JONATHAN McEVOY: Max Verstappen might be wise to keep his celebrations in Singapore subdued… the Red Bull driver could LOSE his first world title even if he wins his second on Sunday
- Max Verstappen could win his second world title at the Singapore GP
- But now speculation has surfaced that the Dutchman could lose last year’s title
- Reports suggest Red Bull spent too much trying to get him past Lewis Hamilton
- Verstappen controversially won the championship in Abu Dhabi last year
- Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says claims are ‘pure speculation’
The Formula 1 traveling circus came to Singapore wondering if Max Verstappen could capture his second world title, only to wonder how he managed to win his first.
The sport, which never lets intrigue sleep, erupted in controversy under floodlights on Friday after reports emerged in the European press that Red Bull had spent too much money to lead Verstappen past Lewis Hamilton to last year’s controversial title .
The budget cap was introduced in 2021 at £114m after the $145m cap was turned at a set rate to level the playing field for plutocrats in their pursuit of sustainability and competitiveness.
Many speculate that Max Verstappen could be stripped of his first world title
The Dutchman could win his second title with Red Bull at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday
Other teams gave a private update yesterday that Red Bull have pierced the cap by around £10m. You deny this. The FIA is still reviewing the numbers for all 10 teams and is expected to issue their conclusion on Wednesday.
If Red Bull is guilty of a minor infraction – by spending less than five per cent deductible – Red Bull could face penalties ranging from a reprimand to the retroactive loss of points from last year’s championship, meaning that Lewis Hamilton may yet be crowned world champion.
If they overspent more than five percent, they could be disqualified from the World Cup.
Red Bull are believed to have overspent during Verstappen’s title race with Lewis Hamilton last year
While Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, called on FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem to “show the same integrity and leadership that he has shown”, in a clear suggestion that Red Bull should be fearlessly sanctioned if they commit a violation is found guilty, his counterpart Christian Horner dismissed the claims as “pure speculation”.
This is a nasty fight to be sure. The two men despise each other. Mercedes tries to play the good guy. It’s not necessarily as simple as it seems, and the only thing proven so far is that Formula 1 is a vicious game of razor teeth and slashnecks.
Horner added: “We are certainly not aware of any violations. The accounts were all submitted to the FIA back in March so it has been a long process with the FIA and we are in the process right now. We are convinced of our template. There will always be rumours. I’ve heard of major breaches, but I’m certainly not aware of them.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has urged FIA bosses to “fearlessly” sanction Red Bull
Wolff added: “It’s funny that Christian is saying that because it’s been weeks and months since they’re being investigated so maybe he’s not speaking to his chief financial officer.
“We have all been carefully examined. As far as we know there is one team in a minor injury and another team that is fundamentally and massively overwhelmed that is still under investigation. It’s an open secret in the paddock.” Aston Martin is said to have injured the other team.
It is understood Red Bull will argue that when they submitted their accounts to the FIA they were more than £3million under the limit and that the goalposts have been moved – and that is a case of what is allowed in spending to count, and what not.
Meanwhile, Christian Horner simply said the inflated claims were “pure speculation.”
Unusually, FIA President Ben Sulayem is not in Singapore but has been in contact with the teams by phone for emergency talks. One downside for him is his chief of staff, Shaila-Ann Rao, who was Wolff’s personal attorney as recently as last year.
Caught in the middle of this mess is Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, and is on the hunt for what he believed to be a second title that he believed would be not only a litigious one, but one that was free of controversy. He leads Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 116 points and has an outside chance to end the championship here with five laps to go.
He was totally dominant and deserves the second title no matter what anyone may say about the first. At least until it is claimed that Red Bull will overrun the budget again this year.
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