Cashgate: Toto Wolff warns Red Bull and rivals of ‘big consequence’

Red Bull have been given a $7m fine and seen their aerodynamic testing time cut by 10% as punishment for breaching the 2021 cost cap.

The 2021 cost cap was put in place to ensure that every team has a chance to compete, and to make it more difficult for the bigger teams to simply buy their way to success.

When Red Bull were rumoured to be in breach of the cap, in a season that was decided on the final lap of the final race, rumours ran rife in the paddock as to what this means and what the FIA were going to do about it.

Initial rumours suggested the overspend was deliberate and for an upgrade, which would have tipped the title battle in Red Bull’s favour, however the FIA have refused to accuse the team of any intent to deceive or gain an advantage when filing their cost cap finances last year.

The team have had their name dragged through the mud by people inside and outside of the sport, with team presidents writing letters to the FIA and doing interviews in which they accuse Red Bull of being cheats and call for a harsh punishment for the team, while the media was relentless in the coverage of the energy drink giant’s wrong doing.

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Even though the Milton Keynes based team were fined $7m and has their CFD and wind tunnel testing time for next year cut but 10%, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the damage to their reputation will wound them the most.

“Beyond the sporting penalty and the financial penalty, which obviously resonates in the real world out there, there is a big reputational consequence,” he explained.

The main problem that other team principals had with the FIA’s punishment is they did not believe what was originally rumoured would have been enough to deter other teams from breaching the cap in the future, calling for a precedent to be set, which Wolff believes has been accomplished.

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“I believe no team is going to put a foot wrong over the line, because you don’t want to have your partners and your team dragged into this space.

“We’re living in a transparent, compliant world. Everything needs governance, and the sport needs it. As a sport overall, this is the real achievement of the whole process.”

Red Bull will already have the least amount of testing time for next year because they won the constructors’ championship, so a 10% reduction in this amount could see the team be considerably less dominant than they have been in 2022, something Mercedes would love to capitalise on.