The Red Bull team has been accused of spending more than allowed in last season, which ended with a final victory for their first driver Max Verstappen. The season was decided in the last round of the race in Abu Dhabi.
The International Automobile Association (FIA) is investigating a $145 million salary cap violation by Red Bull. Exceeding the budget limit like this could bring a penalty for the Austrian team, which could include exclusion from the championship.
That means Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be looking forward to the championship trophy for the 2021 season. The Briton would be crowned world champion for the eighth time, but fans do not have much confidence that it will happen.
Verstappen has been dominant in the current season and is expected to have no problems in the next few races to confirm his second championship in a row.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it is now an “open secret” in the Formula 1 paddock that one team exceeded budget limits last year.
After a day of fast-paced developments in the paddock at the Singapore Grand Prix, as speculation focused on Red Bull and Aston Martin going over budget for the 2021 season, Wolff did not hold back in his views on how serious the matter is.
After Red Bull boss Christian Horner previously indicated his team’s 2021 entry was below the $145 million limit, Wolff said that contradicted what many in the paddock had learned.
“It’s funny for Christian to say that because he’s been under investigation for the past weeks and months, so maybe he’s not talking to his CFO,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“Actually, we were all diligently investigated. As far as we understand, there is a team in a minor breach, which is more procedural, and another team that is basically finished and still being looked after.”
“So it’s an open secret in the paddock,” the Mercedes boss points out.
Wolff believes the issue of exceeding budget limits is not something that should be ignored as his team has sacrificed the car’s performance, losing staff to ensure it complies with the limit that was in place.
Therefore, he believes that it would be good if any excessive consumption was handled gently.
“It’s hard, very hard,” he said of the issue. “We use used parts. We don’t do what we would like to start, we don’t develop what we could develop,” he explains.
“We fired more than 40 people who are missing from our organization, and it was a big mammoth project to make a budget. I don’t know how many tens of millions we had to restructure and rework in order to be below the limit, and if someone didn’t do it or pushed the limits, every million [that you don’t spend] is a big disadvantage.”
While the current question concerns consumption during the 2021 season, and the FIA has said certificates of conformity will be issued next week, Wolff believes the implications are huge.
The Austrian believes that if Red Bull overspended last year, it could benefit this year and 2023.
“The key was that if you finished above in 2021, then you finished over (the budget limits) in 2022. This means that you have an advantage in 2023,” he emphasized.
“If it’s true that [Red Bull] homologated a lightweight chassis this year, they could use it next year. So it’s really a series of events that can have an impact on all three championships,” Wolff concluded.