28 October 2022

Christian Horner insists 2021 title win was ‘fair’ despite Red Bull’s £6m fine

28 October 2022

Christian Horner said Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to last year’s world championship “fair and square” after Red Bull were fined £6million for breaking Formula One’s financial rules.

The FIA confirmed in Mexico City on Friday that Red Bull – the team which carried Verstappen to the most contentious title in the sport’s history – overspent by £1.86m.

Red Bull have entered into a so-called Accepted Breach Agreement (ABA) with F1’s governing body. In addition to the fine, Red Bull have had their wind tunnel time reduced by 10 per cent over the next 12 months – a punishment Horner called “draconian” and claimed will cost his team up to half-a-second in lap time.

The ABA – which ensures Red Bull lose any right to appeal – avoids the team risking a harsher punishment which might have included the deduction of points and Hamilton being instated as last year’s title winner.

Hamilton was denied a record eighth world crown when former race director Michael Masi fudged the safety car rules at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen took the title by eight points.

McLaren boss Zak Brown wrote to FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem earlier this month to say a financial breach “constitutes cheating”.

However, the FIA concluded that Red Bull “did not act in bad faith, dishonestly or in a fraudulent manner” when it broke the £114m budget cap.

“I don’t think it has overshadowed Max’s achievements,” said Red Bull team principal Horner. “Inevitably there was so much noise about last year’s championship anyway. And when this comes up and you hear about it for the first time in Singapore and all the noise comes again.

“But Max Verstappen won last year’s world championship fair and square. He did what he had to do on the day. He did his job. The team did our job. He won the race. He is the world champion.

“What we are talking about here had no effect whatsoever on the performance of his car last year.”

In its three-page report, the FIA mentioned 13 items that Red Bull “incorrectly excluded and/or adjusted costs” in its financial submission.

These included catering, employer’s social security contributions, staff bonuses, apprenticeship levies and travel costs.

The FIA also added that without a notional tax credit, incorrectly included on their submitted account, Red Bull’s overspend would have been £432,652, the equivalent of a breach surmounting to just 0.37 per cent.

Asked if he owed the sport’s fans an apology, Horner replied: “An apology from who? To be honest with you, we are due an apology from our rivals for the claims that have been made. We make no apology for the way we have performed and acted.

“We take it on the chin and there are lessons to be learned. But there was no intent, nothing dishonest and there was certainly no cheating involved, which has been alleged in certain quarters.

“We have been provided a significant sporting and financial penalty. The seven million US dollars is an enormous amount of money. But the more draconian punishment is the sporting penalty which is a 10 per cent reduction in the use of our wind tunnel.

“Some people have said that is an insignificant penalty. But let me tell you now, that is an enormous amount and represents anything between a quarter of a second to half-a-second in lap time.

“There were other sporting penalties available. But this one was obviously lobbied hard for by our competitors because they felt it hit us the hardest.

“We have taken a very public pounding. Our drivers have been booed and the reputational damage from these allegations have been significant. The time is for that now to stop and move on.”

Aston Martin were later fined 450,000 US dollars (£388,000) for a procedural breach “because it inaccurately excluded and/or adjusted costs in the calculation of its relevant costs”.

Both Red Bull and Aston Martin must pay their respective fines within 30 days.

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