FIA’s lack of immediate transparency opens the door for speculation to run rampant

Michelle Foster
Drivers on the F1 grid in Spain with the FIA flag.

Drivers on the F1 grid with the FIA flag.

Red Bull Racing breached the FIA budget cap on their way to the 2021 World title, rivals could now be willing to throw 2022 into the mix too if the spend has helped add another trophy to the cabinet.

Following Monday’s announcement that Red Bull did overspend, the amount falling into the ‘Minor Overspend Breach’ category, the Milton Keynes squad was quick to express their shock.

Noting the FIA’s findings with “surprise and disappointment”, the team added that “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”.

But as the FIA didn’t state by how much Red Bull had breached the cap, it could be anything from $7 to $7.25 million, they once again left the door open for rivals – and fans – to run wild with their speculation.

One of the more amusing to come out on Monday was that it was Red Bull’s catering bill that had upped the team’s spending.

But while Formula 1 fans were having a bit of chuckle, it’s actually a very serious infringement.

Whether it is worth the half a second per lap that rival teams are saying, who can say 100%. Whether 2021’s spend led to Red Bull’s 2022 title, that too is up for debate.

And all because the FIA have not revealed the extent of the overspend.

As Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt put it: “The public should have the opportunity to discuss this based on facts. It would also be better for the teams involved because then the speculation will stop.

“Standing still now raises the suspicion that the FIA ​​​​want to sweep something under the carpet, to coordinate with the defendants in the back room until they accept the verdict and to wait until the excitement has subsided…

“And then at some point we’ll speak of some kind of lukewarm judgment that doesn’t deter anyone from doing it again or again.”

Formula 1, though, has taken steps to avoid that – at least down the line.

Having determined Red Bull did commit a ‘Minor Overspend Breach’, Article 6.28 of the financial regulations states that the “Cost Cap Administration may enter into an accepted breach agreement (an “ABA”) with the relevant F1 Team”.

Once that has been accepted, the FIA is then beholden under its own rule book to “publish a summary of the terms of the ABA, detailing the breach, any sanctions, and any enhanced monitoring procedures, omitting any Confidential Information”.

This rule was put into place to avoid any backroom deals, or even a hint of one.

Teams do have the right not to enter the ABA and appeal the findings, and that too will become public knowledge.

“The Cost Cap Adjudication Panel will publish the decision of the judging panel and the grounds upon which they are based, save for any Confidential Information.”

But that is likely to take weeks if not months, and until then F1 teams and fans will continue to speculate about the magnitude of Red Bull’s overspend and the price their rivals paid…

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