Toto Wolff has suggested he believes it is ‘unfair’ that the Red Bull parent company took a reputational hit as a result of the Formula One team breaking the sport’s budget cap. The manufacturer was handed down a penalty of £5.8million fine and a 10 per cent reduction in wind tunnel time but the Mercedes boss believes the reputational damage will be the biggest and longest-lasting punishment.
Red Bull’s cost cap breach was one of the biggest stories in Formula One over the course of 2022, with Max Verstappen’s 2021 title theoretically at risk as a result of their overspending. However, it was deemed the team’s breach was ‘minor’ after they were found to have only exceeded the limit by £1.8m but the FIA accepted it would just be £432,000 if tax reports had been correctly filed.
As such the punishments stopped short of points penalties and disqualification allowing Verstappen to keep the championship he won in controversial circumstances last year. The team were handed a £5.8m fine and a 10 per cent reduction in their wind tunnel time with other team bosses arguing that it should have been harsher at the time.
Now Wolff has reflected on the saga suggesting he is now content with how the situation was handled. The Austrian believes the biggest punishment inflicted on the team was reputational damage, something he feels is ‘unfair’ on the energy drink giant as a whole.
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“Yes, I think it’s okay,” he told the Polish site Swiat Wyscigow when asked about the budget cap. “I think the biggest penalty was not the 10% wind tunnel time [reduction] or the 7 million dollars but the reputational hit that the team got. In a way it’s unfair for the Red Bull mother brand which is fantastic in their field.
“But the racing team has just been having such a reputational hit and also the people. So I think nobody is kind of dare bringing it close to that anymore.”
Mercedes failed to hit their usual heights over the course of the campaign, falling behind Red Bull and Ferrari as they tried to solve their porpoising issue. With the problem solved the team’s performances dramatically improved towards the latter part of the year, arguably overtaking the Prancing Horses to become the second-fastest car on the grid.
Wolff believes they will continue to improve next season with Red Bull’s penalty potentially giving them the perfect opportunity to close the gap at the front.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said when asked if he was positive about next season. “We got closer, we were quicker in Brazil, but we lost many months of development just trying to figure out what the problem with the bouncing was.
“That’s why they are in front of us but they have a little bit less wind tunnel time. They got a penalty. So, I think that will help us to hopefully catch up.”