Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur believes that the penalty handed to Red Bull last year for breaching the 2021 budget cap was too light overall.
After being found guilty of a Minor Overspend Breach (Red Bull overspent by 1.6%) of the 2021 Financial Regulations during the 2022 audits of each team’s accounts, Red Bull were hit with an aerodynamic testing penalty as well as a financial fine.
According to F1’s ATR sliding scale, Red Bull’s 2023 wind-tunnel and aero testing allowance is already the smallest of all 10 teams, with the Milton Keynes-based squad being given a further 10% drop as punishment for the breach. On top of that, they were given a $7 million fine – the second-largest monetary fine in F1’s history, with said fine not coming out of the team’s budget cap spend.
Despite the drop in aero testing availability, Red Bull’s RB19 has been the class of the field during the opening three Grands Prix of 2023 – such has been the car’s dominance, that it’s led to accusations of ‘sand-bagging’ from the Mercedes camp as they’ve hinted Red Bull are seeking to disguise performance in fear of an FIA intervention.
Fred Vasseur: Red Bull’s cost cap penalty was too light
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur, who was in charge of Alfa Romeo at the time of the budget cap furore towards the end of last season, has stronger feelings on the matter now that he’s trying to guide the Scuderia into catching up on Red Bull, and he believes the penalty handed out to Red Bull was too light – not that he’s clinging to it as an excuse for the gap.
“Both! They did a good job. But still the penalty was very light,” Vasseur told The Race, when asked if Red Bull had simply done a better job, or if their performance showed too lenient a penalty.
“If you consider the rate of development that we have during the season, the fact that if you have a 10% ban at the end – it’s not something linear. And then you can spend what you are saving somewhere else on weight saving and so on.
“I’m not sure the effect is mega. And if you consider [also] that you have an advantage at the beginning of the season because you spend more the year before…
“I don’t want to say that they didn’t do a good job because I honestly think that they did a very good job on the car. So, I am not trying to find an excuse at all. It’s not this.
“But if you ask me if the penalty is too light, I say yes.”
Ferrari not yet able to challenge Red Bull
Despite the advantage of having extra wind tunnel time over Red Bull, the Scuderia are no closer to their rivals than they were towards the end of 2022 – if anything, the gap in both race pace and single lap has increased in Red Bull’s favour.
Charles Leclerc has retired from two of the three races so far, and showed no hint of being able to challenge for the podium in Saudi Arabia, although Carlos Sainz was a contender for a podium position in Australia until a late-race lunge on Fernando Alonso resulted in a time penalty.
Vasseur explained that Ferrari are not quite able to show their full hand in terms of pace just yet, as they figure out their 2023 car’s foibles.
“In the first three events we always had the feeling that we are not far away and able to fight for the first row with them in quali and it was more difficult in the race,” he said.
“At least on the numbers that we are able to analyse, the advantage in the race in Melbourne was much lower. I think this is coming from the capacity of the driver to drive the car at the limit with different levels of fuel, different tyres and so on.
“If you have the car a bit too peaky, probably you can manage the situation in quali for one lap with new tyres, but all over the race it’s probably a bit more difficult.
“We took a little bit of a different direction over the last couple of weeks.”