SINGAPORE — The FIA has confirmed that any breach of Formula One’s financial regulations will be “dealt with” amid accusations Red Bull and Aston Martin may have exceeded the budget cap in 2021.
F1 introduced a budget cap last year in the hope of levelling the playing field among teams and making the sport more sustainable. It was set at $145 million in 2021 and reduced to $140 million this year, although some adjustments have been made to account for additional races and inflation.
F1’s governing body is expected to announce its analysis of the team’s 2021 financial data next week, which will reveal if there were any breaches of the cost cap last year. A report in Auto Motor und Sport on Friday suggested Red Bull and Aston Martin may have exceeded the limit, which could result in penalties as extreme as exclusion from the championship if the overspend is significantly over five percent.
Team bosses at Mercedes and Ferrari later referred to the alleged breaches as an “open secret”.
When contacted by ESPN, Red Bull said the media reports were “purely speculation at this stage”, while Aston Martin confirmed it had submitted its 2021 reporting, is in discussion with the FIA, and is “awaiting certification”.
The accounts in question are for the 2021 season, which, if Red Bull is found to be in breach, would reopen debate about Max Verstappen’s title victory, which was already surrounded in controversy due to the way FIA race director Michael Masi dealt with a last-lap safety car restart at the final race.
However, it would also impact this year’s title fight as a significant amount of development for this year’s car came from last year’s budget. Verstappen is on the cusp of securing the title and could win it as early as this weekend, although Japan is a more likely venue for his victory.
Because the cost cap was only introduced in 2021, there is no precedent for possible breaches of the financial regulations.
However, the FIA’s rule book offers a long list of potential penalties — from fines to exclusion for a championship — that are split into three categories: “financial penalty”, “minor sporting penalty” and “material sporting penalty”.
A minor sporting penalty or financial penalty will be issued for an overspend of less than five percent and a material sporting penalty is possible for anything over five percent.
Minor penalties include a public reprimand, a deduction in points (both for constructors and drivers), suspension from rounds of the championship, limitations on the ability to conduct aerodynamic testing and a reduction in the cost cap for the following year. Material sporting penalties include all of the above as well as exclusion and suspension from championships.
In a statement on Friday a spokesperson for the governing body said: “The FIA is currently finalising the assessment of the 2021 financial data submitted by all Formula One teams. Alleged breaches of the financial regulations, if any, will be dealt with according to the formal process set out in the regulations.”
The speculation around the overspend followed a number of pointed comments from rivals about Red Bull’s rate of development this year.
In August, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said: “The financial regulations can make differences between teams in the way they are interpreting and somehow executing it. And we know we need to have a very strong FIA to make sure they are properly focusing, otherwise the regulations will not be fair and equitable.”
Williams was fined $25,000 earlier this year for missing a deadline to file the team’s accounts for 2021, although it was a relatively small discretion that was quickly resolved along with Williams paying the fine.