Red Bull’s cost cap breach ‘absolutely doesn’t add up to this advantage’

Michelle Foster
Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez pose for the camera. Drive to Survive

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez pose for the camera.

Destroying the opposition this season as they race towards a second successive championship double, F1 journalist Edd Straw is adamant Red Bull’s advantage is “absolutely” not because of 2021’s overspend.

Back in 2021, Formula 1’s first year under a budget cap, Red Bull exceeded the $145m limit by $2.2m which was largely put down to an unclaimed tax credit with the rest attributed to incorrectly filed gardening leave, sick pay and even lunch bills.

Rivals insisted no matter how it was explained, Red Bull had an extra $2.2m to spend on developing their cars.

With all this only coming to light late in 2022, Red Bull’s most severe punishment pertained to the 2023 season with the team docked 10 percent of their ATR time. They were also hit with a $7m fine.

But having gone onto dominate this year’s championship, Red Bull winning all seven of the season’s opening races, rivals have questioned whether the Milton Keynes’ squad’s penalty was enough given they could still be benefitting from that overspend.

Straw has rubbished that suggestion, saying the only reason Red Bull are blitzing their rivals is because they have a “phenomenally good” team.

“I’m not going to make excuses for them [Red Bull] breaching the cap, they were banged to rights on it,” Straw said in The Race’s latest podcast.

“The cost cap overspend was £1.8million however that was based on them declaring some tax break stuff that they shouldn’t have so as the FIA stated the effective overspend was just over 400,000.

“Now that clearly was something they shouldn’t have done but it absolutely doesn’t add up to this advantage.

“This advantage is earned through being a phenomenally good team and also they retain that desire to always improve.

“They’re never resting on their laurels and getting complacent about how well they’re doing.” recommends

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Although Red Bull deserve credit for their performances, they have been helped by their main rivals – Mercedes and Ferrari – dropping the ball.

Both teams realised back in pre-season testing already that their cars didn’t have the pace to challenge the RB19 which prompted changes, the most radical of which has come from Mercedes with their B-spec W14.

However, given their deficit to Red Bull, Straw questions whether the Brackley squad can even catch Red Bull in early 2024.

“Teams are now much better at getting the most out of their cars, there’s less fluctuation, less variables which does lead to this potential for pulverising dominance and just the problem of how long it takes to recover,” Straw added.

“Mercedes has brought upgrades recently and set a new design direction but we’re talking about ‘well, start of next year they can do a new car’ and can maybe take a step, but even then I’d be surprised if Mercedes do enough to be at Red Bull level at the start of next year because you’re trying to catch up so much, while all the time Red Bull are serenely carrying on the same development path that they started on.

“Red Bull has not had to deviate or take a step back or a 90-degree right turn, because every time you have to do that the teams are not doing that to gain an advantage. It’s the same with Ferrari, a bit of a shift with direction, that will take time to exploit and that’s one of the other things teams have failed to do.

“Not only have they let Red Bull dominate but [they’ve let it happen] in this year where Red Bull has an ATR disadvantage.

“The rivals are making that whole equation really easy for Red Bull to manage because they’re going to win this season quite easily. The pressure is taken off them and it becomes a virtuous circle for Red Bull.”

Red Bull are leading the 2023 Constructors’ Championship with 287 points, 135 ahead of Mercedes.