F1 Debates: What should happen to Red Bull after budget cap breach?

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Nigel Chiu, Andrew Wright and Adam Dickinson have their say on what the FIA should to after Red Bull were found in minor breach of the budget cap


Red Bull‘s minor breach of the Formula 1 budget cap regulations has caused a massive storm, with the story already causing a rift between teams and dividing opinion.

The first murmurs about a potential breach came ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, but the FIA have now confirmed Red Bull overstepped the $145 million limit by less than five percent in 2021, whilst Aston Martin made a procedural error.

Red Bull say they have noted the findings with “surprise and disappointment”.

“Our 2021 submission was below the cost cap limit,” the team added. “So we need to carefully review the FIA‘s findings as our belief remains that the relevant costs are under the 2021 cost cap amount.

“Despite the conjecture and positioning of others, there is of course a process under the regulations with the FIA which we will respectfully follow while we consider all the options available to us.”

A punishment is yet to be announced although, according to the regulations, the following penalties may apply:

  • Public reprimand
  • Deduction of constructors’ championship points awarded for the championship
  • Deduction of drivers’ championship points awarded for the championship
  • Suspension from one or more stages of a competition
  • Limitations on ability to conduct aerodynamic or other testing
  • Reduction of the cost cap

Max Verstappen won an already controversial championship by eight points from Lewis Hamilton, whilst Red Bull finished second to Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.

The big question is what should the punishment for Red Bull be? Total-Motorsport.com journalists Nigel Chiu, Andrew Wright and Adam Dickinson give their contrasting views.

Nigel Chiu: Disqualification from constructors’ championship

Whatever the FIA do, there will be huge backlash so they are in a very difficult position. The 2021 budget cap was the first season where F1 has had financial restrictions and there was always going to be a high possibility that something like this could happen.

Finance is incredibly complex with Red Bull itself having different companies within their F1 brand including Red Bull Racing, Red Bull Technologies, Red Bull Powertrains, plus it’s relationship with AlphaTauri.

Mercedes and Ferrari are in a similar boat where their finance resources are split across their brands so stating where money comes from and what is actually funded to help the F1 team is very difficult.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during final practice for 2022 Singapore Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

As for what the punishment should be, the FIA have to make a statement of intent and go big.

Disqualify Red Bull from last year’s constructors’ championship and give them a big fine in the regions of hundreds of millions.

This is what happened in 2007 with the infamous Spygate scandal when McLaren were excluded from the constructors’ championship and hit with a fine of $100 million, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso kept their drivers’ championship points.

A restriction in wind tunnel testing time for Red Bull too would be appropriate. All this would set a precedent for any team to not breach the budget cap.

Andrew Wright: Punishment should deter other teams

How the FIA handles this saga will set a very important precedent for the future. With that in mind, I hope it is a sufficient deterrent to ensure the budget cap continues to be respected.

Taking the overspend amount off this or next year’s budget or reducing the equivalent amount of wind tunnel time is simply not enough and will be seen as a worthy price to pay for vital performance gains going forward.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the world championship | REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

It’s also vital the FIA communicates with full transparency. The 2021 championship is already shrouded in enough controversy; the last thing it needs is ambiguity over the extent of Red Bull’s breach.

My overriding feeling seeing this news is one of sadness. A true battle for the ages has been irreparably tainted and no matter what happens now, that’s how it will stay.

Adam Dickinson: Forward facing penalties would be the most damaging to Red Bull

What a mess. I really hope this doesn’t single-handledly sink the budget cap, but how the FIA handles this will go a long way to deciding that.

We really need transparency as to what happened – principally how much was the overspend?

Even under the umbrella of ‘minor offence’ £10,000 over is very different to £5 million. That’s championship-changing money.

Unfortunately the FIA‘s handling of other recent team transgressions – look no further than the Ferrari fuel flow debacle.

Some people will never be satisfied but a forward-facing penalty will be the most damaging to Red Bull in the long-run.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after placing second in 2022 Austrian Grand Prix as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates after placing third | REUTERS/Florion Goga

Reduction of wind-tunnel testing and a fine are a must, and a reduction in the Red Bull‘s budget cap for future season plus suspension from in-person testing should also be on the table.

However, I don’t really see the value in disqualifying them from last season’s constructors championship.

They made it very clear where their focus lay last year and a second-place in their second-priority championship is neither hither nor tither. Any fine should incorporate their earnings from that finish last year though.

There is a way for the FIA to save some face from this, from neutrals and journalists if not diehard Verstappen or Hamilton fans, but transparency and firmness are a must.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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