F1 chief suspects lack of a ‘dry run’ led to Red Bull’s cost cap breach

Michelle Foster
Red Bull carrying out pit stop practice in Singapore. Marina Bay, September 2022.

Red Bull carrying out pit stop practice in Singapore. Marina Bay, September 2022.

Formula 1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds has revealed Red Bull did not take up the option of doing a “dry run” with the budget cap, saying that is “probably why they made mistakes”.

Red Bull were found guilty of breaching the budget cap during the 2021 season, the Milton Keynes squad overspending by $2.2 million as Max Verstappen fought for his maiden Drivers’ Championship title.

The FIA revealed at the time that had taxes been correctly applied, Red Bull’s overspend would have amounted to less than half a million.

As for the rest that related to mistakes made regarding catering, expenses for team members who were unable to work because they were ill or expenses attributable to gardening leave.

Symonds believes had the team done a dry run, they could have avoided all that.

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“Red Bull got a few things wrong, but every team was given the opportunity to do a dry run,” he explained to Total-Motorsport.com.

“Red Bull chose not to, and that’s probably why they made mistakes.”

Red Bull will ‘definitely’ feel the impact of the penalty

But while Red Bull have insists none of the overspend was spent on the car, rival team bosses felt it freed up funds for them to spend on the car giving them an advantage as anything from two-tenths to half a second per lap. They called for severe penalties.

The FIA went with a monetary and sporting penalty with the team fined $7 million while also losing 10 percent of their allotted time under the sport’s aerodynamic testing restrictions sliding scale.

The paddock, however, is divided as to what effect that will have on the reigning World Champions.

While Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has called it a “draconian” penalty that will cost the team as much as “half a second” out on track, Toto Wolff concedes it “can have an effect” but that it’s up to Red Bull’s rivals capitalise on it.

There are also questions about whether Red Bull, already deep into their 2023 car development when the penalty was announced in October, will feel it this season or only in 2024.

But it will be felt at some point, of that Symonds is adamant.

“It would be quite hard to calculate because when you have a new set of regulations, then the rate of development is very high,” he explained to Total-Motorsport.com.

“So every 100 wind tunnel runs you do, you expect a couple of points of downforce normally and probably more than that in the regulations. So yeah, they will feel it definitely.”

Real time reporting is needed

As with the advantage gained by Red Bull and the disadvantage that awaits them, the paddock is also divided as to whether the penalty was enough of a deterrent given that Red Bull had already won the World title in the year of the breach and followed that up with another in 2022.

New Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur recently called for the FIA to drop the terms ‘minor’ and ‘major’ breach. He added that F1 also needs to “find a way to have a red light before, or to be able to take action much earlier. And we have to probably be a bit more strict on the decision.”

Symonds agrees but concedes that right now Formula 1 doesn’t have the capabilities to track every day spending.

“I do agree that it would be really nice if we absolutely knew the budget numbers looked like in real-time,” he added. “Maybe we can get to that it’s not quite there yet.”