Jacques Villeneuve former driver at Sauber BMW, Williams and BAR, former IndyCar driver and winner of the Indy 500 1995, world champion 1997 with Williams Renault, now F1 TV commentator during the Italian GP, 8-11 September 2022 at Monza track, Formula 1 World championship 2022.

F1: Villeneuve says Red Bull didn’t cheat and wants change to where penalty money goes

Jacques Villeneuve agreed with Christian Horner’s assessment that Red Bull’s 2021 F1 Cost Cap overspend was “not cheating,” and called for the FIA to make a change to the fine that was handed out.

In early October, the sport’s governing body said Red Bull were the only team who breached the budget cap last season. More than two weeks later, fans finally found out that the overspend was $2m, which came down to $500K – or 0.37% of the cap – once a tax credit was applied.

As punishment, the team agreed to accept a fine of $7m while also losing 10% of its aerodynamic testing time over the next 12 months for breaking the rules. In a press conference, a couple of hours after, team principal Horner described the penalty as “draconian” given the very minor overspend in the big picture.

He also repeatedly argued that the overspend did not amount to cheating, pointing to the FIA’s statement that there was no evidence of bad faith or deliberate rule-breaking from Red Bull because the rules do not definitively define what must be included in the cost cap number. Former F1 champion Villeneuve agrees – though he admitted he was on the fence about whether or not the penalty money went into the right hands.

“It will not damage the sport,” asserted the 1997 title-winner in his Formule1.nl column. “When McLaren got that mega fine of $100 million [during the Spygate scandal], that didn’t really tarnish the sport. The ruling and the penalty for Red Bull have not yet made it clear to me what is and what is not allowed and what punishment you will receive for it.

“And then there was also the tax setback, otherwise the overrun would have been about a $1/2 million. So I find it difficult to say whether the punishment is severe enough. In any case, it’s not cheating. Lying about traction control is cheating. Whether it would have made a difference in the outcome this year, I doubt. Red Bull is so strong that they would have won anyway.”

But Villeneuve did point out one part of the punishment that he has a problem with. The FIA confirmed that, as it is a not-for-profit organization, it will put that money back into its work in grassroots motorsport and road safety, but the Canadian feels the other teams should be compensated.

“What I have trouble with is that the FIA is now cashing out $7m,” he added. “So it has hardly any effect for Red Bull and the other teams don’t get a cent from it.

“The 10% less time in the wind tunnel does hurt, it will slow them down a bit. But it does not give the others a lap time, part of the fine would help. Just divide that among the teams.”


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