A treat for Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto, who fueled the speculation with various interviews in the Singapore paddock. On Friday, both showed themselves demonstratively shaking hands in public. A clear signal to the FIA to punish the supposed scapegoats harshly.
Alone: As long as nothing is proven, the presumption of innocence also applies in Formula 1. The FIA is therefore making every effort to take the momentum out of the discussion. In a statement, it was stated that it had noticed “unfounded speculation and conjecture”. Wolff and Binotto were verbally applauded: The evaluation is ongoing and you don’t let yourself be influenced by the discussions.
But one thing is also certain: now everything is happening very quickly. The FIA intends to present the results of its investigation as early as the middle of next week – and possible penalties at the same time. At least if the sinners accept the decision.
The penalties, however, are almost completely open. The rulebook divides financial breaches into three categories.
1. procedural error. For example, Williams submitted his documents too late. That costs $25,000.
2. An easy offense. This includes exceeding the budget cap by up to five percent. For 2021, that would be $7.4 million.
3. A serious offense with an overspending of more than 5 percent, more than $7.4 million.
Alone: The financial regulations of the FIA do not define any penalties, so that the teams cannot consciously calculate fines or point deductions. In addition, the FIA cannot orientate itself on the past. If Red Bull and Aston Martin did indeed cheat, they will set a precedent.
But Red Bull is currently less concerned about the result of the investigation. Rather, one gets upset about the fact that the topic is being boiled down to such an extent. “It’s bad for our reputation,” say team boss Christian Horner and Red Bull’s motorsport chief adviser Helmut Marko unanimously.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff leaves the blame for deliberately fomenting a scandal cold. “It’s just a background noise,” he dismisses. You don’t even need information from the FIA to find out about Red Bull. “We count exactly the new parts that you have screwed onto the car,” admits the Viennese. That’s why you know so well that Red Bull has exceeded the allowed budget. And apparently not just last year.
It is all the more important to clarify the issue as quickly as possible. Should Red Bull have tricked the financial rules, this would also have consequences for 2023. A lightweight chassis is said to have been in the making for some time, but will not be used until next year.
Even more important from a Mercedes perspective: Lewis Hamilton lost the 2021 world title to Max Verstappen, just eight points behind. A withdrawal of the title is unlikely, but not impossible. A reduction in the time spent in the wind tunnel or a reduction in the budget for the coming year is more realistic.