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Thursday, February 2, 2023

McLaren boss says Red Bull budget cap breach ‘constitutes cheating’

Red Bull’s use of design concept wind tunnel parts to develop its 2019 car has been described as cheating by McLaren boss Zak Brown as per Beton.ng. Red Bull has been hit with a €25,000 fine and exclusion from this weekend’s final pre-season test in Barcelona after the FIA’s technical department deemed the parts to be illegal.

McLaren boss
McLaren boss says Red Bull budget cap breach constitutes cheating

Both Red Bull teams have been issued with this punishment, although the team denies any wrongdoing and said it would appeal the decision before Friday’s hearing in Paris.

What is a Budget Cap?

According to the app Melbet, F1’s new owners Liberty Media, who are seeking to rebalance the sport and make it more sustainable, introduced a new cost-saving concept for teams in 2017. This is designed to level the playing field for smaller teams and reduce the chance of a total collapse of the grid. The system is based on an aggregate figure – which includes expenditure on driver salaries, race team operational costs, and other administrative spending – set at $200 million per season.

If this figure is exceeded by any one team over three years, then they will be subject to penalties. These include fines or restrictions on car development but crucially they would not have access to their prize money payments until their expenditures fall under the limit.

What is the net spend rule?

The FIA’s Formula 1 sporting regulations have a net spend rule which is designed to prevent favorable treatment of certain teams by the sport’s governing body. The rule is simple enough: no team can increase their spending by more than a cumulative 5% throughout the three seasons before that season. In other words, if a team spent €200 million in the three seasons before 2018, then they couldn’t spend more than €210 million in 2018.

If this was not the case for any reason, it would constitute cheating and could lead to sanctions against that team. Brown said McLaren would report Red Bull to the FIA for breaching the rules. I don’t know what their motivations are, he said. But I think from our point of view the key question is how does that impact us? And we’ll certainly be reporting them to the FIA.

Who are F1’s biggest spenders?

Red Bull breached their agreement with Formula One, which caused them to be disqualified and fined. They violated the regulations that govern the sport, which is designed to limit costs. The rules set a maximum price for cars and engines that teams can purchase, as well as how many personnel they’re allowed to employ.

Red Bull exceeded these limits by at least $150 million over five years, according to calculations by US-based motorsport publication Autoweek.

This is considered a severe breach of contract and has been penalised accordingly. We had an agreement with F1 that we would adhere to certain parameters, and they would provide us with certain benefits, said Brown. They have breached those agreements and so from our perspective, it constitutes cheating.

Brown also pointed out that most of the team’s competitors seem happy about this turn of events. A lot of people in our paddock are very happy about this outcome because there was a concern before when we’d beat everyone or got close, or there was some success, he said. I think now people can say: it’s just not fair.

What did Red Bull do wrong?

Red Bull’s participation in the 2019 championship is under threat after McLaren chief Zak Brown accused them of breaching the series’ cost-cap regulations. 

The team is believed to have breached F1’s £150 million limit by as much as £30 million, but they deny any wrongdoing and insist they will be vindicated. It would go against all we’ve done in terms of our values and how we want to work with other teams, said Christian Horner, their team principal. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t constitute cheating.

Red Bull was not made aware of their alleged deficit until they were contacted by a third party on Tuesday, who informed them that McLaren had submitted an official complaint to governing body FIA. Team boss Christian Horner has denied any wrongdoing, insisting: As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t constitute cheating. However, his response has been labeled disingenuous by Mr. Brown. He said: We do not comment on the detail of contractual matters, but McLaren did what was necessary to ensure compliance with F1’s rules.

What does Brown’s letter say?

I write to ask you to investigate what happened with the Red Bull Racing team and the latest Formula One regulations. We believe that there has been a clear breach of the Formula One Sporting Regulations, which constitutes cheating.

There are many unanswered questions about how this occurred and why it was not picked up by the FIA earlier. However, what is clear is that there has been a clear violation of both the letter and spirit of F1’s sporting regulations.

As McLaren’s competitor in Formula 1, we deserve answers on this subject. If it turns out that, as we suspect, there has been a deliberate attempt to circumvent these important regulations then we would expect appropriate action to be taken.

A call for transparency

One of the biggest issues with the current F1 regulations is that they are designed to be impossible to understand. The problem is that it’s not possible to know whether there are teams using loopholes in the rules because no one knows what these loopholes are.

This has led some people to accuse other teams of being cheaters without knowing if this is true or not. For example, McLaren CEO Zak Brown said: Red Bull must be doing something right and we need to know what that is. If it’s legal, then great – so long as everyone can do it. If not, then I want transparency around how they’re getting an advantage.

The best way for teams to compete on a level playing field would be for more transparency about the technicalities of the sport. Some have proposed giving access to more information about their cars and engine programs to the public so that fans could tell who might be getting an unfair advantage from certain parts of the regulations – but both Formula 1 Management (FOM) and FIA president Jean Todt have been resistant to opening up any more data than already exists today.

Conclusion

We need to be able to have a level playing field, but also have an element of cost control because the current costs in Formula 1 are unsustainable, Brown told Reuters. The amount of money that’s spent on engines, gearboxes, and wind tunnels just exceeds any other form of motorsport by a factor so high that it’s hard for anybody else to compete.

This is not just about Mercedes or Ferrari having a competitive advantage; it’s about the competition itself being unfair, he added. I think this is something that needs to be looked at seriously. There has been too much disparity between where we all start and where we finish. And if you’re one team who does spend more than anyone else then there has to be some kind of deterrent for them, he said.

This is why Zak Brown thinks that the punishment should fit the crime. If they were going to breach the limit then they should have a penalty equal to breaching the limit, he said.

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