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Wolff: "Open secret" one F1 team "massively" broke cost cap

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it is now an "open secret" in the Formula 1 paddock that one team was "fundamentally massively" over the cost cap last year.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG, meets a VIP

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG, meets a VIP

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

After a day of fast developments in the Singapore Grand Prix paddock, as speculation focused on Aston Martin and Red Bull having potentially not complied with the 2021 cost cap limit, Wolff did not hold back in his views about how serious the matter was.

After Red Bull team boss Christian Horner had indicated earlier in the day that his squad’s submission for the 2021 cap was below the circa $145 million limit, Wolff said that flew in the face of what paddock’s senior figures had learned.

“It's funny Christian says that because it's been weeks and months they're being investigated, so maybe he doesn't speak to his CFO,” Wolff told Sky F1.

“As a matter of fact, we all of us have been investigated diligently. And as far as we understand, there's a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another team that is fundamentally massively over and that is being still looked after. So that's an open secret in the paddock.”

Wolff said that the issue of a cost cap breach was not something that should be brushed aside because his team had sacrificed car performance, and had to lose staff, to ensure it complied with the limit that was in place. He felt it would be unfair if any over-spending was dealt with leniently.

“It’s heavyweight, it massively heavyweight,” he said about the matter. “We're using used parts. We are not running what we would want to run; we are not developing what we could be developing.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“We have made more than 40 people redundant that are dearly missed in our organisation, and it was a huge mammoth project to make the cap.

“I don't know how many tens of millions we had to restructure and reprocess in order to be below the cap. And if someone has been not doing that, or pushing the boundaries, every million [you don’t spend] is a massive disadvantage.”

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While the current issue relates to spending over the 2021 campaign, with the FIA stating that compliance certificates will be issued next week, Wolff believes the implications are massive.

He says that if Red Bull overspent last year, it could carry benefits through this year and in to 2023.

“The crucial part is that if you've been over in 2021, then you've been over in ‘22,” he said. “That means you have an advantage in ‘23.

“If it's true that they've [Red Bull] homologated the lightweight chassis this year, they may use it next year. So it's a really a cascade of events that can be influential in all of the three championships.”

The FIA has responded to speculation of cost cap breaches and states no judgement will be made until it completes its assessments.

"The FIA is currently finalising the assessment of the 2021 financial data submitted by all Formula 1 teams. Alleged breaches of the Financial Regulations, if any, will be dealt with according to the formal process set out in the regulations," an FIA statement read.

"The FIA notes significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture in relation to this matter, and reiterates that the assessment is ongoing and due process will be followed without consideration to any external discussion."

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