Everything Christian Horner said at fiery press conference in response to budget-cap breach

Sam Cooper
Christian Horner speaking during a press conference. Austin, October 2022.

Red Bull's Christian Horner speaks during the United States Grand Prix press conference. Austin, October 2022.

Christian Horner has spoken publicly for the first time since the FIA announced Red Bull had exceeded the budget cap – and he was in a fiery mood.

The Red Bull boss went on the offensive, from saying he was “appalled” by his team’s rivals to claiming the mental health of Red Bull staff had come under fire.

Horner was particularly critical of Zak Brown, who was sat alongside him, after the McLaren boss wrote a letter to the FIA implying Red Bull had cheated.

Here is every word Horner said during the 30-minute press conference:

Q: We last spoke to you in Singapore about the budget cap, what is the latest on that?

CH: The latest on that is we are in a process with the FIA. We are hoping to get closure on that. At that point in time, all the facts will be laid on the table and we’ll be able to talk very openly about the cap and why we feel all relevant costs are fully in line.

But we are in the process. We are working with the FIA, they are diligently trying to do their job and hopefully in the near future we’ll have a have a resolution.

Q: Can you give us your thoughts on the process that’s taking place?

CH: It’s a new process. What you have to remember with these regulations is they were they were introduced at $175million. It was then reduced by $30million during the pandemic.

It’s a complicated set of regulations, it’s 52 pages and we’ve been through that process and 2021 was the first ever year of a set of very complicated financial regulations which have varying interpretations to them from different accounting specialists.

The findings of the FIA have been made public recently and we are now in a voluntary process with the FIA going through that process with them and I hope we’ll be able to conclude it in the near future, but that’s where we currently are.

Q: Were there any opportunities prior to this for anything to be flagged up to you by the FIA?

CH: It’s a new process. We made an interim submission in 2021. There was no feedback or suggestion we were doing anything that was contrary to any regulations.

And then the submission made in March. Again, we didn’t hear anything from that submission in March until the latter part of September. So it’s a significant period of time. There’s also duty within the regulations for the FIA to guide, to have effective compliance.

Q: Do you concede you have benefited by an overspend and that may in some way have contributed to some of the success you’ve achieved in 2021 and 2020?

CH: No, absolutely not. What you have to look at is what are the relevant costs? And what are the relevant costs within the cap and what’s outside of the cap? That’s where the interpretation comes from.

Our view is our relevant costs are within the cap. Now obviously, we are in discussion with the FIA about what those costs are and what are mitigating potential circumstances. We had zero benefit from a development perspective or an operational perspective, either for 2021 or 2022.

From the way we operated within the cap, our submission was significantly below the cap. We expected certain things to be potentially challenged or clarified, as is the process in a brand new set of regulations, but based on external, professional accounting third parties, the interpretation of those rules of a 52-page document to police this, we are very clear from our side.

So we absolutely categorically do not feel we’ve had any advantage either in 2021 or 2022, or ’23, or ’24, or sometimes you talk about ’26. It is totally fictitious.

Q: What was your reaction to Zak Brown’s letter which accused you of cheating?

CH: Zak’s letter, which wasn’t copied to us, we’ve had sight of that letter and it’s tremendously disappointing for a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating – to accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking.

It’s absolutely shocking that another competitor without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, can be making that kind of accusation.

We’ve been on trial because of public accusations since Singapore. The rhetoric of cheats, or that we’ve had this enormous benefit, the numbers put out in the media that are miles out of reality, and the damage that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce.

In an age when mental health is prevalent, we are seeing significant issues now within our workforce. We are getting kids that have been bullied in playgrounds that are employees’ children. That is not right.

Fictitious allegations from other teams. You cannot go around just making that kind of allegation without any facts or substance, so we are absolutely appalled by the behaviour of some of our competitors.

Q: What exactly is the process?

CH: The process as per the regulations is that we’ve been invited to enter into an ABA which is for a minor breach and procedural breach, that you have the opportunity to discuss with the FIA and present your case, your position.

We are in that process and have been for pretty much the last 10 days or so, going backwards and forwards with the FIA.

I hoped for it to be resolved before this weekend. I’m hopeful it can be resolved during this weekend, but should that not happen the next process is it goes to the cost cap administration panel and then beyond that there’s the International Court of Appeal so it could draw it out for another six, nine months.

Which is not our intention – we want closure on 2021. We’ve had some healthy and productive discussions with the FIA and I’m hopeful of being able to reach a conclusion in the near future.

Q: Do you think amendments made in June have moved the goalposts?

CH: As with such an immature set of regulations, there’s going to be clarifications and tidying up and I think certainly how unused inventory was treated was, in our view, a change to the regulation.

We applied a very strict ruling in the way we treated our new stock and I think a clarification came out in June that changed the application that had [a] seven-digit effect on our submission. But, of course, retrospectively, we were not allowed to change our submission.

What you have to remember is that the submission constitutes about 75,000 line items. So there’s an enormous amount of data that has to be inputted into these submissions.

I think it’s only natural that in a first year with a set of very complicated regulations, to be able to get its arms around everything is almost impossible.

A change like that has a huge swing in your application of how you’ve completed your form. Which had we have been able to resubmit at that point in time, we would have treated very, very differently. So there’s probably several teams that have been affected in that manner.

Q: Is the two-week wait for a decision a disgrace for the sport?

CH: I think it’s in the interest of everybody, in the interest of the sport, in the interest of Formula 1, to get this situation resolved as quickly as possible. I think there’s many lessons that can be learned from it.

Q: Can you tell us what the proposed penalty is?

CH: I can’t tell you that obviously, it’s a confidential discussion between ourselves and the FIA. What I will say is that once hopefully this situation is concluded there will be complete transparency and I will talk you through the reasoning behind submission and the position we had.

Why we felt that each of the line items that have been challenged, we believe there’s a contrary position. It should be transparent. The whole thing should be transparent. There’s not going to be privacy [or a] secret deal. I think it will be absolutely above board – this is very different to a previous situation.

Q: You said you want closure on this, how important is it that we don’t have the same situation in another 12 months time?

CH: I think it’s enormously important. We can’t be waiting and being in October, November to find out the outcome of a previous year’s championship.

I think the FIA are looking to put the resource in to deal with that because I think what you have to remember is this set of regulations was placed upon the FIA to police and I think it’s probably taken them by surprise during the last 18 months.

Particularly with the scale of some of the teams and the complexity of it to have to deal with it. They’ve done the best they can with the resource they have but you have a process we are assured will be a lot quicker next year.

There are significant challenges within 2022 but when you look at the amount of crash damage some of the teams are having, some of the update levels that are going on, the precedents that will be set from 2021 will have to apply and will have consistency in 2022.

Q: Are you concerned about your submission for the 2022 season?

CH: This year is a challenge with the energy costs and everything else associated with it. If I look at the facts, Max Verstappen has had the least amount of accident damage of any driver on the grid. Sergio Perez is certainly at the lower end.

If I look at the amount of developments compared to some of our rivals, we are significantly below that. If I look at the quantity of parts we are bringing, if I look at where we are in the freight, we are probably the sixth or seventh team that brings in terms of freight volumes to home.

So having been through this process, one can never say you’re fully confident but you know I cannot believe when we look at the statutory accounts of others and so on that we are in any way out of kilter with the rest of the field.

Q: Is the five per cent window too big?

CH: Again, I think it’s part of the regulations that potentially needs to be looked out because [of] the ranging suite of penalties again are totally subjective.

I think this is what’s contributed to the conservative campaign for there to be a draconian penalty on Red Bull for what, at the end of the day, we are talking probably what is in contention with the FIA of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

As I say, I will explain later why we have a different opinion within that submission of what our opposition was versus another, but what has been just tremendously disappointing to this whole process is the leakage that happened that then suddenly we are tried and subjected to what, three weeks of effective abuse.

I mean, Zak’s got a very convenient memory of the letter he wrote accusing us of cheating and being fraudulent. It’s just not right and this has to stop.