But what is clear is that while Red Bull’s labeling of overspending has been officially classed as a “minor” offence, its opposition view it as anything but a small matter.
To qualify as a “minor” rather than a “material” infraction, teams must have spent less than 5% of the compensation. So, with last year’s cost cap being around $145 million, that could still be as high as $7.25 million.
There has been no confirmation from the FIA or Red Bull as to the extent of the breach, but there have been numerous suggestions that it was between $1 million and $2 million.
It might seem like a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to development budgets, extra spending like that ultimately makes a big difference.
Lewis Hamilton has referenced just an extra $500,000 of development funds released for Mercedes last year, enough to allow him to bring in a new floor design, which would have picked up the pace of his car to potentially change the outcome of the title race.
As his team manager, Toto Wolff, said during the Singapore GP: “If it’s a so-called minor infraction, I think the word is probably not correct.
“If you spend 5 million more and you are still in a minor breach, it still has a big impact on the championship.
“To give you an idea, we obviously closely monitor the parts brought to the track by the top teams at each race – 2021 season and 2022 season.
“We can see that there are two top teams that are about the same and there is another team that spends more. So we know exactly that we spend three and a half million a year in the parts that we bring to the car. And then you can see what a difference it makes to spend another 500,000 – it would be a difference.
“We haven’t produced lightweight parts for the car to bring us down from double digit overweight because we just don’t have the money. So we have to do it for the car of the year. next.
“We can’t homologate a lightweight chassis and introduce it, because it’s only $2 million that we’ll exceed the cap. So you can see that every extra expense has a performance benefit.”
It’s this trade-off between spend and performance that top teams have had to juggle in the era of cost caps, and it’s why a rival’s overspend is so important to them.
Ferrari in particular has repeatedly called for maximum penalties. The team believes this is the only way to ensure that teams strictly adhere to the cost cap in the future and are not encouraged to game the system by exchanging excessive spending for richer rewards than any punishment inflicted will cost them.
Ferrari hasn’t said anything publicly since the FIA’s statement on Red Bull’s breach, but it’s understood the team’s position remains unchanged and they want financial breaches to be dealt with as strictly as technical breaches. where cars are disqualified if the parts are a few millimeters apart.
For Red Bull’s main rivals, perhaps even more important than any potential penalties imposed is that there is full transparency in how the matter is handled.
So far, the FIA has offered little information on the extent and motives of Red Bull’s breach, and this lack of information for such an important topic has inevitably sparked wild speculation.
Was Red Bull’s procedural and minor overrun the result of a small backlog of paperwork and innocent expenses – such as a subsidized canteen in Milton Keynes, sick pay and gardening leave – unexpectedly added to the team budget by FIA interpretations and pushing it over the limit?
Or was there a deliberate attempt to cheat paperwork, block investigations and deliberately find ways around the cost cap to ensure Red Bull can spend more on car development than rivals ?
Red Bull’s “surprise and disappointment” at being accused of breaching the cost cap would suggest it was the former case instead. However, without firm answers, the suspicions of rivals will inevitably fear that it is the second.
That’s why it’s essential, as much for Red Bull as for the rest of the grid, that the FIA explains things in detail, and doesn’t go down the road of secret behind-the-scenes deals.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, 2nd position, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 3rd position, in Parc Fermé
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
F1’s financial regulations are actually clear on how they require the FIA to publish details of decisions made regarding rule breaches.
If teams choose to go for an accepted breach agreement, where they acknowledge and take responsibility for breaking the rules, the matter will be publicized.
Article 6.32 of the F1 Financial Regulations states: “The Cost Cap Administration will publish a summary of the terms of the ABA, detailing the breach, penalties and enhanced monitoring procedures, omitting any confidential information.”
Even if the team chooses to take up the case and appear before judges to plead their case, the final judgment will also be made public.
Section 7.27 of the rules states: “The Cost Cap Arbitration Panel will publish the decision of the Adjudication Panel and the reasons on which it is based, excluding any confidential information.”
But while these offer some hope for answers to Red Bull rivals about the scale and scope of what happened, and the FIA’s responses, they still open the door to the governing body. to try to minimize things.
For now, the Red Bull rivals are holding a briefing and awaiting the next steps.
As Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said over the weekend: “I think what we need and what I expect is full transparency and clarity on the discussions that could have taken place.”
And if not, the FIA risks even greater controversy in the future.
Make any penalties too small or leave other teams in the dark about the details of the cost cap violation by keeping things too secret, and trust in the whole system will crumble very quickly.
This would then threaten the very existence of the cost cap that has been seen as central to the long-term health of F1.