Motor racing: Verstappen focusing on the job as F1 spending row builds

Max Verstappen of Red Bull lifting his trophy after winning the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct 9, 2022. EPA-EFE

AUSTIN, Texas – Two-time Formula One world champion Max Verstappen said he was just focusing on his job, as rivals called on Thursday for the governing FIA to come down hard on his Red Bull team for breaching spending rules in 2021.

Red Bull, who lead Ferrari by 165 points, can seal their first constructors’ world championship since 2013 at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday. But the achievement risks being overshadowed by the cost cap row.

World body FIA said on Oct 10 that Red Bull were guilty of a “minor overspend” last year but gave no details.

Media reports have indicated the team were US$1.8 million (S$2.6 million) over the US$145 million cap, with McLaren boss Zak Brown saying this week that any team in breach were effectively cheating.

The situation has become a major test for the FIA and the cap, which was introduced in 2021, risks being undermined if not effectively enforced.

“Nothing has been confirmed yet but as a team we know what we have to deal with and I think we were very clear with what we think was correct,” Verstappen told Sky Sports television at the Circuit of the Americas.

The Dutchman, who won his second title a day before the breach was confirmed, suggested that rivals who questioned Red Bull’s performance were reacting to the team’s success.

“They try to slow us down in any way possible. That’s how F1 works... everyone is at the end of the day a bit hypocritical. I’m fine with that. We just have to focus on our job,” he said.

Teammate Sergio Perez agreed.

“There are always teams that want to take performance out of you, especially when you are winning,” said the Mexican. “It’s part of the sport, and this has been the case forever. I just think it’s a normal situation.

“Facts will come out and people will see and understand the situation.”

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who was Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes in 2021 when the Briton was pipped to an eighth world title by Verstappen, told reporters that Red Bull should be handed a “strict and harsh” penalty.

Hamilton, who lost to Verstappen in Abu Dhabi in December 2021 because of a late safety car controversy, felt the same, adding: “Spending millions more and then only having a slap on the wrist won’t be great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in future.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said teams and drivers wanted clarity and fairness.

“I just think it needs to be fair play for everyone, and if there’s a cost cap it needs to be followed,” he said. REUTERS

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