Red Bull 'cheating' claims emerge in stunning twist to F1 drama

Pictured left to right is McLaren boss Zak Brown and says Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
McLaren boss Zak Brown (L) says Red Bull's cap overspend that helped Max Verstappen win the 2021 F1 title constitutes 'cheating'. Pic: Getty

McLaren boss Zak Brown has taken an extraordinary swipe at rival Formula One team Red Bull after insisting that its cap breach in 2021 constitutes "cheating".

Championship leaders Red Bull, who won the drivers' title last year and this year with Max Verstappen, breached the $US145 million ($A230m) cap in 2021.

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The FIA said on October 10 that it was a 'minor overspend', or less than 5% of the overall cap, but gave no details of how much was involved. Red Bull have said their submission was below the cost cap limit.

It's understood Brown told the governing body that any teams who spend more than the rules allow are effectively cheating and should face stiff sporting and financial penalties.

The BBC reported details of the leaked letter on Monday and McLaren confirmed they were correct.

The McLaren boss did not directly name Red Bull or Aston Martin, who were deemed to have committed a procedural breach, in the letter dated October 12 with copies sent to those other teams who complied with the financial regulations.

"The overspend breach, and possibly the procedural breaches, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting and financial regulations," Brown wrote.

"The bottom line is any team who has overspent has gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year's car development.

"We don't feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach. There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA."

Brown suggested a team in breach should have their cap cut in the year after the ruling with a penalty equal to the overspend plus a further fine.

It means a $US2m ($A3.2m) overspend in 2021 would equate to having roughly $US4m ($A6.4m) less for 2023.

"In addition, we believe there should be minor overspend sporting penalties of a 20% reduction in CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and wind tunnel time," he added.

Calls to crack down on F1 cap overspends

Brown also suggested changing the rules so any second minor overspend breach automatically became a major overspend, and lowering the threshold from 5% to 2.5%.

Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed last week that if Mercedes had been able to spend a mere $US300,000 ($A475,000) extra "it would have changed the outcome of the championship".

“I remember last year as a driver, you’re always asking for updates - updates, updates, updates - whether it‘s fuel or whatever it is," he said.

“I remember in Silverstone we got our last update. I remember that was almost 0.3 seconds … and I’m pretty certain it cost less than $1 million.

“But I remember after that needing more updates but then seeing trucks from [Red Bull Racing] of updates continuing to arrive on the other car and thinking, ‘Jeez, it’s going to be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates’."

Max Verstappen celebrates with girlfriend Kelly Piquet after winning the 2022 world title. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen celebrates with girlfriend Kelly Piquet after winning the 2022 world title. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The regulations were introduced last year to rein in runaway spending and level the playing field.

Mercedes and Ferrari, Red Bull's main rivals, had both said any breach would bring carry-over benefits for this season and next, and the implications were huge and had to be addressed.

Brown also argued that the cost cap, introduced last year to help level the playing field, had been a key factor in attracting new shareholders and investors to Formula One.

"It is therefore critical that we be very firm on implementing the rules of the cost cap for the integrity and the future of F1," he wrote.

Verstappen won his second world title after the Japanese Grand Prix was plagued by poor weather.

Race officials decided to award Verstappen full points despite only 28 laps being completed at Suzuka, before the Dutch driver was confirmed as world champion when nearest rival Charles Leclerc was hit with a five-second penalty after the race.

with agencies

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