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MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 07: McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown talks in the Team Principals Press Conference prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at the Miami International Autodrome on May 07, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Zak Brown writes to FIA stating Red Bull budget breach “constitutes cheating”

Red Bull were recently found guilty of a 'minor' breach of F1's budget cap

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CEO of McLaren Racing Zak Brown has written a letter to the FIA outlining how Red Bull’s budget cap breach “constitutes cheating” and that lenient punishment would undermine “the integrity of F1”.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, talks to an engineer in the garage
Zak Brown wants to see financial and on-track punishment dished out for teams who breached the budget cap | McLaren Twitter

Red Bull were found guilty of a ‘minor’ breach of Formula 1’s budget cap last week – the lesser of two categories of offence under F1’s financial regulations – as well as a procedural breach. It was news that brought Max Verstappen’s maiden title back into question.

Whilst Brown hasn’t called for penalties to alter past accomplishments, the American demands penalties that would hamper Red Bull financially as well as on the racing track.

“Any team who have overspent have gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year’s car development,” he wrote according to BBC Sport. The letter is dated 12 to the 12th of October and is addressed to the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and is copied to F1 president Stefano Domenicali.

Brown’s letter

The McLaren boss didn’t mention Red Bull or Aston Martin by name in order to show that he is expressing his feelings over any potential cost-cap breach.

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

“The FIA has run an extremely thorough, collaborative and open process. We have even been given a one-year dress rehearsal (in 2020), with ample opportunity to seek any clarification if details were unclear. So, there is no reason for any team to now say they are surprised.

“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.”

The 50-year-old suggested that a team that is found guilty of overspending should be slapped with a fine equivalent to double the amount of the breach as well as reduced research and development into the following year’s car.

“We suggest that the overspend should be penalised by way of a reduction to the team’s cost cap in the year following the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspend plus a further fine – ie an overspend of $2m in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a $4m deduction in 2023 ($2m to offset the overspend plus $2m fine),” he wrote.

“For context, $2m is (a) 25-50% upgrade to (an) annual car-development budget and hence would have a significant positive and long-lasting benefit.

“In addition, we believe there should be minor overspend sporting penalties of a 20% reduction in CFD and wind tunnel time. These should be enforced in the following year, to mitigate against the unfair advantage the team has and will continue to benefit from.”

Rule changes?

Brown also pushed for a change in the rules of the budget cap in order to put off teams for breaching the cap multiple times.

“To avoid teams accumulating and benefiting from the multiplier effect of several minor overspend breaches, we suggest that a second minor overspend breach automatically moves the team to a major breach,” he wrote.

“Finally, given the financials involved, a 5% threshold for a minor overspend breach seem far too large of a variance. We suggest a lower threshold, 2.5%, is more appropriate.”

Speeding up processes

Brown made it clear that he believes potential breaches should be released sooner.

“It is paramount that the cost cap continues to be governed in a highly transparent manner, both in terms of the details of any violations and related penalties,” Brown writes.

“It will also be important to understand if, after the first full year of running and investigating the scheme, there needs to be further clarity on certain matters or any key learnings. Again, any insights or learnings should be shared across all teams – there can be no room for loopholes.”

Brown concluded the letter, backing the budget cap and showing his support for the “critical” work that the FIA does in policing breaches as the pinnacle of Motosport looks to grow.

“The-cost cap introduction has been one of the main reasons we have attracted new shareholders and investors to F1 in recent years, as they see it as a way to drive financial and sporting fair play.

“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.”

Whilst Brown’s requests seem fairly straightforward and not out of reach, the F1 financial regulations brought in last year were never going to be bulletproof. It has taken til October 2022 for the 2021 investigation to come up with a result, showing just how complex the regs are.

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