Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Red Bull’s alleged cost cap breach was a “heavyweight” problem and he “wouldn’t want to be in their shoes”.
Championship leaders Max Verstappen are one of the manufacturers believed to have breached the cap, with an official announcement expected from the FIA on October 5.
Reports claim Aston Martin is the other team being investigated, but for lesser offenses according to Wolff.
Formula 1 introduced a budget cap last season in a bid to reduce spiraling costs and level the playing field, setting the maximum spend for a season at $145m. [£114m].
FIA rules state that a ‘minor’ overrun of less than 5% can result in a points deduction or suspensions, while ‘major’ breaches beyond that figure could result in ‘exclusion from the championship’.
As the issue boiled over at the Singapore Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he was “unaware” of any infringement – news that surprised Wolff.
“It’s funny Christian would say that, because they’ve been under investigation for weeks and months, so maybe he’s not talking to his CFO. [chief financial officer]”, the Austrian told Sky F1.
“In fact, we have all been diligently investigated. As far as we understand, there is a minor infraction team that is more procedural, and another team that is fundamentally, massively outdated and still under review. So it’s an open secret in the paddock.
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“I think there is a governance in place which is very solid, which the FIA has put in place. [Teams] will be issued a certificate of compliance, and if you’re not compliant, it goes to the so-called cost cap arbitration panel with independent judges, and they can then choose from those sanctions, which ones are appropriate.
“But the crucial part is, if you were in 21, then you were in 22. That means you have an advantage in ’23. If it’s true that they formulated a lightweight chassis this year, they might use it next year. So it’s really a cascade of events that can have an influence on the three championships.
When asked if the potential breach was a serious matter or just paddock policy, Wolff made his beliefs clear.
“It’s a heavyweight, it’s an extremely heavyweight issue,” he said. “We use used parts.
“We don’t run what we would like to run, we don’t develop what we could develop. We have laid off more than 40 people, who are greatly missed by our organization.
“It was a huge, gigantic project to make the car, I don’t know how many tens of millions we had to restructure, reprocess, in order to be below the cap and, if somebody didn’t or pushed the limits, every million is a huge disadvantage.
Asked about the scope of a penalty, Wolff added: “It’s not for me to judge, and it’s not for me to judge what the penalties might be.
“The judges have all this leeway to analyze, but I wouldn’t want to be in their place because of the impact it has over three years.”
“At this stage, it is still an assessment of what is happening.
“I think it would be important to have some degree of transparency where the alleged violations have occurred, or the alleged misinterpretations [have been] so that we can assess, because you have to imagine – even if it’s a so-called minor violation which may be less than 5%, you can spend $7 million more than everyone else.
“That means if it’s a light penalty, we’re all going to push that 5% more in the future.”
Despite the subject being hotly debated in the paddock and Wolff confirming that Red Bull is one of the teams accused of breaching the cap, rival boss Horner was unconcerned.
“We’re definitely not aware,” he said of any potential issues. “The accounts were all submitted in March, so it was a long process with the FIA.
“Next week is when they declare the certificates, certainly our submission was below the cap. It is up to the FIA to follow their process, which they are currently doing.
“This cost cap activity for last year, and of course it impacts who had extra money to spend this year, but it’s a whole new set of regulations and a very complicated, so how the rules are interpreted and applied, inevitably it’s going to be subjective between the teams.
“I’m sure over the years things will work out, but we’re confident in our submission. There will always be rumours. I’ve heard of major infractions and the like. I am certainly not aware of this.
“Remember this is the first time this has happened, when we do our due diligence we get audited anyway. It’s a similar process.
“It’s a bit bespoke for Formula 1 and clarifications came even after the submissions were made, so you can see how immature the process is, but the FIA obviously worked hard on it and did their bit. better.”
“Each team is theoretically subject to it, so they will have reviewed each team’s submitted accounts and they will go through a process.
“We are very confident in our submission. Anything different, so we’ll wait to hear from the FIA.”
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