Cashgate: McLaren boss suggests Red Bull poached staff by offering ‘incredible salaries’

Red Bull have denied breaking the financial rules last season.

McLaren team principal, Andreas Seidl, asks that the FIA maintain open communication during their investigation of a possible breach of the financial regulations by Red Bull and Aston Martin.

The teams had the first-ever budget cap enforced on them last season with a limit of $145 million being set by the FIA.

This had initially been reduced by $5 million in 2022 but has since been reverted to the original figure due to growing concerns about inflation.

All teams were required to keep the FIA posted as to their expenditure, which meant delivering paperwork on time.

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Williams were guilty of filing their paperwork late earlier this year, so they were fined for a procedural breach.

There are unconfirmed reports that Red Bull and Aston Martin might have gone over the cap last year, so when the certificates of compliance are handed out next week, those two teams might not be getting one.

The $145 million must be spread between damage repairs, development, wind tunnel energy usage, freight transportation and man and woman hours spent in the factory.

It is not known whether any breach has taken place, nor is there any information as to whether the contravention could be a minor one, or a material one.

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A material breach consists of an overspend of more than five percent, and could be punishable by exclusion from the championship.

Seidl testified that the FIA have always been diligent in their policing of the budget cap, so is confident that they will come to the right conclusion regarding any rule breaking.

“On our side, we don’t have any facts or evidence that there’s actually any breach or even cheating around, so that’s why I want to comment only more general,” he said.

“Having experienced ourselves now in the last 12 to 18 months the audit from FIA’s side, which was done in a very thorough and diligent way, I’m absolutely convinced that the establishing of the numbers can be done in an absolutely correct way, ending up in comparable numbers between the different organisations. I don’t have any doubt there.

“Now it’s simply important that there is full transparency of what is actually happening, because it is clear that if someone is spending more money going beyond the cap, it’s a performance advantage.”

Many teams, including McLaren, needed to make some employees redundant, or suspend their pay, in order to meet the financial demands of the cost cap, so the German wants any discrepancies dealt with properly.

“We have an obligation to our people, from the FIA’s side and from our side, because even for a team like us, the introduction of the cost cap meant we had to put some really serious measures in place which were affecting our people,” added Seidl.

“We had to make people redundant as well, we had to ask our people to accept pay cuts or pay freezes, which was very serious.

“At the same time there was, especially from two teams, an incredible aggressive hiring still ongoing, throwing incredible salaries on the table and offering unbelievable company benefit packages where we are all wondering how this is possible in this new world of Formula 1 and our people are obviously challenging us if we do everything right on our side.

“That’s why we simply welcome clarity on this because in the end we will find out that if maybe we have missed something on our side or if there actually were breaches ongoing and we have a clear explanation why certain teams can do certain things which we were simply not in a position to offer to our people.”

The financial rules, Seidl insists, are as valuable to performance as the technical rules.

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“In the end the financial regulations now are as important as the sporting one or the technical ones, there’s no difference,” he explained.

“It’s very important that, from the FIA’s side, they make sure that they police them properly, enforce them and put proper penalties in place in case there is any infringement, even if it’s done affecting championship outcomes from the past.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris will start the Singapore Grand Prix sixth, with Daniel Ricciardo down in 17th after another disappointing qualifying session for him.