McLaren sends stern letter to FIA: ‘Cost cap breaches constitute cheating’

© Jiri Krenek for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

McLaren boss Zak Brown says “any team who have overspent have gained an unfair advantage, both in the current and following year’s car development”, and calls for a serious sporting penalty.

Amid Red Bull’s budget cap breach scandal, McLaren CEO Zak Brown has sent a letter to the FIA and F1 teams where he demands strict penalties for any overspending.

BBC reports that on 12th October Brown sent a letter addressed to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and copied to F1 president Stefano Domenicali, expressing his views on cost cap breaches.

He also sent the same letter to teams who did not commit any cost cap breaches (overspend or procedural): Mercedes, Ferrari, Alpine, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

“Any team who have overspent have gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year’s car development,” Brown wrote and added that the FIA should “communicate subsequent action and penalties at pace to maintain the integrity of F1”.

“The overspend breach, and possibly the procedural breaches, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting and financial regulations,” he continued.

“The FIA has run an extremely thorough, collaborative and open process. We have even been given a one-year dress rehearsal (in 2020), with ample opportunity to seek any clarification if details were unclear. So, there is no reason for any team to now say they are surprised.

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“The bottom line is any team who has overspent has gained an unfair advantage both in the current and following year’s car development.

“We don’t feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach. There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA.

“We suggest that the overspend should be penalised by way of a reduction to the team’s cost cap in the year following the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspend plus a further fine – ie an overspend of $2m in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a $4m deduction in 2023 ($2m to offset the overspend plus $2m fine).

“For context, $2m is (a) 25-50% upgrade to (an) annual car-development budget and hence would have a significant positive and long-lasting benefit.

“In addition, we believe there should be minor overspend sporting penalties of a 20% reduction in CFD and wind tunnel time.

“These should be enforced in the following year, to mitigate against the unfair advantage the team has and will continue to benefit from.

“To avoid teams accumulating and benefiting from the multiplier effect of several minor overspend breaches, we suggest that a second minor overspend breach automatically moves the team to a major breach.

“Finally, given the financials involved, a 5% threshold for a minor overspend breach seem far too large of a variance. We suggest a lower threshold, 2.5%, is more appropriate.

“It is paramount that the cost cap continues to be governed in a highly transparent manner, both in terms of the details of any violations and related penalties.

“It will also be important to understand if, after the first full year of running and investigating the scheme, there needs to be further clarity on certain matters or any key learnings.

“Again, any insights or learnings should be shared across all teams – there can be no room for loopholes.

“The-cost cap introduction has been one of the main reasons we have attracted new shareholders and investors to F1 in recent years, as they see it as a way to drive financial and sporting fair play.

“It is therefore critical that we be very firm on implementing the rules of the cost cap for the integrity and the future of F1,” Brown concluded.

There’s no doubt that this is a stern warning to the FIA, that the teams expect any breaches to be seriously penalized.

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