Cost Cap drama continues to fester

AUTODROMO INTERNAZIONALE ENZO E DINO FERRARI, ITALY - APRIL 22: Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18 during the Emilia Romagna GP at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Friday April 22, 2022 in imola, Italy. (Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images)

Reading an article by Adam Cooper over at Motorsport, it seems that the FIA offered Red Bull Racing an Accepted Breach Agreement or ABA. Today, reading a Sky Sport F1 article, it seems that Red Bull’s Christian Horner and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem discussed the cost cap breach today in-between practice sessions.

Amazingly, the FIA nor red Bull have spoken at length about what the overage was, how it was spent or any details of the breach and yet weeks ago Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was already making light of the situation suggesting that Red Bull would blame catering and McLaren’s Zak Brown’s leaked letter heavily implying that Red Bull were cheating or fraudulent.

I’ve read in the media that the overage was between $1.2 and $1.8m and much of it was due to providing free lunch to all their employees and potential paid leave time for an employee. So the catering memes and jokes were on target two weeks ago even if it may not have been a bullseye.

The amount of overspend was floating around two weeks ago as well and for me, this is the biggest disappointment in the entire cost cap saga. Not that Red Bull overspent, if they did, so be it, penalize them and let’s move on. No, the bigger issue is the complete breakdown in confidentiality concerning team P&L’s, financial information and worse, financial spending in each particular area of the P&L.

I would be apoplectic to have Ferrari’s cost allocation information whispered to another team or worse, where and how much was spent on what. That is, in my opinion, immediate grounds for cessation of the program and a deep dive into the efficacy, confidentiality and regulatory oversight of such critically sensitive information.

How Ferrari, Red Bull or any other team spends its money and where it spends it is a major issue and the FIA seemingly broke their integrity and confidentiality. If I were a team boss, I would not be storming the gates trying to get Red Bull demonetized via points reduction or removal, I would be asking for an immediate vote of no confidence in the FIA with regards to the cost cap regulation because the person who leaked Red Bull’s information may just as well have leaked how Ferrari spent its money and where.

I am with Gunther Steiner on this. I am more focused on going forward and how this cost cap is regulated and protected than I am trying to re-write history over cost allocation interpretations over meals or PTO payments. These are hardly the dastardly overspends on new front wings, R&D and new engine parts everyone has been alleging.

Christian Horner said:

“We’re in discussion with the FIA about what those costs are and what are mitigating potential circumstances,” said Horner.

“We had zero benefit from a development perspective or an operational perspective either for 2021 or 2022 from the way that we operated within the cap. Our submission was significantly below the cap.

“We expected certain things to be potentially challenged or clarified, as is the process in a brand-new set of regulations. But based on external, professional accounting third parties, the interpretation of those rules, of a 52-page document to police this, we were very clear from our side.

“So we absolutely and categorically don’t feel we had any advantage in 2021 or 2022 or ’23 or ’24, or some teams are even talking about ’26, is totally fictitious.”
Horner specifically addressed the accusations made by McLaren boss Zak Brown in a letter to the FIA that was leaked to the press.

“We’ve been on trial because of public accusations since Singapore,” said Horner, who noted a “rhetoric of cheats” and “the rhetoric that we’ve had this enormous benefit.”

“The numbers have been put out in the media that are miles out of reality,” said Horner. “And the damage that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce, in an age where mental health is prevalent, we’re seeing significant issues within our workforce.

“We’re getting kids that are being bullied in playgrounds that are employees’ children, that is not right through fictitious allegations from other teams.

“You cannot go around just making that kind of allegation without any fact or substance. We absolutely are appalled at the behaviour of some of our competitors.”

Now, that may be a little dramatic but if the children of employees are being bullied, this is the very reason I have been on a soap box lately about the social media mobocracy and the allegations made by Toto Wolff, Mattia Binotto, Zak and others.

These are team bosses who know what happens these days regarding social media narrative but I separate Zak from this issue as his letter was intended for the FIA president only and the fact that it was leaked is another major issue for the FIA. Horner may not like what Zak said but I doubt Zak ever meant for his comments to be a public proclamation of guilt by Red Bull. I have to think that Christian has a sent a few letters to the FIA himself complaining about another team.

For Toto and Mattia, accusations in the press, hints, innuendos and other comments leave all of this to fester and once the mobocracy gets ahold of it, they engage the attack, cancel, de-platform button like sophomores in high school. You have grown adults recommending punishment that isn’t even a part of the cost cap regulation penalty classification as if we are all about “The feels” and can just asses punishment however we see fit or whatever the mob wants. This is so de-evolutionist it insults the very notion of civility and decorum.

I’ve no knife in this fight. If Red Bull overspent, then asses the level and area and assign a penalty for doing so. So be it. If Red Bull wants to adjudicate, fair enough. For me, this could have been Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo or Haas F1 for all I care. The point is the absolute breakdown in confidentiality that led to leaks and allegations in the press that have clearly impacted Red Bull, its brand, its employees and sponsors. This isn’t a zero sum game. The FIA, F1 And teams should know what happens when you leak info, team bosses comment on it and the mobocracy gets ahold of it.

F1 has always been the Piraña Club and a dog-eat-dog world but that was in the paddock, not in the fanbase. I’ve read some of the most vile comments to Red Bull, their drivers, their sponsors, the FIA and F1 online over this issue. Judging by the comments, you’d think they were personally and physically harmed. It’s infantile.

All of this hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing and tantrum-throwing isn’t going to stop until brands stop immediately genuflecting to the mob. Social media threats are becoming as vacuous as the words they use.

The FIA’s inability to get out ahead of this leaked information which prompted the press, team bosses and others to fabricate narratives has created this situation. I saw a video of a group of fans chanting “cheater” as Max Verstappen was being interviewed. Charming.

In the end, I believe, once again, the focus should be on the FIA, how this information was leaked to the press or other teams and their inaction on getting in front of this $&*% show from the beginning.

I would argue that F1 and Red Bull could suggest that the FIA has breached its own regulation 8.7: “fails to operate his team in a manner compatible with the standards of the Championship or in any way brings the Championship into disrepute, the FIA may exclude such Competitor from the Championship forthwith.”

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Tim C

I agree that leaking the information about Red Bull’s spend or Zak Brown’s letter to the FIA is inexcusable. That should never occur. What also concerns me is what I’m reading on other F1 websites. These websites have articles that seem to say Red Bull and the FIA are in negotiations over this breach of the cost cap. What?!?!? Negotiations?!?!? There shouldn’t be anything to negotiate. Either they did or did not exceed the cost cap. And, if they did, a penalty should be forthcoming. There should not be negotiations going on. Maybe I’m reading to much into these articles,… Read more »