Brown stands behind F1’s cost cap ‘cheating’ letter

After it was revealed that Red Bull had exceeded the 2021 wage limit, Brown wrote to FIA chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali asking them to take the issue very seriously.

In the letter, he wrote: “The overspend violation and possibly procedural violations constitute fraud, offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting and financial regulations.”

“As a result, any team that overspends has an unfair advantage in both current and next year’s vehicle development.”

Brown’s use of the word ‘cheating’ was not well received when Red Bull boss Christian Horner said it was ‘absolutely shocking’ that such an allegation was made to his team.

“We’ve been on trial for public accusations since Singapore,” he said at the United States Grand Prix.

“The media published figures that are miles away from the truth. And in an age where mental health is prevalent, we see significant problems in our workforce, the damage it causes to the brand, our partners, our drivers, and our workforce.

“We get kids who are kids of employees who are bullied on playgrounds, that’s not true, with fabricated allegations from other teams.

“You cannot go around making such claims without any fact or basis. We are absolutely horrified by the behavior of some of our competitors.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, on the grid

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

But despite the controversy caused by the wording in his letter, Brown says his views on the matter have not changed.

“I stand behind my letter,” he said, considering the cost cap debate. “When you break the rules, whether technical or financial, I think there are many different ways to characterize it.

“I know it’s a very strong word, but I don’t see the difference between going over the financial limit or having a very low ride height or whatever the case may be.

“If the sport is within the financial or technical rules, breaking the rules, I guess you could call it a few different things. Some people would simply call it that.”

Brown also said he wasn’t convinced by some of Red Bull’s defenses for breaching the cost ceiling, particularly how much it initially claimed was below the limit, and that a staff canteen deal triggered massive overspending.

“I thought things were illogical,” Brown added.

“We all have to take care of our employees. We have employees who come to us saying this team does this, this team does that daily wage, this team does that for food, this team does that in hotels. This puts you in a competitive position when hiring and retaining.

“So I think collectively, ‘this is where we spend more money’, if that’s pushed to the upper limit, then you’re spending less money elsewhere.

“I think it all goes to performance. I don’t think you can isolate the selected items somehow and say that this is the part that comes out of the cover.

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Brown also thinks it’s a bit odd that Red Bull constantly complains about being on the edge, but then later suggests that last year’s original presentation was worth under millions of dollars.

“The whole point of the game is to get as close to the border as possible. And they were one of the teams that said they couldn’t get to the border. So how were you four? [million] under the cover?

“You don’t want to be four people below the cap, you want $400,000 below the cap, so I personally would have handled it differently.

“But I don’t think what he did was intentional. I know it’s a kind of ‘sandwichgate’, but I think it’s downplaying what it is. So it all just doesn’t add up.

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