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Christian Horner takes aim at ‘absolutely appalling’ accusations from Zak Brown in letter to the FIA

Furious Christian Horner takes aim at ‘absolutely appalling’ accusations from Zak Brown in leaked letter to the FIA, as Red Bull chief responds to ‘cheating’ claims (and all while sitting next to his McLaren rival!)

  • An FIA audit of 2021 accounts found that Red Bull committed a ‘minor breach’
  • Christian Horner responded to a letter written by Zak Brown saying the team has ‘been on trial since Singapore’ and that the accusations have been ‘damaging’
  • Brown clarified his letter saying he ‘didn’t mention any teams’ and was general
  • Click here for all your latest international Sports news from 

Christian Horner came out fighting in Texas yesterday, insisting he is ‘appalled’ by rivals accusing Red Bull of cheating — claims he said had resulted in his staff’s children being bullied at school.

In another day of intrigue ahead of today’s US Grand Prix, Horner broke his silence after the Milton Keynes-based team were found guilty of a ‘minor’ breach of last season’s £114million budget cap as Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to the title.

It has yet to be announced what punishment Red Bull face, though it is understood it will be both financial and sporting. The latter is likely to restrict wind-tunnel time, thus hobbling their development. They may also be stripped of constructors’ championship points for 2021, when they finished second to Mercedes.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner addressed a letter written by McLaren CEO Zak Brown Saturday

While sitting next to the McLaren leader, Horner said Brown's accusations are 'damaging'

While sitting next to the McLaren leader, Horner said Brown’s accusations are ‘damaging’

Red Bull’s case is that the FIA changed interpretations of the regulations after they submitted their accounts in March. Those accounts had been signed off by Ernst & Young.

Spectators chanted ‘cheater, cheater’ at Verstappen when he attended a fan event prior to qualifying.

Adding to the febrile atmosphere, McLaren boss Zak Brown wrote a letter earlier this month and leaked last week to FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem in which he implied Red Bull’s mistake ‘constituted cheating’, though he did not name them directly.

Yesterday Horner and Brown sat side by side at side by side on the press conference stage, exchanging only the frostiest of good mornings. Horner let rip, saying: ‘Zak’s letter was… tremendously disappointing. For a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating, to accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking.

‘It is absolutely shocking that another competitor, without the facts or without any knowledge of the details, can be making those kinds of accusations. We have been on trial because of public accusations since Singapore and the rhetoric of “cheats” was slung about as if we had had an enormous benefit.

Brown said the letter was 'a general response', calrifying that it 'didn't mention any teams'

Brown said the letter was ‘a general response’, calrifying that it ‘didn’t mention any teams’

‘Numbers [relating to the overspend] have been put out in the media that are miles out of reality and the damage that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce is significant. We are seeing significant issues within our workforce. Kids are being bullied in playgrounds because they are employees’ children… You cannot go around making that kind of allegation without any fact or substance.’

The Mail on Sunday understands that Red Bull overspent by £1.8m, which is considerably less than the £10m figures rivals were briefing.

It is understood Red Bull claim the overspend is related to non-track areas such as catering, sick pay and gardening leave. There is also a question of how a corporation tax break relating to research and development (which is common to all seven British-based teams) is accounted for.

An audit from the FIA of the 2021 accounts found that Red Bull committed a 'minor breach'

An audit from the FIA of the 2021 accounts found that Red Bull committed a ‘minor breach’

They are also animated by a change to the interpretation of how unused parts should be presented in the account on June 16.

‘We feel the goalposts were changed,’ said Horner. ‘A clarification went out in June which had a seven-digit effect on our submission. Had we been able to resubmit we would have treated it very, very differently.’

But whether the overspend was accumulated on catering and the like, did it not mean money being freed up for car development?

‘Our view is that our relevant costs are within the cap,’ said Horner. ‘We had zero benefit from a development perspective or an operational perspective for 2021 or 2022 from the way we operated. Our submission was significantly below the cap. We categorically don’t feel we have had any advantage either in 2021, or 2022, or 2023, or 2024.’