FIA admits Red Bull budget cap breach investigation and penalty took too long

ABU DHABI -- FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem says Formula One's governing body is making changes to ensure penalties for breaching the sport's cost cap are decided earlier in the year.

The FIA announced Red Bull had breached last year's $145 million cost cap in early October before issuing a penalty later in the same month. Red Bull, which overspent by 1.6 percent, was fined $7 million and will have a 10 percent reduction in its aerodynamic testing allowance for 12 months.

A sporting penalty that affected the outcome of last year's world championship always seemed unlikely in Red Bull's case, but under the FIA's regulations one of the penalties for an overspend over five percent is exclusion from the relevant year's championship.

In theory, therefore, the outcome of a championship could still be in doubt over 11 months after the final race of a season if the process remains unchanged.

Part of the reason the FIA took so long to penalise Red Bull was that 2021 was the first season run under the budget cap and a significant amount of auditing was required. However, Ben Sulayem is confident the FIA can speed up the process next year.

"The only thing I would say is that what we did in September or October should have been done earlier," the FIA president said. "As it was the first year, we learned from it and we are still learning. It's better to do it in May and not just in October to do it."

Ben Sulayem believes the FIA got the penalty right despite pressure from Red Bull's rivals to issue a harsher punishment.

"I believe that there was a balance between the financial and also the sporting penalties there, but we learned a lot and a big review is going into it," he added. "Because is it the way that we go, because who knows in the first year what is going be the outcome?

"Some people, if you look at the other teams, they will say we have been light on them with the penalty and some of them want them to be hanged and they want to see blood. So where do you draw [the line]? We have to be fair also -- do we want to get rid of them or do we want them to straighten up and not do it [in the future]?"

He also denied accusations that the FIA's interim secretary general Shaila-Ann Rao, who joined the governing body from Mercedes and was involved in the investigation of Red Bull, was in any way biased in her role or pushing for a harsher penalty.

"When it comes to Shaila-Ann there was an accusation in the news that she is a supporter of Mercedes," he said. "Actually, when the penalties were there and both teams, she said it was a bit harsh.

"I looked at her and said 'My god, and there is someone who is accusing her of being with Mercedes and she is saying it [the penalty] is being harsh on Red Bull'."

Ben Sulayem said the FIA plans to bolster a number of its F1 departments over the winter, including the one that investigates breaches in the budget cap.

"The financial regulations have been the first year and policing it has been very hard, which is why we have discussed today employing three more on the financial [regulations] side, three more on the chassis and the PU," he said.

"So more recruitment is coming ahead. It's not only about the technical regulation or the international sporting code, but it is also about the financial and monitoring and policing. If you don't have the man power and proper people to police it, what's the use of having the regulations?"