F1 2021 could’ve gone down in the history books for all of the right reasons, but 10 months on from the farce at Abu Dhabi, the sport can still not shake the controversies that engulfed it - and now there’s a new one.
Max Verstappen famously pipped Lewis Hamilton to the post after now-exiled Michael Masi failed to follow the safety car procedure correctly, handing the Dutchman his first title.
And as result of a calamitous 2021 and the offseason that followed - where inaction by the FIA left many teams and F1 itself feeling exasperated - the governing body is becoming under increasing pressure to finally release details of those who have broken the cost cap – a full 10 months after the season ended.
The cost cap is in place to help maintain some sort of level playing field and ultimately keep manufacturers in the sport who couldn’t be there otherwise.
It’s widely rumoured that one team has been found to have been guilty of a minor breach of the cost cap, where they have breached the allowed spend of $145m by 5% or less. This team is believed to be Aston Martin.
Another is rumoured to have been found guilty of a major breach, which equates to an overspend of more than 5%. This team is reportedly to be Red Bull.
If the rumours are true and Red Bull have been found guilty then the FIA has 5 available punishments;
- Deduction of Driver’s and Constructor’s Points
- Suspension from one or more stages of the competition
- Suspension from an entire championship
- Exclusion of the championship
- Reduction of the cost cap
So yes, in theory Lewis Hamilton could be declared the 2021 winner, but many in the paddock think that’s a highly unlikely scenario.
Instead, the feeling is that – should they be fined guilty – Red Bull would face a reduction in this year’s cost cap and a fine.
Although many have also pointed to a comment F1's managing director Ross Brawn said when announcing the cost cap in 2019: "This has teeth. If you fraudulently breach the financial regulations, you will be losing your championship. It has serious consequences if teams breach these regulations."
But Mercedes and Hamilton fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Red Bull’s Team Principal fiercely hit back at the suggestions during the Singapore Grand Prix that they will be found guilty, saying; “No, I'm absolutely confident in our submission.
“It's been through a process. It went in, in March, in terms of being signed off fully by our auditors who are obviously one of the big three. And we believe that we are comfortably within the cap.
“So the FIA are following their process. We expect hopefully, and potentially this week, to hear not just us, but all of the teams, the outcome of that process.
These are a brand new set of regulations that are highly complicated, and that apply to companies of different structures, different formulations, and of course, regulations,” he said.
“There's always different interpretations to those regulations. So in the first year, it will be very interesting to see how that is applied.
“We've seen clarifications, even since the submissions were made, that apply to last year. So it's always going to be a process of evolution.
“It's an enormous topic for the FIA to get their arms around, particularly when you look at the scale of the teams in the pitlane, many of which belong to even bigger conglomerates and organisations.”