Red Bull's Christian Horner hits back at 'defamatory' claims over alleged budget cap breach

SINGAPORE -- Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hit back at claims his team exceeded the budget cap last season, saying such accusations are "extremely defamatory".

The FIA is due to complete its analysis of the 2021 accounts of all ten teams next week to determine whether their spending fell in line with the financial regulations. Last year the regulations set a budget cap at $145 million, although there has been ongoing discussion between teams and the governing body over exactly which types of expenditure fall under the cap.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the overspend of two teams, which he did not name, was an "open secret" in the F1 paddock and a "heavyweight" issue for the sport. When asked about Horner's claim Red Bull did not exceed the cap, he went on to say, "It's funny that Christian says that, because it's weeks and months that they are being investigated. ... All of us have been investigated diligently and as far as we understand, there's a team in [a] minor breach which is more procedural and another team that is fundamentally massively over".

Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies also made reference to two teams exceeding the budget cap, saying, "We regard this as something very serious and expect FIA to manage situation in exemplary fashion".

Speaking during a news conference at the Singapore Grand Prix, Horner said he expects his rivals to withdraw the statements.

"We were a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday," Horner said. "The submission between the team and the FIA is one that is confidential. I have no idea what the outcome of our rivals' 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 are hugely defamatory and we take umbrage to them. One can only assume it's not coincidental that this is at a point where Max has his first strike at a 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 F1.

"I would be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from."

Horner believes the comments were made this weekend to divert attention from Max Verstappen's first shot at clinching his second title, which is unlikely to happen in Singapore but is possible if Ferrari's Charles Leclerc finishes eighth or lower.

"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. And of course when references are made to last year, this year, next year, we're going to take that extremely seriously. So this is an issue for the FIA to deal with but also an issue for Red Bull to consider what our position is with those comments that have been made."

The FIA will issue certifications to teams that remained within the budget cap on Wednesday after several months of analysing the accounts submitted in March. If the FIA's audit reveals an overspend then the punishment, which could include exclusion from the championship if the breach is over five percent of the cap, will be determined by an independent cost cap adjudication panel.

However, Horner reiterated that the accounts submitted by Red Bull in March were within the budget cap and said he was still awaiting news from the FIA on whether those numbers had been accepted.

"We stand absolutely 100 percent behind that submission that we are below the cap," he added. "Of course that submission has to be signed off by your auditors and then it goes through the process with the FIA, a little bit like an audit where there are questions and interpretations that are raised and discussed.

"That process is ongoing with the FIA, who haven't completed their process at this moment in time. I think they made that pretty clear in a statement they put out yesterday evening. So we await with interest to see the final outcome of that process, which hopefully will be in the near future, but remain absolutely confident that we've absolutely complied with the cap."