After Red Bull punished by FIA for breaching F1 cost cap Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said not worth the 'reputational damage'

Red Bull would have only been $0.5 million over the limit if a tax credit had been properly applied, resulting in a 0.37 percent violation. 

Toto Wolff in a file photo. (Image Credit: Twitter)
By Niranjan Shivalkar | Oct 29, 2022 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Red Bull was penalized for a minor 2021 cost cap violation, with a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time being the most detrimental; Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes, claims that his team does not break the rules out of fear of “reputational damage.” Andreas Seidl, team owner of McLaren, is dissatisfied with the penalty. Toto Wolff, the head of the Mercedes team, has applauded the FIA for carrying “robust” action in response to Red Bull’s violation of the Formula 1 cost cap and claims “reputational damage” will indeed inhibit his team from attempting to make the same error as their competitors. 

The FIA disclosed on Friday that Red Bull’s Minor’ breach of the $145 million threshold in Max Verstappen’s first ever title-winning 2021 campaign resulted in a $7 million fine and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time for the next 12 months. Wolff, who saw Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton edge out Verstappen for the 2021 driver’s championship, spoke to Sky Sports F1 after first practice at the Mexico City Grand Prix on Friday. 

The accepted breach agreement

Red Bull and the FIA came to an “accepted breach agreement” (ABA) on Wednesday, stipulating that the team was required to acknowledge its wrongdoing after coming in $2.2 million over the limit after the FIA discovered 13 instances of costs that were improperly excluded or adjusted. The FIA acknowledged that Red Bull would have only been $0.5 million over the limit if a tax credit had been properly applied, resulting in a 0.37 percent violation. 

“Reputational Damage”

When asked if the penalty was severe enough to prevent Mercedes from making a choice to commit a breach in the future, Wolff responded that “reputational damage” was just as important a factor as the actual penalties. “I think what you see is that beyond a sporting penalty and financial fine, it’s also reputational damage.

“In a world of transparency and good governance, that’s just not on anymore. Compliance-wise, whatever team you are, you’re responsible for representing a brand, your employees, your partners, and that’s why for us it wouldn’t be a business case.” expressed Toto. 

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‘Nine teams were okay, and one team was in breach’

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, claimed that the overspending was primarily due to various “interpretations” of Red Bull’s expenditure on catering, redundancy, and sick pay. Wolff seemed to dismiss Horner’s claims. “It’s a sport of marginal gains,” Wolff said. “Whether it is $200,000 or $2m, at the end everything costs performance, and we all had to cover sick pay and gardening leaves and the canteen. Nine teams were okay, and one team was in breach. You need to build in a little bit of leeway, you can’t take an aggressive approach at the beginning because it’s a process, it’s learning on the job.” exclaimed Wolff. 

Seidl feels the punishment isn’t strong enough 

Andreas Seidl, the team principal for McLaren, argued that the penalty wasn’t severe enough and seemed to cast doubt on Horner’s justifications. “I didn’t listen to it because I can imagine it was another fairy tale hour probably,  I’ve got no interest in that.”

“It’s good to see the FIA did a good job in terms of doing the audit. Nine teams got it right and it was confirmed that one team was clearly in breach so that’s a positive outcome but on a negative side, from my point of view, the penalty doesn’t fit the breach. I just hope that moving forward we have stricter penalties in place.” said Andreas Seidl.