McLaren Racing Boss Also Accuses Red Bull F1 of ‘Cheating’ in Fiery Letter to FIA

Zak Brown is the latest to join the chorus of voices in Formula 1 calling out Red Bull's overspending breaches.
Getty Images

In a letter to the FIA, McLaren CEO Zak Brown hasn’t minced words and accused Red Bull and Aston Martin of cheating over their cost cap and procedural breaches, respectively Brown went on to urge the sporting authority to take swift and decisive action against teams in violation of the spending regulations.

In the letter, which was written to FIA President Mohammad Ben Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali in private and was viewed by, Brown said, “The overspend breach, and possibly the procedural breaches, constitute cheating by offering a significant advantage across technical, sporting, and financial regulations.” The letter has since leaked to the press after Brown also sent it to all other teams that had complied with the regulations.

The FIA has been tight-lipped thus far on the cost cap breaches last year. Red Bull has been charged with a “minor financial overspend,” reportedly less than 5 percent of the $145 million limit, making the breach somewhere below $7.25 million. Given Max Verstappen‘s already controversial win in the driver’s championship, it has drawn the most attention. Aston Martin has been charged with a less serious “procedural breach” regarding forms filled out incorrectly.

Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing sits in the World Champion’s cool-down room after the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on Oct. 9, 2022, in Suzuka, Japan. Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Brown also stated that teams breaching the cost cap regulations would gain an advantage beyond the year of the offense, as the benefits gained could be carried forward into the following seasons. The McLaren boss said that there were no excuses for this behavior, given the teams already had the 2020 season to familiarize themselves with the new regulations. Brown further stated that a “sporting penalty” should be given, rather than just a simple fine.

In the letter, he proposed a model that would penalize cheating teams with a reduced cost cap in the following years. Brown’s model suggests that any overspending should cut the team’s budget by an equal amount the next year, plus a further fine. Giving an example, Brown suggested a $2 million overspend should net a total $4 million reduction in the team’s budget for the following season.

To further discourage pushing the limits, Brown proposed that two minor breaches should be treated as a major regulation breach. The letter also suggested that the “minor” threshold should be reduced from 5 percent to 2.5 percent and that CFD and wind tunnel time allocations could be cut back for teams that flout the rules.

Brown’s proposals would bring some consequences to bear on rule breakers. However, they wouldn’t necessarily discourage teams to breach the cost cap. Teams have often sacrificed development for future seasons to chase victory in the current championship. It’s easy to imagine teams being willing to write off the following season if they’ve got a serious shot to clinch a title.

Fundamentally, though, Brown’s letter summed up the feelings of much of the F1 world. The cost cap has widely been considered a good thing; it’s made the sport more competitive and more sustainable for teams up and down the grid. But if the cost cap is to remain viable, it has to be policed, and Brown is just one of many high-profile figures calling on the FIA to do so.

Got a tip? Let the author know: