OCTOBER 30, 2022

Wolff denies FIA source leaked budget cap scandal

Toto Wolff has hit back at suggestions a former Mercedes official was responsible for the leak about Red Bull's budget cap breach.

Toto Wolff, Azerbaijan GP 2022
© Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.\

Toto Wolff has hit back at suggestions a former Mercedes official was responsible for the leak about Red Bull's budget cap breach.

The FIA has finally revealed the extent of Red Bull's 'minor' $2 million overspend, which after factoring in a 'notional tax credit' was actually only just over $500,000.

Some of the team's rivals, however, outwardly accused the new world champions of "cheating" by a factor of multiple millions of dollars, with Red Bull boss saying the "reputational damage has been significant".

"We've taken a public pounding through accusations from other teams."

Red Bull is most upset about the coverage of the saga based on pre-publication leaks of the then-alleged overspend - with the spotlight falling on Shaila-Ann Rao.

Rao, now the FIA's secretary general for motorsport, was previously a close confidante and lawyer of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and the German carmaker's works F1 team.

Wolff denies she was the source of the leak.

"The leak is not from the FIA," he insisted to Sky Deutschland in Mexico.

"There are ten finance directors sitting together all year trying to figure out who did what," he explained. "Who talked about it? I think it was them.

"But there was a violation - so it doesn't matter how it came about. A Violation is a violation.

"This is also a kind of secondary theatre of war," Wolff said. "It is an attempt by Red Bull to shift the focus."

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto is also not backing away from the pressure being put on Red Bull, declaring after Mexico GP qualifying that Max Verstappen's car last year was "illegal".

"The FIA confirmed that there was only one team that was illegal - Red Bull," he told Sky Italia. "It's a fact. Over two million, or about two tenths per lap.

"It may have changed the outcome of the championship," Binotto insists. "I hope that a precedent has not been set as we do not want to exceed it. We will remain legal."

Binotto argues that Red Bull's $7 million fine, and a 10 percent reduction in wind tunnel time for the next 12 months, is not harsh enough a penalty.

In fact, he thinks it could even be an advantage.

"The wind tunnel penalty, if not accompanied by a reduction in the budget cap, means they can spend the money elsewhere," said the Italian. "The sanction does not compensate for the advantage that Red Bull had."

As for Horner's claim that the wind tunnel penalty amounts to a half-second per lap loss, Binotto said only: "I don't think so."

Meanwhile, Corriere della Sera says former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone got involved in the penalty negotiations between Red Bull and the FIA, as he maintains strong ties with both Horner and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

The Italian newspaper said Ecclestone, 92, was the "perfect intermediary".

Dr Helmut Marko insists that the 10 percent reduction in wind tunnel time is a "huge competitive disadvantage" for Red Bull.

"Our wind tunnel was one of the first to be built, and in terms of workmanship and heat sensitivity, it takes us longer before we can find the right temperature because it's not state of the art," he said in Mexico.

"It means what we put in the wind tunnel has to work. We cannot afford to make mistakes."