Brown says Red Bull overspend 'constitutes cheating' in letter to FIA

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In a letter sent to the FIA, McLaren boss Zak Brown says an overspend and breach of F1's financial regulations would "constitute cheating", and should be dealt with by the governing body by more than just a financial penalty.

The FIA released last week the results of its audit and certification compliance process regarding each team's level of spending in 2021.

While Aston Martin and Red Bull were deemed to have committed procedural breaches, the Milton Keynes-based outfit was also found guilty of overspending in excess of F1's mandatory $145 million limit.

However, in its report the governing body labeled Red Bull's overspend as a "minor" breach. The definition of "minor" in F1's financial regulations implies that the team spent 5% or less of its cost cap, or anywhere between $100,000 and $7.5 million.

The FIA has yet to communicate the details of Red Bull's overspend and, more importantly, the penalty that it will levy upon the team.

But Brown, in a letter sent to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, urges the latter to lower the boom on any team that has transgressed the sport's financial rules, as a violation of the regulations constitutes "cheating".

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18. 11.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race

"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."

In the letter, in which Brown did not specifically name Red Bull, the McLaren chief also outlined his stance on "a suitable punishment" regarding a serious cost cap breach.

"We don’t feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach," he continued.

"There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA.

"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 – i.e. an overspend of $2m in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a $4m deduction in 2023.

"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."

Brown ended his letter with a reference to Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle, who commented last week that the sport's cost cap had been "a cornerstone of why Formula 1 is in a better place today than it has, in my view, ever been".

"I am in total agreement with Martin, in fact 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."

Last week, upon the FIA's release of its report, a "surprised and disappointed" Red Bull reiterated its belief that its cost cap submission was well under the authorized $145 million limit.

"We note the findings by the FIA of ‘minor overspend breaches of the financial regulations’ with surprise and disappointment," read a statement from Red Bull Racing.

"Our 2021 submission was below the cost cap limit, 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."

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