Mercedes: Red Bull ‘exaggerating’ impact of F1 cost cap penalty

Mercedes believe Red Bull describing their penalty for breaching the F1 cost cap as ‘draconian’ is an “exaggeration”. 
(L to R): Christian Horner (GBR)
(L to R): Christian Horner (GBR)

Addressing their punishment from the FIA ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix on Friday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner labelled their accepted 10 percent reduction of aerodynamic testing time for the next 12 months as “draconian” and “enormous”

Horner also claimed that Red Bull would lose up to half a second in laptime next season as a result of their sporting penalty for exceeding the $145m spending limit in 2021. 

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But Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin countered Horner’s estimation, saying “maybe two-tenths at the upper end” is a more realistic figure. 

“The scale of that penalty isn’t much more than what you would lose if you are just one place higher up in the championship,” Shovlin said during the Saturday press conferences. 

“It’s not as big as the penalty if you are positioned two places higher. So I think describing it as draconian is an exaggeration. 

“Reducing the number of runs does limit your freedom in developing a concept, but we’re in reasonably well explored regulations now. 

“You definitely need to be more efficient but if it were half a second, which I’d heard mentioned, then a team at the back of the grid would have over a three-second advantage to one at the front and that simply isn’t the case. 

“But it depends how well you make decisions during the year. I would have thought a tenth or a bit more than a tenth, maybe two tenths at the upper end is realistically what that would cost you.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 and George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13 battle for position. Formula 1
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 and George Russell (GBR)…

Shovlin added: “Where it would be costly is if you’ve chosen an incorrect concept and you need to backtrack, it’s removing that freedom to explore different avenues.”

Red Bull’s overspend breach of relevant costs adjusted by the FIA was £1.86m but the governing body acknowledged that if a tax credit had been correctly applied, the team’s overspend would have only been £432,652.  

Asked what such a figure would equate to in terms of development and laptime gains, Shovlin said: “From an engineers point of view, day in and day out we’re making decisions of what we don’t do, that are at the orders of one, two or three thousand pounds. That’s a normal part of our jobs. 

“We know what we spend versus what is it going to give us. We simply don’t have enough money, you’ve got to choose where it goes very carefully. 

"It’s very difficult to put a lap time on it but the reality is that money buys performance. In terms of an upgrade kit that could easily be a major update kit. 

“The teams are getting more efficient at doing upgrade kits for less money, recycling parts - I’m sure we are not alone in that - and it is quite a constraint. 

“So whether the overspend is completely mitigated by the penalty, to be honest it depends how efficiently they develop going forward.”

Red Bull's Max Verstappen is on pole in Mexico ahead of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

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