FIA combing through email and WhatsApp in cost cap audit

Spread the love
Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

With the summer break arriving after this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix the work at the factory will come to a halt, but the accounting department of the FIA will shift into overdrive. It’s that time of year again when the books supplied by the teams are audited by the sports governing body. Last year Red Bull Racing, Aston Martin and Williams were deemed guilty of breaking the financial regulations, with Red Bull Racing being the only one actually breaching the cap, resulting in a 7 million dollar fine and a 10% reduction in aerodynamic development time.

This year the current rumours again mention Red Bull Racing and Aston Martin, with also Mercedes being under close scrutiny of the FIA. According to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf the number of full time employees tasked with checking the books has been increased from four to ten, giving the FIA more investigative power.

The regulations prescribe that the books have to be provided to the FIA March 31st latest, with the documents consisting of some 150-200 pages. In addition to the raw numbers, there is also the issue of the actual effort employees have spent on Formula 1-related activities. Red Bull Racing and Mercedes have multiple branches and subsidiaries that do not participate in Formula 1, but do receive labour from different employees. And this labour does not count towards the cost cap. This means that in the past few months the teams have been visited by the auditors, during which emails and WhatsApp messages have been checked.

“We’re talking about organisations with 1000 employees, who perform several activities for the commercial and racing branches of the teams. That really complicates everything,” explains Federico Lodi, the FIA’s financial director.

“We’re in fact busy for a few months already, visiting one team after the other. And then there are weekly questions about how certain issues should be interpreted.”

One of those questions is in regard to Dr. Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing’s advisor. The talent scout is present at each race, but since his business is not necessarily Formula 1-related his daily fee doesn’t count towards the cost cap.

Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner is adamant that his team obeyed the cap, stating that they are well below the 140 million dollar budget limit. According to rumours in the paddock this supposed number is 4 million dollar.

“We are going through a process together with the FIA, but the figures we handed in were significantly below the cap,” Horner said. “We haven’t developed last year’s car as much as other teams, and we had barely any crash damage.”