Red Bull Formula 1 boss Christian Horner has demanded rival teams Mercedes and Ferrari withdraw comments made amid speculation his operation may have breached the budget cap in 2021.
Although the FIA has not formally completed the process of reviewing teams’ submissions of their 2021 accounts, many in the F1 paddock consider it an open secret that the governing body has determined two teams have breached the cost cap, which was introduced last year.
Red Bull and Aston Martin have been named by several figures and it has been talked about so openly that there has even been a suggestion one team only breached it by a small amount while the other’s offence was more serious.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies, speaking in separate interviews with Sky Sports channels on Friday in Singapore, did not explicitly state Red Bull breached the budget cap but Wolff did reference rumours that the team had done so and that it had been under investigation.
Wolff and Mekies both commented about two teams committing offences, as well, and went into the significance of this.
Hours later, the FIA was moved to issue a statement about the assessment of teams’ 2021 financial data in which it noted “significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture in relation to this matter, and reiterates that the assessment is ongoing and due process will be followed without consideration to any external discussion”.
On Saturday, Horner’s anger was clear as he responded to the remarks made by rival teams for the first time, and even suggested that it was perhaps done to undermine Red Bull driver Max Verstappen potentially winning the 2022 F1 title in Singapore this weekend.
“Well, we were a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday,” said Horner when asked by The Race for his reaction to those comments.
“The submission between the team and the FIA is one that is confidential.
“I have no idea what the outcome of our rival submissions are, or the accounting treatment or so on. So, I would be intrigued to know where their source of information for these fictitious claims have come from.
“They’re hugely defamatory. We take umbrage to them. And one can only assume it’s not coincidence that this is the point where Max has his first strike at the world championship.
“How on earth do they have this information? Where do they have this knowledge?
“The FIA have even stated they haven’t even completed their process.
“So, unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements, we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options available to us are.
“Because it is absolutely unacceptable to be making comments of the type that were made yesterday, that is totally defamatory to the team, to the brands, and even to Formula 1.
“And I’d be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from.”
Any issue from rival teams must relate to potential different interpretations of the rules and how that led the final number to be determined.
Horner insisted on Friday that Red Bull’s submission to the FIA was below the cost cap for 2021 and stood by that on Saturday as well.
He said Red Bull “lives and breathes” by the financial regulations with every decision it makes and is “absolutely confident we’ve complied with the cap”.
His frustration over the subject led him to question the impartiality of one journalist, who questioned which statements Horner was referring to with his accusation of defamation.
In that answer Horner also reiterated his belief that this has been done cynically to detract from Verstappen’s potential championship coronation.
“They were very clear in naming Red Bull,” Horner said. “So I think when you refer to accusations that I’m making, the accusations were actually from the other way round.
“I know you have an impartiality for certain teams, but it should remain absolutely neutral.
“The facts are such that the submission is made to the FIA, and it is a private submission between the team and the FIA.
“So how on Earth can any team know the details of our submission? How on Earth can any team know that a team is in breach and we don’t even know if we’ve breached? We don’t even know until next week until the process has been completed?
“So perhaps, when these accusations are made, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And we take umbrage, and extremely seriously, the remarks that have been made.
“Is it any coincidence that Max has his first shot at winning a world title, and here we are talking nothing but cost caps, rather than the phenomenal performance that he has had this year?
“I think it’s an underhand tactic that’s been employed to detract from perhaps a lack of performance on track this year.
“When references are made to last year, this year, next year, we’re going to take that extremely seriously.
“This is an issue for the FIA to deal with. But it’s also an issue for Red Bull to consider what our position is with those comments that have been made.”