rehearsal of spending limits in 2020.
“The FIA has carried out an extremely thorough, collaborative and open process, and we have even been allowed a year-long dress rehearsal with ample opportunity to ask for any clarification if details were unclear. So there is no reason so that no team now says that it is surprised,” he said.
Brown also expressed his belief that any breach of the spending limit should result in a sporting penalty and not just a fine.
“We do not believe that a financial penalty alone is an appropriate penalty for exceeding the spending limit or for a serious procedural breach, it is clear that there has to be a sporting penalty in those cases, as determined by the FIA,” he added.
“We suggest that the overspend be penalized by a reduction in the equipment cost limit in the year following the ruling and that the penalty be equal to the overspend plus an additional fine, i.e. an overspend of $2 million. dollars in 2021, which is discovered in 2022, would result in a deduction of $4 million in 2023 ($2 million to offset excess spending plus $2 million penalty).”
“To put it in context, $2 million represents a 25-50% improvement in the annual budget for car development and would therefore have a significant positive and lasting benefit.”
“Furthermore, we believe there should be sporting overspending penalties of a 20% reduction in simulation and wind tunnel time. Those penalties should apply the following year, to mitigate the unfair advantage that you benefit from and will continue to benefit from.” a team”.
“To prevent teams from accumulating and benefiting from the multiplier effect of multiple minor overspends, we suggest that a second minor overspend automatically move the team to a major infraction.”
“Finally, considering the financials, a 5% threshold for a petty expense violation seems too large a variance, so we suggest a lower threshold of 2.5% is more appropriate.”
The future of spending limits in F1
Brown considers it essential that the FIA is transparent in its handling of the Red Bull case, as he believes the future of the cost cap depends on it.
“Now that we understand the spending situation of various teams, we need to communicate subsequent actions and sanctions quickly to maintain the integrity of F1 and the rules it abides by,” he said.
“It is paramount that the Cost Cap continues to be governed in a highly transparent manner, both in terms of the details of any breaches and the corresponding penalties.”
“It will also be important to know if, after the first full year of running and researching the system, there are any issues that need further clarification or important conclusions to be drawn. Again, any insights or learnings need to be shared by ALL teams – there can be no room for gaps”.
Brown ended his letter with a reference to a recent comment by Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle that the cost cap had been “brilliant” and “a cornerstone of why Formula 1 is in a better place today than it was before.” which has been, in my opinion, never”.
Brown concluded: “I totally agree with Martin, in fact 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 as they see it as a way to promote financial and sports fair play”.
“It is therefore essential that we are very strong in applying the Cost Cap rules for the integrity and future of F1.”
Red Bull has repeatedly insisted that it believes its cost cap proposal from last year was below the $145m cap.
After the FIA declared that the Milton Keynes team had broken the rules, Red Bull said its position had not changed.
“We note the FIA’s findings of ‘minor breaches of financial regulation expenses’ with surprise and disappointment,” they said in a statement.
“Our 2021 submission was below the cost cap so we need to carefully review the FIA’s conclusions as we continue to believe the relevant costs are below the 2021 cost cap amount.”