The title may have been wrapped up by Max Verstappen and the constructors’ title is within reach of his team Red Bull, but as the Formula 1 circus heads to the southern grandeur of the United States this weekend a sense of uncertainty in the sport continues to linger.
Last week Red Bull – and Aston Martin – were accused of wrongdoing in relation to the new budget cap, introduced to regulate team spending with the aim of further competitiveness.
Red Bull’s breach was deemed serious and related to the development of their car, which some other teams suggest could have a long-term unfair impact on the energy drink-branded outfit.
The chief executive of McLaren Racing Zak Brown this week said the Red Bull breach “constitutes cheating” in a letter allegedly sent to the sport’s governing body the FIA.
“We don’t feel a financial penalty alone would be a suitable penalty for an overspend breach or a serious procedural breach. There clearly needs to be a sporting penalty in these instances, as determined by the FIA,” Brown wrote.
“We suggest that the overspend should be penalised by way of a reduction to the team’s cost cap in the year following the ruling, and the penalty should be equal to the overspend plus a further fine – ie an overspend of $2m in 2021, which is identified in 2022, would result in a $4m deduction in 2023 ($2m to offset the overspend plus $2m fine).”
The US Grand Prix has become one of the showstopper weekends on the Formula 1 calendar – Texas puts on a show unlike most other hosts – but Austin must ensure that come the end of Sunday’s race people are talking about what happened on the track rather than the uncertainty off it.
The US Grand Prix also will face stiff competition from next season. While the three-day event has been able to fend of geographical competitors such as Mexico and Canada, it this year has had to go up against the glitz and glamour of Miami and will next year need to battle with Las Vegas.
The United States is becoming a hub for Formula 1, and tracks in the Americas beyond, too, have won the hearts of many fans in the sport.
But Austin is a modern classic – it combines all of the great parts of other tracks in the world for an event, not a race, that lasts days and brings in nearly 500,000 fans.
The racing is close, the lead generally changes throughout the Sunday and it’s a great spot to host other races outside of Formula 1 such as the W Series – when it’s running – and Formula 2 – but the shadow of suspicion remains.
Just how can Red Bull continue under the guise of business as usual? They’ve been declared as rule breakers but are yet to face a punishment. They have been accused of having an unfair advantage but they remain leaders of the constructors’ championship. And they broke the cap rule last year as Verstappen took the title on the final laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix amid extreme controversy.
So as the lights go out on Sunday and the racing gets underway in Austin, the winners and losers on the track will eventually fade into obscurity. Because while the FIA withhold details of just what they’re going to do with Red Bull’s rule breaking, there’s no certainty of whether the sport can move on, and how it does that.