Christian Horner lashes out at Zak Brown as he sits right next to him

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown and Red Bull's Christian Horner clashed during a press conference at COTA.

It was revealed by BBC Sport ahead of the United States Grand Prix that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown had personally written to the FIA, outlining what he believes should happen when a side exceeds the budget cap.

Brown’s letter has further stoked the Red Bull fire, with the Austrians already feeling the full wrath of the paddock amid their ‘minor’ breach of the 2021 budget cap.

The paddock is furious with Red Bull, after some sides had to make staff redundant to keep below the £114 million cap last season.

The word ‘cheated’ is one that’s been thrown around somewhat dangerously, with Brown having gone a step further ahead of this weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas.

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The letter actually failed to mention Red Bull by name, likely in a bid for Brown to have a response to fall back on should anyone question his letter.

Well, that’s exactly what happened at the team principals press conference ahead of the weekend, where Horner and Brown just so happened to be in the same press conference.

In the letter, Brown effectively labelled Red Bull as having “cheated”, with the American having not needed to name the side for people to know who the letter was aimed at.

Horner was nothing short of furious, as the Brit explained during the press conference, that he is “tremendously disappointed” with Brown, especially as children whose parents work for the team are “being bullied” following the scandal.

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“Obviously Zak’s letter, which wasn’t copied to us but we’ve had sight of that letter, was tremendously disappointing,” Horner said, during the team principals press conference ahead of the US Grand Prix.

“For a fellow competitor to be accused of cheating, to accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking. It’s absolutely shocking.

“Without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, to be making that kind of accusation. We’ve been on trial because of public accusations since [the race in] Singapore. The rhetoric of cheats, the rhetoric that we have had this enormous benefit, the numbers that have been put out in the media are miles off reality.

“The damage that that does the brand, to our partners, to the drivers, to our workforce, in an age where mental health is prevalent, we are seeing significant issues in our workforce. We are getting kids that are being bullied in playgrounds that are employees’ children — that is not right through fictitious allegations from other teams.

“You cannot go around just making that kind of allegation without any fact or substance. We are absolutely appalled at the behaviour of some of our competitors.”

Unsurprisingly, Brown responded by explaining that his letter wasn’t “taking a view” of Red Bull, as he “didn’t mention any team”.

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“My letter set out that if a team spent more than the cap, they’re going to gain an advantage,” Brown defended.

“We’re not taking a view of whether they did or didn’t. My letter was if someone has, these are the things that should be addressed.

“I didn’t mention any team, it was a general response now that we are into the cost cap era, here’s what we think the ramifications are.”