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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner did not hold back when responding to the speculation that the team exceeded Formula One’s budget cap during the 2021 season. 

He went as far as to call the comments “fictitious claims” and that “they’re hugely defamatory” during Saturday’s press conference. The FIA is expected to complete its analysis of each team’s final budget from the 2021 season, for which the cap was set at $145 million. Currently, there’s speculation that two teams exceeded the cap, and reports ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend claimed Red Bull may be one of the two teams. 

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff did not name the two speculated team, but he did call it an “open secret” in the paddock. Horner had previously stated that Red Bull did not exceed the cap, and when asked about it, Wolff said to Sky F1, “It’s funny Christian says that because it’s been weeks and months they’re being investigated, so maybe he doesn’t speak to his CFO… All of us have been investigated diligently. And as far as we understand, there’s a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another team that is fundamentally massively over and that is that is being still looked after.”

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies echoed similar comments to Sky Italia, adding, “We regard this as something very serious and expect FIA to manage situation in exemplary fashion.”

The FIA did release a statement on the matter Friday as the speculation continued to grow, saying, “The FIA notes significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture in relation to this matter, and reiterates that the assessment is ongoing and due process will be followed without consideration to any external discussion.”

Horner, though, said Saturday that he wants his rivals to retract the statements. 

“We were a little bit taken aback by comments that were coming from two of our rival teams yesterday. The submission between the team and the FIA is one that is confidential. I have no idea what the outcome of our rival submissions are, or their accounting treatment or so on,” Horner said. “So I would be intrigued to know where their source of information for these fictitious claims have come from. And I mean, they’re hugely defamatory, and we take umbrage to them. One can only assume it’s not coincidental that this is at a point where Max has his first strike at a world championship.

“How on earth do they have this information? Where do they have this knowledge? The FIA have even stated they haven’t even completed their process. So unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements, we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options available to us are, because it is absolutely unacceptable to be making comments of the type that were made yesterday, that is totally defamatory to the team, to the brands, and even to Formula One.

“I would be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from.”

The Singapore Grand Prix marks Verstappen’s first chance at clinching his second world title. It is unlikely but possible if Charles Leclerc finishes eighth or lower. The Ferrari driver, though, is starting on pole Sunday while the Dutchman is P8 on the provisional grid

It’s expected that the FIA’s process will be completed next week. Punishments for breaching the cap range from financial penalties to point deductions. Last year’s world championship battle between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came down to the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Perhaps when these accusations are made, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and we take umbrage and extremely seriously the remarks that have been made because is it any coincidence that Max has his first shot at winning a world title and here we are talking nothing but cost caps, rather than the phenomenal performance that he has had this year,” Horner said.

“I think it’s an underhand tactic that’s been employed to detract from perhaps a lack of performance on track this year. And of course when references are made to last year, this year, next year, we’re going to take that extremely seriously. So this is an issue for the FIA to deal with but also an issue for Red Bull to consider what our position is with those comments that have been made.”

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