Valtteri Bottas led the way on Thursday as some of Formula One’s leading drivers called for Red Bull to be punished severely for breaching the sport’s budget cap last year.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and a likely Red Bull news conference on Friday, the former Mercedes driver, now with Alfa Romeo, said he hoped for a harsh penalty that hurt.
“I personally hope it’s going to be a strict and harsh penalty because it shouldn’t happen - the rules are the rules,” Bottas told a scheduled official news conference.
“It shouldn’t be any different with the penalty. Let’s hope it’s a penalty that hurts them.”
Bottas was teammate to seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton when he was beaten on the last lap of the controversial season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“I was in the fight with them for the constructors’ title,” said the Finn. “Yes, we got that, but not the drivers’ - we lost by a few points. A few millions can make a big difference.”
F1’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) found Red Bull committed a “minor” breach of the $145 million spending cap after an exhaustive investigation, it announced earlier this month. The breach, it was explained, was less than five per cent of the limit, estimated to be $7.25 million.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz backed Bottas.
He said, “I think every team and every driver wants clarity and fairness. We all know how much one, two, three or four million can make to car development and speed. That’s why, years ago, the top three were spending $350 million and now we spend $145 million.”
Perez backs Red Bull
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez defended his team as it seeks, this weekend, to clinch its first constructors’ title since 2013, two weeks after Verstappen completed his runaway second drivers’ championship triumph in Japan.
“We believe we are in line and we believe that everything will come up in the right situation,” he said. “I will leave it down to my team to solve that with the FIA. At the end of the day, there are always teams that want to take performance out of you, especially if you are winning - that’s part of the sport.”
While the drivers made public comments, paddock observers and team sources claimed the team was considering an offer from the FIA to accept a proposed punishment, as part of an “accepted breach agreement”, a scenario likely to be explained by the team at an informal news briefing ahead of practice on Friday.
Red Bull has expressed surprise and disappointment at the charges made against it and is expected to argue that the overspend was not used to improve car development.
The team has to decide between accepting the FIA offer or taking legal action and taking the case before a judiciary panel which could result in heavier sanctions.
The possible penalties include a fine, a reduced budget cap, wind tunnel testing restrictions and points deductions, which if applied retrospectively, could strip Verstappen of his 2021 championship.
“I just hope that if there is a penalty, it is important to take away the appetite for overspending two or three million on next year’s car because you think it is worth it,” added Sainz. “It needs to be clear for everyone.”