Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has come under fire from rivals after the FIA announced his team had exceeded Formula 1’s budget limit. Turning to a letter In a letter written last week by McLaren team boss Zach Brown, who described any breach of the limit as “fraud”, Horner said the allegations against the team had even led to the abuse of staff’s children.
Horner spoke publicly for the first time since the FIA announced that Red Bull had breached the 2021 budget limit. The FIA’s decision was made public just a day after Max Verstappen received his the second F1 championship at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago.
In Austin during today’s US Grand Prix, a Red Bull violation overshadowed events on the track this weekend. Horner continued to argue that his team had enforced the restriction according to their interpretation of the rules, but sitting next to Brown at the press conference, he was furious with his fellow team principal.
“It’s extremely frustrating for a fellow competitor to accuse you of cheating. Accusing you of fraud is shocking, without facts, without any knowledge,” he said.
“We are being tried because of public accusations from Singapore. The rhetoric of “cheating”, the rhetoric that we benefit enormously from it. The damage done to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce. In an era where mental health is prevalent, we face significant challenges in our workforce. We get kids who are the kids of the staff getting bullied on the playgrounds. It’s not because of bogus accusations from other teams. You can’t go around making accusations like this without any facts or substance. We are appalled by the behavior of some of our competitors.”
In response, Brown insisted that the budget constraint must be monitored and properly enforced. “My letter said that if a team spends more than the limit, they will get an advantage,” he said. “The cap is a rule, no different from technical rules in sports. My letter was [saying] if anyone has [overspent], here are some things to look out for. I didn’t name the teams, it was a general answer.”
The cap for 2021 was set at £114m and Red Bull are believed to have exceeded it by £1.8m. The team says they were within the original submission, but subsequent rule clarifications then pushed them, with Horner noting in Austin that one such clarification amounted to a “seven-figure” difference.
Horner confirmed he was in talks with the FIA after being asked to enter into a so-called “accepted infringement agreement”. Agreeing to this would mean admitting that they had indeed breached the restriction, but would guarantee less serious potential fines. He is due to meet FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem this weekend and confirmed discussions were continuing, but also hinted that the disagreement could still be taken to an administrative cost containment panel and then possibly to the Court of Arbitration.
Competitors have also pointed out that any overspend could have had a significant performance advantage for Red Bull over the years, a charge Horner strongly denies. “Not at all,” he said. “We’ve had zero benefit from the development or operations outlook for 2021 or 2022 since we’ve been working within the constraint. Our application was well below the limit.”
Red Bull’s argument is believed to be that the overspend was not related to performance, but rather in areas such as manufactured parts for historic cars, unused spare parts for modern cars, catering, sick pay and gardening.
Williams announced on Saturday that American driver Logan Sargeant will race for them next season if he earns the necessary Super License points. The 21-year-old will become the first American to compete in Formula 1 since Alexander Rossi in 2015 and will replace retired driver Nicolas Latifi. A sergeant needs to earn 40 points for his super license. He is 28 and could get 30 for taking part in Friday practice for the Mexican and Abu Dhabi GPs.