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The F1 Cost Cap Breach Threatens Verstappen’s 2022 Championship

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Photo: Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

Millions of Formula 1 fans waited with bated breath in anticipation of an announcement from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Motorsport’s international governing body was expected to reveal its findings after its investigations of financial statements submitted for the 2021 F1 season. It is rumored that two F1 teams, believed to be Red Bull and Aston Martin, beached the cost cap last season. Instead, the FIA published a release stating there will be a delay until the Monday after this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Today’s FIA statement in full:

“The FIA informs that the conclusion of the analysis of the 2021 financial submissions of the Formula 1 teams and the subsequent release of Certificates of Compliance to the Financial Regulations will not take place on Wednesday, 5 October. The analysis of financial submissions is a long and complex process that is ongoing and will be concluded to enable the release of the Certificates on Monday, 10 October. The Financial Regulations were agreed unanimously by all Competitors, who have worked positively and collaboratively with the FIA Cost Cap Administration throughout this first year under the Financial Regulations. As previously communicated, there has been significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture in relation to this matter, and the FIA reiterates that until it is finalised, no further information will be provided. The FIA also reiterates that any suggestion that FIA personnel have disclosed sensitive information is equally baseless.”

Along with the delay, the governing body’s statement also mentioned the “speculation and conjecture” that has been flooding the sport’s landscape. Influential figures, such as Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, can’t help but state their opinions on the matter as if it were conclusive fact. The FIA even makes a reference to the conspiracy theory that Shaila-Ann Rao, the interim FIA Secretary General for Motor Sport and former Mercedes F1 team employee, leaked information about the breach to Toto Wolff.

Succinctly, the team bosses and drivers don’t have any definitive information about the investigation. They will know the results of the investigation when informed by the FIA. The only roadbook for the potential paths forward is the publicly published F1 Financial Regulations. Red Bull Racing faces a wide slate of possible penalties if they are deemed to have breached the cost cap. The FIA could fine the team, limit the team’s ability to test and develop its car or punitively reduce the team’s cost cap in upcoming seasons. The FIA also has the option of deducting championship points from Red Bull Racing and its drivers. However, points can only be taken away from the 2021 F1 season, the period under scrutiny. If you don’t believe me, you can look up Articles 9.1(b)(ii), 9.1(b)(iii), 9.1(c)(ii) and 9.1(c)(iii) of the Financial Regulations yourself.

There is only a single path that leads to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen being stripped of the 2022 World Drivers’ Championship. Red Bull has to become eligible for a “Material Sporting Penalty” by exceeding the cost cap’s total value by five percent or more. Then, the FIA can impose the penalty listed under Article 9.1(c)(vi), “exclusion from the Championship.” There are no conditional constraints, like with points deductions. Any team found to have committed a major breach could theoretically be excluded from the championship in any season deemed appropriate. However, it is also the harshest of over a dozen different sanctions in the rules, a proverbial death penalty. We can only wait and see if this is destination where the investigation leads the FIA.

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