Austin – This weekend, newly crowned double world champion Max Verstappen has every right to celebrate his second drivers’ championship victory in typical Texan fashion.
However, when he attempts to smash another track record at the United States Grand Prix two weeks after winning the championship in Japan, his Red Bull team manager Christian Horner will be preoccupied with two more important goals.
His first priority is to preserve the Milton Keynes-based team’s reputation in the face of allegations that they ‘cheated’ on the path to Max Verstappen’s two consecutive drivers’ championships in 2021 and 2022.
The claim that has tainted their recent accomplishments arose after Red Bull was discovered to have over an official budget cap for 2021 – for which they have yet to learn the penalty, but which caused a rival team to allege that they had cheated.
Entering #USGP week in pure Red Bull flair 😎!
17 October 2022 — Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing)
The second objective for Horner is to ensure that the team remains focused and maintains the remarkable form that has allowed Verstappen to cruise to a second championship by earning the constructors’ crown for the first time since 2013 and fifth overall.
While Verstappen pursues his second victory at the Circuit of the Americas, where he triumphed last year, Horner is likely to offer Red Bull’s defense in private paddock meetings and public news conferences.
According to the International Motoring Federation (FIA), Red Bull violated a spending restriction of $145 million by a “minor” amount, estimated to be 5% or $7.25 million.
Details of the team’s violation, the talks that accompanied the FIA’s investigation of their accounts, and any potential fines have not yet been made public, however McLaren team principal Zak Brown stated in a letter issued to the FIA on October 12 that their actions “constitute cheating.”
Red Bull’s answer was that they did not overspend in any performance-related areas, but rather on catering, sick pay, and “gardening leave,” and they intend to contest the allegations brought against them.
Mercedes, which dominated the sport from 2014 until this season, and Ferrari are insistent that any budget violation must be viewed as a performance issue and punished severely.
On Saturday, the three senior team principals – Horner, Toto Wolff, and Matteo Binotto – are scheduled to participate in an official FIA news conference.
For Horner and his team, most importantly Verstappen, a challenge to the FIA might result in harsher penalties than those expected for a’minor’ infraction, thus adding much excitement to this weekend’s paddock planning.
In a hypothetical judicial proceeding, last year’s championship victory by Verstappen may be examined.
Horner has previously pronounced the Dutchman to be the most gifted driver Red Bull has ever had, despite being seven wins behind Sebastian Vettel, the four-time champion, with 32 wins to Vettel’s 39 for the team.
Another victory on Sunday would give the team a season-record 14 victories.
Charles Leclerc is anticipated to receive a grid penalty for running a new engine, while seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton attempts to avoid finishing a season without a victory for the first time.
Hamilton has won five of the previous nine races at Austin, but he has praised Verstappen and Red Bull’s accomplishments this season and urged his team to rebuild for 2023.
“This year, together, every single one of them has done an outstanding job,” he remarked.
Therefore, their vehicle will likely continue to evolve, as will Ferrari’s, despite their teething troubles.
“We’ve had to take a step back, shift gears, and go in a different route, and we’re hoping we’re on the right track for next year. And I must motivate everyone so that we leave no stone unturned.”
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