Toto Wolff admitted it would not be realistic to strip Max Verstappen of his drivers’ title from last season despite Red Bull breaching Formula 1 cost cap rules.
The FIA declared earlier this month that their analysis had highlighted a “minor” overspend by the Milton Keynes-based team during the 2021 season. But they are currently in negotiations with Red Bull, who quickly made clear their belief that they stayed within budget.
A raft of punishments is available to the governing body. Among the harshest would be to dock the team and potentially their drivers points retrospectively, which could see the title taken from Verstappen and handed instead to Lewis Hamilton.
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But the Mercedes star’s team principal Wolff is not convinced that would be the appropriate course of action, even though it would give his team more silverware. “I don’t know the size of the violation, but one or two million [overrun] can already decide a championship,” the Austrian told La Gazzetta dello Sport .
“The FIA must make the right choice and the penalty must reflect the violation. I don’t think you can go back to the 2021 world title [for Verstappen] because with a smaller violation that is, according to the rules, not realistic. But it should be fairer and clearer in the future.”
But Wolff did make it clear that any team that does breach spending rules need to be made to feel the pain, or risk setting a precedent which would render the whole budget cap ineffective. “The financial regulations are just as important as the technical and sporting rules,” he added.
Verstappen pipped Hamilton to the 2021 title in a dramatic final race in Abu Dhabi
Verstappen pipped Hamilton to the 2021 title in a dramatic final race in Abu Dhabi ( Image: REUTERS)
“If you are disqualified for a technical violation, you should be able to get that for a violation of the financial regulations. Even though these rules are new. There must be an adequate penalty. There are enough rumours, but the FIA has to decide in the end.”
That sentiment was echoed by Hamilton, who piled the pressure on the FIA to punish Red Bull harshly. “I have my own opinion of what we did as a team and how we did it last year, and I’m really proud of that and believe in what we earned,” he told reporters.
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“It doesn’t really change a huge amount, but I do think the sport needs to do something about this in the future, otherwise, if they are relaxed with these rules then all of the teams will just go over. Spending millions more and then only having a slap on the wrist won’t be great for the sport – they might as well not have a cost cap in the future.
That’s all I’ve got to say… Like I’ve said in the past, I think the integrity of the sport is right now, where the decisions will hopefully be made. I do believe that [FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem] and his team will make the right decisions. I have to believe that, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.”