Red Bull’s breach of Formula One’s budget cap leaves some big questions to be answered by a governing body whose handling of the sport is coming in for more criticism after the controversial end to last season.
The FIA revealed on Monday that Red Bull, the team of now-double world champion Max Verstappen, had spent more than allowed in 2021.
The breach was declared a ‘minor overspend’, less than 5% of the overall cap of $145 million, but no financial details were given.
How much they overspent is the key question.
It could be tens of thousands or as much as $7.25 million, which would be a significant amount in terms of track performance.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team’s record run of eight constructors’ titles in a row is set to be ended by Red Bull, told reporters this month that a 5% overspend was worth many tenths of a second.
“You’re fighting (in) a totally different league if you have been pushing the limit upwards,” he said.
The budget cap was introduced last year and the implications are huge if any breaches are not seen to be dealt with transparently and firmly.
Wolff has already warned of a risk other teams will also overspend by millions in future because the advantage of doing so — with knock-on benefits for following seasons — outweighs any penalty.
What punishment, if any, the FIA imposes is another question and the process could take time if Red Bull, who reckoned they were within the cost cap limit, contest the findings.
The FIA’s rules state that “the Cost Cap Adjudication Panel may impose a financial penalty and/or any minor sporting penalties” for a minor overspend.
They include a public reprimand, deduction of points from both world championships — considered unlikely — a reduction of the cost cap and limitations on aerodynamic and other testing.
The FIA is also under fire on other fronts, with confusion about the scoring at last Sunday’s shortened Japanese Grand Prix and widespread driver anger about the deployment of a recovery tractor on track while cars were lapping in heavy spray.
The previous weekend in Singapore it took hours before the race winner, Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, was made official.
There has also been some friction between the FIA and commercial rights holders Liberty Media on a number of issues, including the 2023 calendar announcement and the number of sprint races to be held.