Guenther Steiner is firmly in the camp of those who do not think Red Bull have been penalised sufficiently for their budget-cap breach.
Red Bull settled for an ‘accepted breach agreement’ for a ‘minor overspend breach’ of the 2021 budget cap, which amounted to $2.2million minus mitigating factors, such as an unclaimed tax credit, that brought the figure down to just over $430,000.
The punishment was a $7million fine and a 10% reduction in their wind tunnel and CFD quota for a 12-month period.
Rival teams and Red Bull themselves gave a mixed response to the penalty. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described it as “draconian”, while Alpine’s Otmar Szafnauer thought it was “fair” and “fitted the crime”.
On the other hand, McLaren CEO Zak Brown said there should be “stronger sanctions” in future for teams that “wilfully break the rules”.
Without putting it quite so strongly himself, Steiner, the Haas team principal, agreed with Brown that there needs to be more of a deterrent to stop a repeat from any team – because he does not believe Red Bull will be “hurt” by this one as the fine does not come out of the team’s budget.
“Seven million dollars is a lot of money but it doesn’t hurt them,” Steiner told RTL.
“Now if they [the FIA] had said they could spend five million dollars less than the rest of the teams next year, a sanction would have really damaged the development of the car.”
As the fine does not have to be incorporated into, or deducted from, their budget, it means Red Bull can still spend the same as everyone else, says Steiner.
“There are then opportunities to continue working on something else,” said the Italian. “Development is not at a standstill. It’s just moved to another area of the car.
“You can work on the weight, for example. So much is possible with that money.
“For example, if they had said ‘next year you have five million dollars less in the budget cap – I’m just naming a number now, I don’t want to stick to it – than all the other teams’.”
In the same interview, Steiner was also asked for his opinion about Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who has just broken the record for the number of race wins in a single F1 season by registering his 14th – and, of course, has retained his Drivers’ World Championship.
“Every period had its champion. In this period, it is Max,” said Steiner.
“Max has the talent, the drive and is unapproachable at the moment.
“To become champion you need that little bit extra, a certain coolness and a piece of luck. Verstappen is currently in a flow and wants to keep it.”