By Carol M. Creasey
I firstly want to congratulate Max Verstappen for his driving this season.
He was proclaimed a double world champion after his win in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, but sadly, like his first championship when Michael Masi changed the rules during the Safety Car period, the win is tainted. Red Bull has been found to have breached the 2021 cost cap, which has no doubt given his car an unfair advantage for last year, this year, and possibly even 2023.
Verstappen is a competitive driver, and has done nothing wrong, but he has been let down badly by his team. With their overspending confirmed, there’s no doubt that Red Bull has disregarded the rules, so as Christian Horner is at the helm of this racing team, he needs to take responsibility for its transgressions and own them, and then accept whatever punishment will be handed out. However reports suggest this will not happen, as Red bull have put a message up on Twitter denying that they have breached the cap, insisting they were under it, and announcing they are looking into all possibilities open to them, which apparently means an appeal.
This turn of events has angered many fans of Formula One. Ross Brawn stated in 2019 that exceeding the budget cap could result in ‘losing your championship’ because the new financial regulations ‘have teeth’. Many of the teams on the grid have expressed their disapproval of this breach, but it affects two of the teams more than all the others – Ferrari and Mercedes. Naturally the team principals Mattia Binotto and Toto Wolff have urged the FIA to come down hard on this transgression, and here’s why.
By sticking to the budget cap, Ferrari has not been able to develop their 2022 car as much as Red Bull did, so their drivers have most likely been at a disadvantage compared to Verstappen. We will never know if Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz could have won the title if Red Bull had complied with the cost cap.
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Then there is Mercedes. The FIA said that the result of 2021 cannot be changed, even after it was made obvious that Michael Masi changed the rules in favour of Verstappen in Abu Dhabi, and now we have the knowledge that Red Bull has overspent throughout the season. This would make Red Bull’s car illegal, and many fans believe that if the FIA doesn’t come down on the team hard, it will bring the sport into disrepute.
It has been noted by Lewis Hamilton that last season Red Bull brought upgrades for Verstappen’s car almost at every race, while at the same time Mercedes had to stop developing its car after the British Grand Prix. Toto Wolff even revealed the team had to make many employees redundant to comply with the cost cap. If Mercedes had been able to spend more money on a new wing or floor, there could have been a very different end to the championship, perhaps even before Abu Dhabi.
Therefore, it is understandable that fans and teams expect the FIA to come down heavily on Red Bull. They took advantage of the new regulations, and now they have been found out. They have also let their star driver down so badly. No doubt if they appeal, it will be a lengthy process, which is also very unsatisfactory for the sport and the fans. I would not like to be the FIA right now having to make the right decision, but I sincerely hope they will be transparent, and not sweep these issues under the carpet. Like many others I want to continue to enjoy watching F1 in the knowledge that its future is in safe hands.
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