Cashgate Saga: Christian Horner clarifies his claim about rivals trying to ‘steal sponsors’

Red Bull became the first team in F1 history to breach the budget cap in 2021.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has denied that rivals tried “stealing sponsors” when the Austrians’ budget cap penalty was announced, but that they instead tried to get them to end their partnership with the team.

Formula 1 descended into chaos in the latter stages of last season, after the FIA announced that Red Bull had breached the 2021 budget cap by £1.8 million; however, the news had been leaked in Singapore.

It was known prior to the announcement that Red Bull had breached the cap, with rumours having circulated like wildfire.

Following the FIA’s announcement, it was later revealed that the Milton Keynes-based side would be fined $7 million and awarded with a 10-percent reduction of their permitted time in the wind tunnel for 12 months.

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

As a result of how dramatic it was and how shocked the paddock was, Red Bull’s rivals supposedly contacted the team’s sponsors, in a bid to make them think that their image would be damaged.

“These things get used by your rivals,” Horner told ‘i newspaper’ earlier this year.

“We had one of them contacting our sponsors and partners making suggestions that we would be bringing their brands into disrepute. That was just underhand.”

Horner denies, though, that the rivals were attempting to poach the sponsors, with the aim having likely been to reduce Red Bull’s funds.

Article continues below

“It wasn’t about stealing sponsors,” Horner told Sky Deutschland.

“The intention was to suggest to the sponsors that their partnership could bring the brands into disrepute.”

When the rumours began to circulate about Red Bull’s suspected budget cap breach, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren CEO Zak Brown were both incredibly vocal about how seriously it should be taken, with Brown having even written to the FIA to express his concern.

Horner refused to reveal, though, which teams it was who contacted their sponsors.

READ: Lewis Hamilton goes undercover

“I’ll leave that entirely to your imagination,” Horner said.

As of yet, their budget cap penalty hasn’t had too much of an effect, with the Austrians having won all three races so far this season, whilst they’ve also claimed pole at each one.

It’s expected that the penalty will begin to hurt them mid-season, when big aero upgrades are typically introduced.