Red Bull found to have committed minor breach of 2021 F1 budget cap

The FIA has ruled that Red Bull did exceed the budget cap for the 2021 season. Formula One’s governing body has concluded its assessments of all the teams’ budget submissions for last season and found, as was alleged at the Singapore Grand Prix, that Red Bull had committed what the FIA referred to as a “minor breach” of the stipulated $145m (£127m) ceiling.

Aston Martin were found to have committed a procedural breach of the cap, amounting to an error on forms, not going over the permitted spend.

A punishment for Red Bull racing has not been revealed. A minor breach is an overspend of less than 5%. The FIA did not reveal the exact figure relating to the breach although it is understood to amount to less than $2.2m. Anything above 5% would have been considered a material breach (5% equates to a spend of $7.25m).

That carries potentially more serious penalties, including points deduction or the exclusion of a team from the F1 world championship, which could have changed the outcome of the 2021 title race, narrowly won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

The sporting federation said: “The FIA cost cap administration has issued certificates of compliance to seven of the 10 competitors.

“The review of the reporting documentation submitted has been an intensive and thorough process, and all competitors gave their full support in providing the required information to assess their financial situation during this first year of the financial regulations.

“The FIA would also note that with respect to this first year of the application of the financial regulations the intervention of the FIA cost cap administration has been limited to reviewing the submissions made by the competitors and that no full formal investigations were launched.

“The FIA cost cap administration is currently determining the appropriate course of action to be taken under the financial regulations with respect to Aston Martin and Red Bull and further information will be communicated in compliance with the regulations.”

Mercedes and Ferrari are unlikely to be happy with the outcome of the investigation. They have been vocal in pointing out that an overspend of several million can have a major material effect on the performance of a car and in the knock-on development it can take into the following year.

Mercedes will feel particularly aggrieved that it occurred during a season when there was so little to choose between their car and Red Bull and when Verstappen and Hamilton were vying for every point.

The budget cap was used for the first time last year. F1 will now have to seriously consider whether, as it stands, it is fit for purpose. It was implemented, with full agreement from the teams, as a means of attempting to level the playing field between the big three – Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari – and the rest of the paddock.

It was always known it would be hardest to achieve for the major players whose budgets in some cases were almost double the cap but they had several years to undergo restructuring in order to meet the obligation. There is a real danger other teams may view a punishment as an acceptable price to pay to gain an extra performance, once more opening a divide in the field.

During the Singapore race weekend the Mercedes principal, Toto Wolff, had described it as an “open secret” in the paddock that two teams had overspent in 2021 and made it clear he believed Red Bull was one of them. His Red Bull counterpart, Christian Horner, hit back, insisting he believed their financial submission was within the budget cap and threatened legal action against what he called Wolff’s “defamatory” remarks.

Responding to the FIA’s verdict, Red Bull said: “We note the findings by the FIA of ‘minor overspend breaches of the financial regulations’ with surprise and disappointment.

“Our 2021 submission was below the cost cap limit, so we need to carefully review the FIA’s findings as our belief remains that the relevant costs are under the 2021 cost cap amount.

“Despite the conjecture and position of others, there is of course a process under the regulations with the FIA which we will respectfully follow while we consider all the options available to us.”

Verstappen secured this year’s drivers’ championship on Sunday with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix in controversial circumstances at Suzuka.