F1 | Horner: "Had we been able to do a resubmission, again, we would have been under the cap. That wasn’t permitted to us."
Christian Horner explained the cost cap breach and the different interpretations. As to how his rivals would respond to the penalty he quipped "I'm sure if you burnt our wind tunnel down it wouldn't be enough.”
The FIA has finally revealed Red Bull Racing’s punishment for breaching the 2021 cost cap: a $7million fine and a 10% reduction in their allotted wind tunnel time. During a 50-minute press conference on Friday ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix, to media which included Motorlat, Christian Horner described the punishments as "draconian" and made a point to argue that the overspend had largely been caused by different "interpretations" on catering, redundancy costs and sick pay. However, the question was also asked as to why Red Bull Racing did not do a resubmission as if they had done so – they would have been under the limit.
Red Bull Racing were found to have exceeded the 2021 Cost Cap by less than 5%, specifically 1.6%, with the FIA acknowledging that the Milton Keynes based racing outfit did not correctly report their Notional Tax Credit, which would have meant they exceeded the Cost Cap by 0.37%.
Anyone who tuned into Friday’s Red Bull Racing press conference was witness to a list of numbers, reasoning and terminology such as ‘heritage components’ which was more appropriate at an accountancy seminar than a motorsport event. The numbers were far from straightforward and that is the best way to describe this situation as a whole.
“Catering costs, we believed were excluded. And again, just to put into context, when we submitted our submission, we were 3.7million pounds under the threshold. Catering within Red Bull has also been a benefit provided by the group…therefore, as something of a Red Bull policy, we viewed it as an excludable cost. Aggressive but we felt acceptable – the FIA took a different viewpoint on that.”
This comment by Christian Horner seems to sum the situation up pretty well. Red Bull Racing had the opinion a specific cost was excludable but the FIA disagreed. Horner told the media there were ‘75,000 aligned items just to give you a scale of it’ and that he was ‘astounded that there are no other teams that have found themselves in this position but good for them that 8 of them have fully complied.” Horner’s tone also made clear how frustrated he was with the situation and he was keen to highlight that there was a lot of grey area that could hinder one team and benefit another “We provide a food benefit and others provide discounted car schemes. It’s still a benefit one is includable and one is excludable.” Horner stated.
“The inventory and the way that the regulation was changed happened in June this year, post the submission so of course we were unable to reopen the submission so the treatment of unused stock could have been allocated differently, could’ve been excluded in something that was made for Formula One and not allocated to what is known as a heritage component. So, had we been able to do a resubmission, again, we would have been under the cap. That wasn’t permitted to us, it’s not within the regulations, the rules are rigorously stuck to by the FIA.”
Christian Horner stated “There’s an awful lot of work that needs to be done for the future…we close the book here and today.” One can only hope that is the case for the good of the sport if nothing else. However, this is F1 and nothing is ever straightforward. As such, we await the next installment of this soap opera as the teams in the paddock will surely have their say on the findings too. Although Christian Horner clearly feels no punishment would satisfy his rivals as he quipped "They’ve obviously been quick to talk in the media, some of them. I'm sure for them it [the penalty] won’t be enough. I'm sure if you burnt our wind tunnel down it wouldn't be enough.”
Formula One’s slogan of ‘We race as one’ looks set to face its toughest test yet as teams - and more worryingly fans - appear more divided than ever. The lasting impact of the cost cap breach remains to be seen but Christian Horner commented in the press conference that ‘the accusations made in Singapore were extremely upsetting.’ and later on that ‘the reputational damage that’s been made by allegations has been significant.’ The tension in the paddock which has stemmed from this is certainly a worry and the decision not to appeal was highlighted by Horner: "The amount of speculation, commenting and sniping that has been going on in the paddock, we felt that it was in everybody's interest - our interest, the FIA's interest, in F1's interest - to say, 'we close the book', and we close the book here and today.”
The final remarks on this, for now at least, can be left to Christian Horner who certainly had plenty to say on the matter but he also gave a worrying prediction for the future. His comments showed that as much as the book may be closed on this saga – the plot for another may have already been drafted.
"I think what we have set is a precedent, and it sets a precedent for 2022, and the danger for 2022 is that there could be six teams in breach of the cap. Energy prices have been exponential, thankfully we’ve been protected from those, but you know, there is that chance that several teams, many of which have stated it during Formula 1 Commission meetings, will break the cap this year; we do not believe that we will break the cap in 2022…but these penalties set a precedent for the future, so if you get 10% for a 0.37% breach, what is a 5% breach going to look like?”