Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hit out strongly at McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown for his letter to the FIA saying an overspend of the budget cap would constitute cheating, saying he is “absolutely appalled” at the comments.
Brown wrote to the governing body after it announced Red Bull had been found to be in minor overspend breach of the 2021 Financial Regulations, suggesting punishments for such infractions and stating it could have a huge impact on performance. While Brown didn’t directly name Red Bull, Horner was livid at the contents while still in dispute with the FIA over his team’s accounts.
“Obviously Zak’s letter — which wasn’t copied to us but we’ve had sight of that letter — was tremendously disappointing,” Horner said. “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, (that he) can be making that kind of accusation.
“We’ve been on trial because of public accusations since 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 employee’s 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 behavior of some of our competitors.”
Horner insists Red Bull did not gain any advantage from the money it spent in 2021, and says the disputed amount is under a million dollars after clarifications around unused stock were made after the team’s submission.
“Absolutely not. I think what you’ve got to look at is what are the relevant costs? And were the relevance costs within the cap and what’s outside the cap. That’s where the interpretation comes from and our view is that our relevant costs are within the cap. Obviously we are in discussions with the FIA about what those costs are and what are mitigating potential circumstances, etc.
“So we had zero benefit from a development perspective or an operational perspective either for 2021 or for 2022 from the way that we operated within the cap. Our submission was significantly below the cap. We expected certain things to be potentially challenged or clarified, as is the process in a brand-new set of regulations, but based on external, professional accounting third parties, interpretations of those rules of a 52-page document to police this were very clear from our side.
“So we absolutely and categorically don’t feel that we’ve had any advantage either in 2021 or 2022, or ’23 or ’24 or some teams even talking about ’26 — it’s totally fictitious.”
RACER understands Red Bull was asked not to speak publicly about the ongoing discussions with the FIA until a resolution has been reached, but with the opportunity to do so on Saturday at the United States Grand Prix, Horner stated Brown’s letter only added to opinions being formed before the process has been completed.
“I think this is what’s contributed to a concerted campaign for there to be a draconian penalty on Red Bull for what at the end of the day, we’re talking probably, what is in contention with the FIA of a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” he said.
“I will say later why I think we have a different opinion within that submission of what our position was versus another. What has just been tremendously disappointing through this whole process has been the leakage that happened — suddenly we’re tried and subjected to three weeks of effective abuse. Zak’s got a very convenient memory of the letter he sent, accusing us of cheating and being fraudulent. It’s just not right and it’s got to stop.”