Zak Brown felt FIA dealt with Red Bull in ‘appropriate and big way’ over cost cap breach

Sam Cooper
Zak Brown and Christian Horner with the camera dividing them in a press conference. Austin October 2022

McLaren CEO Zak Brown and Christian Horner with the camera dividing them in a press conference. Austin October 2022

Zak Brown has praised the FIA for the way the governing body handled Red Bull’s breaking of the cost cap after being one of the biggest critics of the Milton Keynes based team.

The McLaren CEO was arguably the most vocal voice when it came to calling for harsh punishments to be handed to Red Bull following news that they had committed a “minor” overspend of the 2021 cost cap.

Despite not naming them outright, Brown wrote an open letter to the FIA describing any additional spending above the limit as “cheating” which led to a fiery press conference between the McLaren man and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner.

After plenty of speculation and with teams politicking for various penalties as serious as World Championship points being docked, Red Bull were eventually fined $7 million and given a 10% reduction of their wind tunnel time for 2023.

With the matter now settled, Brown has praised the way the FIA, who were in charge of policing the cap and handing out any penalties, went about dealing with the overspenders.

“The implementation of it is very difficult,” Brown told the Marshall Pruett podcast. “You better have a great CFO (chief financial officer) that understands how a Formula 1 team operates.

“You’ve got choices to make, where do you spend your money and obviously you want to spend it in the absolute highest performing areas, whether it’s people, technology or what have you.

“With the FIA, it’s been a very transparent process. The FIA has been extremely communicative, I mean, there’s not a week that goes by that we’re not getting a memo or notice or an update. So they’re constantly on it. I think they’re very thorough. I don’t think it has the gaps that people were concerned there might be.

“So I think what happened this year was not intended.

“It’s unfortunate anyone breached the cap but there were people such as investors and others that invested in the sport on the basis of a cost cap and one of the concerns is ‘would it ever be manageable? Would anyone actually respect it?’ etc, etc.

“So I think when we had those couple of infringements, I think it was important that it was dealt with in an appropriate and a big way to make sure that no one exceeds the cap or doesn’t take it seriously. I think everybody, including those that had their issues, definitely take it seriously. I think that was also a win.”

Brown did admit that balancing the books was a “bit of an art and science” and teams are running the risk if they push too close to the limit.

“My own opinion is no one would want to break the cap,” the American said. “You want to get as close to it as possible and that’s a difficult and scary proposition because if you’ve looked at what you want to spend, you want to leave $1 on the table, but it’s so tight. You can have an accident with two races to go or rip off the front wing, you don’t know.

“So that’s a bit of an art and science. Everyone just needs to get comfortable with how much space they give themselves and over time, I think it’ll become less foreign to us.”

Despite those difficulties, Brown praised the idea of a cost cap and predicting that the true results would not be seen for a few years yet.

Read more: Rene Arnoux slams Mattia Binotto for ‘unforgivable’ errors at Ferrari