Mercedes and Ferrari left furious over punishment for Red Bull budget failure | Formula One

Mercedes and Ferrari have strongly rejected Red Bull’s claims that the FIA’s penalty for exceeding the cap was “draconian”, saying the impact on the team is likely to be minimal.

On Friday, Red Bull was fined $7m (£6.05m) and a 10% reduction in aero testing for breaching the 2021 cost cap. The fine is not part of a reduction in a future budget ceiling. The FIA ​​ruled they had exceeded the £114m limit by £1.86m and Red Bull agreed to a break-up deal agreed with the governing body, admitting guilt and accepting the penalty.

Red Bull manager Christian Horner was clearly unhappy, saying the punishment was sought after by his rivals and would have a huge impact on his side’s ability to stay competitive, despite their dominance this season. He equated the reduction in airtime in the wind tunnel and in computational fluid dynamics to the loss of half a second per lap.

Other rivals were far from friendly as the row rumbled at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez ahead of qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix which saw Red Bull Max Verstappen take pole position ahead of Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton was narrowly beaten in the Drivers’ Championship by Verstappen in 2021 and said his team could not keep pace with the improvements Red Bull were making to the Dutchman’s car.

The FIA ​​noted that Red Bull wrongly applied a notional tax credit worth £1.4million. Had it been removed, they would only have been in breach of £432,652. However, Mercedes technical director Andrew Shovlin insisted Red Bull’s punishment was far from harsh and stressed the vital importance of every penny.

“To describe this as draconian is an overstatement,” he said. “Day in and day out we make decisions about what we don’t do that are in the range of one to two to three thousand pounds. We have to weigh what we spend against the performance it will give us. We just don’t have enough money, you have to choose very carefully where it goes. It’s hard to set a lap time, but the reality is that money buys performance. In terms of the cost of an update kit that [£432,652] could easily be a major upgrade kit.

Shovlin was supported by the Ferrari sporting director, Laurent Mekies, who derided the punishment as likely to have very little impact on Red Bull. “We think it’s weak, we don’t see it on the same scale to offset the overspending that has been made,” he said. “If that’s not combined with a reduction in the budget cap for them, you’re totally free to spend your money elsewhere. You’ll spend less in the wind tunnel so you’ll spend it elsewhere. In total, what’s left of the real impact of the penalty will be very low.

The budget cap was imposed in an effort to bring parity in spending between teams and improve competitiveness. However, widespread concern over the process has led to serious questions about how it was handled; including the length of time it took, Red Bull’s complaints about mid-season financial rule adjustments and the suggestion that their deal was done behind closed doors with FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem. Its implementation and enforcement are now being watched by teams disgruntled at many levels with this year’s outcome.

Max Verstappen takes his seventh pole position of the season in Mexico City. Photography: Peter Fox/Getty Images

Verstappen, meanwhile, remains on track to surpass F1’s single-season win record by delivering a crushing lap to seal pole position in Mexico City. Russell and Hamilton highlighted Mercedes’ improvement by taking second and third place with Sergio Pérez fourth for Red Bull and Carlos Sainz fifth for Ferrari.

Verstappen already has 13 victories this year and will eclipse the record he equaled last week in Austin, previously achieved by Micheal Schumacher in 2004 and Sebastian Vettel in 2013. He could still go further with two appointments remaining after that- this.

Verstappen hadn’t had the best preparation for qualifying, struggling to get his tires up to temperature, but when it mattered he was in fine form. In a very competitive session, the first hot laps of Q3 were hotly contested. Verstappen set the tone with a time of 1min 17.947sec. He and Hamilton were hard to separate, trading sector times, although Hamilton eventually had his first time scrapped for exceeding track limits.

In the final runs Verstappen was once again immense, he was quickest in the first sector but Hamilton and Russell fought back in the second, with the Dutchman having the advantage in the final run to the line. Verstappen finished with a 1:17.775 and his advantage was ultimately over three tenths of a second. Mercedes will settle for second and third but the gap with Verstappen remains significant.

It is Verstappen’s 19th pole position and his first in Mexico, although he has won here three times since the meeting returned to the calendar in 2015. It is his seventh this year and Red Bull’s first. in Mexico since Daniel Ricciardo took first place here in 2018.

Mercedes will be optimistic for Sunday. Their car works very well in the air at altitude and both drivers felt there could be more to come on race day, especially in the long run before the first corner.

Valtteri Bottas was sixth for Alfa Romeo and Charles Leclerc seventh for Ferrari. Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren and Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon ninth and tenth for Alpine

Daniel Ricciardo was 11th for McLaren. Guanyu Zhou finished 12th for Alfa Romeo with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly in 13th and 14th. Kevin Magnussen was 15th for Haas but picked up a five-place grid penalty.

Mick Schumacher was 16th for Haas. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were 17th and 18th for Aston Martin but the latter suffered a three-place grid penalty. Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi finished 19th and 20th for Williams.

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