Cost cap, Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Max Verstappen, Christian Horner, Toto Wolff

Red Bull principal Christian Horner has blasted claims that his team breached the cost cap as it propelled Max Verstappen to his maiden Formula 1 title last season, slamming the accusations as “hugely defamatory” and declaring “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Horner made his bristling comments in response to inflammatory remarks by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Ferrari deputy Laurent Mekies amid an FIA investigation into the 2021 accounts.

Two teams are reportedly set to be found guilty of exceeding last year’s cost cap, with Red Bull and Aston Martin looming as the culprits.

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The reports led Wolff to claiming one team was “procedural” in its violation and the other “fundamental and massively over”, while adding it was an “open secret in the paddock”.

“We regard this as something very serious and expect (the) FIA to manage (the) situation in exemplary fashion,” Mekies said.

Horner hammered Wolff and Mekies at the Singapore Grand Prix, at which Verstappen could seal his second title in succession.

“We were a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday,” Horner said.

“The submission between the team and the FIA is one that is confidential. I have no idea what the outcome of our rivals’ submissions are, or the accounting treatment or so on. So I would be intrigued to know where their source of information for these fictitious claims have come from.

“They are hugely defamatory and we take umbrage to them.

“One can only assume it’s not coincidental that this is at a point where Max has his first strike at a world championship.

“How on earth do they have this information? Where do they have this knowledge? The FIA have even stated they haven’t even completed their process.

“So unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements, we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options available to us are, because it is absolutely unacceptable to be making comments of the type that were made yesterday, that is totally defamatory to the team, to the brands and even to F1.

“I would be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from.”

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The sport’s regulations set a budget cap at US$145 million and it was reduced to $140 million for this year’s world championship, but confusion remains over which types of expenditure fall within that bracket.

A cost cap was introduced in a bid to level the playing field between the 10 teams.

“Perhaps when these accusations are made, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and we take umbrage and extremely seriously the remarks that have been made,” Horner added.

“Is it any co-incidence that Max has his first shot at winning a world title and here we are talking nothing but cost caps, rather than the phenomenal performance that he has had this year?

“I think it’s an underhand tactic that’s been employed to detract from perhaps a lack of performance on track this year.

“And of course when references are made to last year, this year, next year, we’re going to take that extremely seriously. So this is an issue for the FIA to deal with but also an issue for Red Bull to consider what our position is with those comments that have been made.”

Horner is adamant that Red Bull complied with the cost cap.

“We stand absolutely 100 per cent behind that submission that we are below the cap,” Horner said.

“Of course that submission has to be signed off by your auditors and then it goes through the process with the FIA, a little bit like an audit where there are questions and interpretations that are raised and discussed.

“That process is ongoing with the FIA, who haven’t completed their process at this moment in time. I think they made that pretty clear in a statement they put out … so we await with interest to see the final outcome of that process, which hopefully will be in the near future, but remain absolutely confident that we’ve absolutely complied with the cap.”

The most drastic punishment the FIA could deal Red Bull if it’s found guilty of flouting the cost cap is stripping Verstappen of his 2021 title.

The Dutchman clinched last year’s title with a controversy victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to the crown and denying the Briton a record-breaking eighth world championship.

“I think it’s not up to me to judge, and that’s not realistic, but I wouldn’t want to be in their position because of the impact it had over three years,” Wolff said.

“Even if it’s a so-called minor breach that can be below five per cent, you can spend $7 million more than everybody else, and that means is if this is a light penalty, we will all be pushing those five per cent more going forward.

“The crucial part is that if you have been over in 2021, then you have been over in 2022. That means you have an advantage into 2023.

“It’s really a cascade of events and that can be influential in all of the three championships.

“That’s heavyweight — massively heavyweight.”

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