Red Bull handed $7m fine and wind tunnel penalty by FIA for Formula 1 cost cap breach

Red Bull finally handed punishment for minor cost cap breach ahead of Mexico City GP, with 10 per cent reduction in wind tunnel time most damaging; Red Bull were $2.2m over the $145m limit and came to an ‘accepted breach agreement’ with F1’s governing FIA

Last Updated: 28/10/22 3:30pm


Red Bull have been handed a $7 million fine and restrictions on car development time for breaching last season’s Formula 1 cost cap.

Following over two weeks of speculation, and criticism from rivals, for their ‘minor’ breach of the $145m limit in Max Verstappen’s maiden title-winning campaign, Red Bull were given their punishments on Friday at the Mexico City GP after reaching an ‘accepted breach agreement’ [ABA] with the FIA.

The ABA meant Red Bull had to admit their wrongdoing – with the team $2.2m over the cap – but crucially brought with it an end to an F1 saga and less severe punishments.

The FIA acknowledged if a tax credit had been correctly applied Red Bull would have only been $0.5m over.

“There is no accusation or evidence that Red Bull has sought at any time to act in bad faith, dishonestly or in a fraudulent manner, nor has it wilfully concealed any information from the Cost Cap Administration,” read an FIA statement.

Red Bull have received both a financial and a minor sporting penalty, with a 10 per cent reduction in wind tunnel time over the next 12 months most damaging.

Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is 'shocking' as he responds to Zak Brown's letter.

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Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is ‘shocking’ as he responds to Zak Brown’s letter.

Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is ‘shocking’ as he responds to Zak Brown’s letter.

Red Bull were already set to have less time in their wind tunnel – where F1 teams test and perfect aerodynamics on their car – than their rivals due to winning this year’s constructors’ championship, which they wrapped up last weekend in the USA to follow up Max Verstappen’s second drivers’ title.

There is a sliding scale of wind tunnel runs in F1 depending on where a team finishes in the championship.

With their penalty, Red Bull’s drivers are set to have 25 runs in their wind tunnel next season instead of 28. Ferrari, by reference, will have 30 runs if they finish second in the championship, and Mercedes 32 should they end up third as expected. The constructor in last place has 46 runs.

Sky Sports’ F1 pundit Martin Brundle said earlier this week that Red Bull could be hit with a 25 per cent reduction in wind tunnel time, so some may believe they have got away lightly.

How did Red Bull go over the limit?

Red Bull were first accused of a minor breach – an overspend of less than five per cent [$7.25m] – of F1’s new-for-2021 cost cap on October 10, and had been in discussions with the FIA since that revelation.

The team – amid ‘cheating’ accusations from McLaren boss Zak Brown and fierce criticism from other rivals – have protested their innocence throughout, and Sky Sports understands their initial submission was $4.5m under the limit.

$1.7m of their $2.2m overspent has been revealed to be owing to tax errors.

It has now been confirmed by the FIA that Red Bull excluded the following relevant costs for the budget cap:

  • Overstated excluded costs pursuant to catering services
  • Costs concerning consideration and associated employer’s social security contributions
  • Costs in respect of bonus and associated employer’s social security contributions
  • Understatement of Relevant Costs in respect of a gain on disposal of fixed assets by failing to make
    the necessary upwards adjustment
  • Costs concerning apprenticeship levies
  • Costs concerning consideration and associated employer’s social security contributions
  • Understatement of Relevant Costs in respect of cost of use of Power Units
  • Costs concerning consideration and associated employer’s social security contributions
  • Understatement of Relevant Costs concerning use of inventories
  • Clerical error in respect of RBR’s calculation of certain costs re-charged to it by Red Bull Power Trains
  • Certain travel costs
  • Costs of maintenance

The FIA pursued an ABA first as per the financial regulations, and the agreement ruled out the more severe punishments Red Bull could have received for a minor breach, such as points deductions or a reduction of future caps.

In already hugely controversial circumstances, Verstappen only beat Lewis Hamilton by eight points for last year’s drivers’ crown.

Christian Horner denies that Red Bull have gained any advantage from any cost cap breach and believes the relevant costs are within the cap.

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Christian Horner denies that Red Bull have gained any advantage from any cost cap breach and believes the relevant costs are within the cap.

Christian Horner denies that Red Bull have gained any advantage from any cost cap breach and believes the relevant costs are within the cap.

If Red Bull had rejected the FIA’s terms, the case would have gone to the cost cap adjudication panel and the full range of penalties would have been back on the table. After that, it could have even escalated to the International Court of Appeals; a dragging out of the scandal no one wanted.

Analysis: Red Bull still feel this is a tough sanction

Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater:

“This is Red Bull saying: ‘We accept we are in error, we overspent’ and the FIA have delivered the sanction.

“It’s less of a sanction than a lot of people have been talking about.

“The wind tunnel reduction of 10 per cent is a lot less than a lot of people were speculating; it could have been 25 per cent.

“My understanding from some soundings within the team is that Red Bull still feel this is quite a tough sanction, given they were only slightly over the cap.

“In the run-up to all of this, there has been some quite strong words exchanged behind the leading teams – we had Toto Wolff, Ferrari and then Zak Brown weighing in on this. In a leaked letter, Brown equated breaking the cost cap with cheating.

“But the FIA statement addresses talk of cheating, by saying: ‘There is no accusation or evidence that RBR has sought at any time to act in bad faith, dishonestly or in a fraudulent manner, nor has it concealed wilfully any information from the cost cap administration.’

“And that has been pretty consistent throughout as far as the FIA is concerned.

“Let’s see what the other teams make of this. They cannot appeal this, but it won’t stop them talking about it.”

More to follow.



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