F1: Toto Wolff Warns Mercedes Ready To Breach Cost Cap If Red Bull Isn’t Strictly Penalised

Wolff has warned that Mercedes will overspend and account for fines if Red Bull isn't sufficiently penalised.

By Sahil Gupta


3 mins read


Published on October 14, 2022

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  • Wolff has threatened that minor penalties for Red Bull will result in a Mercedes overspend
  • Ferrari has been concerned about Red Bull's development rate for a while
  • Most of the paddock is against Red Bull on the issue of overspend

While it has been revealed that Red Bull has indeed breached the 2021 cost cap regulations, the breach has been characterised as a minor breach as the overspending was less than 5 per cent of the $145 million budget cap. But as expected Mercedes team boss and CEO Toto Wolff has come out and said even an overspend of $500,000 makes an enormous difference and the word “minor” shouldn’t be used. Wolff has hinted that if Red Bull isn’t penalised heavily, there have been discussions at Mercedes at the board level that the team will be willing to overspend and account for financial fines for overspending just for the sake of winning.

“Is it a so-called minor breach, because I think the word is probably not correct? If you’re spending five million more, and you’re still in the minor breach, it still has a big impact on the championship. To give you an idea, we obviously monitor closely which parts are being brought to the track from the top teams every single race – for the 2021 season and the 2022 season,” the Mercedes F1 team co-owner explained. 

He insinuated that Mercedes and Ferrari had spent around the same amount on bringing upgrades while Red Bull spent more. This was something that Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto had been hinting towards through the 2022 season seeing the searing pace of Red Bull updates and development where it even managed to bring in a reworked chassis that was lighter than the original one that it has homologated. 

Wolff also said for example with the W13 which became the first Mercedes car to not win a race through the season since 2013 was hamstrung because it was overweight, and it didn’t have the budget to fix the issue. He believed to bring a new lightweight chassis as Red Bull would cost around an extra $2 million alone.

“We know exactly that we’re spending – three and a half million a year in parts that we bring to the car. So then you can see what difference it makes to spend another $500,000. It would be a difference,” said Wolff. 

The FIA has been coy, and it repeatedly delayed the report after rumours swirled around the paddock that Red Bull had breached the F1 cost cap. As Max Verstappen won in 2021 by the minutest of margins on the last lap of the season in a controversial form and then was utterly dominant in 2022 after being more than 30 points behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after the first three races – many believe the FIA may not come down very harshly on Red Bull. 

Wolff isn’t alone as Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur has also said that it had an overall budget for the development of $2.4 million. He added that even an extra budget of $200,000 would yield a significant performance advantage. McLaren boss Zak Brown has also said that if a team has breached the cost cap it is on them. 

And many believe Red Bull could have shot the budget on a minimum by at least $2 million because it accounted for payments for sick employees and catering in an unusual way than the FIA interpretations. 

On top of this, there is speculation Red Bull hasn’t accounted for the salary of Adrian Newey, its chief technical officer who is the most celebrated F1 car designer in the history of the sport. The cost cap allows teams to exclude the salaries of its top three highest-earning employees, but Newey isn’t included and is hired as a consultant via a different company, and he could be raking in an additional $10 million a year. 

FIA has many options – it could retrospectively even dock Max Verstappen and Red Bull points from the 2021 championship and change the results, but that may be too extreme. What most people are looking for is a penalty that docks Red Bull's development budget for future seasons and aerodynamic testing time which could materially impact performance.  

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