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F1: The biggest financial penalties

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  • The FIA has imposed some hefty financial penalties over the years
  • From the McLaren Spygate scandal to the recent Redbull budget cap irregularities
  • SportsLeo looks at the most expensive F1 penalties

The FIA has imposed some hefty financial penalties over the years, but what are Formula One’s most significant fines in history?

SportsLeo looks at the most expensive penalties.

4. Ferrari (2002) – $1,000,000

Ferrari F1 logo

Ferrari F1 logo.|PHOTO: F1|

Following the contentious 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, when Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher swapped places exiting the final corner to ensure the German driver won, the Scuderia was hit with a massive fine.

Barrichello was on course for victory when he eased off the throttle to let his teammate pass and consolidate his lead in the Drivers’ Championship, as Ferrari team boss Jean Todt instructed.

While team orders were frowned upon rather than outright illegal at the time, the team was fined because of how the podium ceremony unfolded.

“The World Motor Sport Council deplored how team orders were given and executed at the Austrian Grand Prix,” the WMSC said that summer.

“Nevertheless, the council finds it impossible to sanction the two drivers because they were both contractually bound to execute orders the team gave.”

Both drivers and the team were found guilty of violating the Sporting Regulations, and a $1 million fine was imposed on all three parties.

3. Turkish Grand Prix organizers [2006] – $5,000,000

In 2006, the Turkish Grand Prix organizers were given a $5 million slap on the wrist for some unusual podium politics, making them the first non-competitor to receive an F1 fine.

Felipe Massa won the 2006 race for Ferrari and was presented with his trophy by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. He was introduced as “the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” on television.

This did not sit well with the Cypriot community in Greece, nor with then-FIA President Max Mosley, as it violated the sport’s policy of political neutrality.

The World Motor Sport Council summoned representatives from Turkey’s national sporting authority and race organizers to answer allegations of violations of FIA statutes, Sporting Regulations, and the International Sporting Code.

The FIA eventually concluded that the actions were opportunistic rather than planned and issued a $5 million fine – the largest ever handed out in Formula One history.

Acceptance of the fine resulted in the Turkish Grand Prix remaining on the calendar, with an annual race held up until 2011 before Istanbul Park was dropped from the calendar, eventually returning for the COVID-affected seasons in 2020 and ’21.

2. Red Bull Racing [2022] – $7,000,000

Redbull

Redbull paid up to $7M in penalties.|PHOTO: Motorsport|

The previously mentioned budget cap implementation in 2021 may have caught two teams off guard in terms of procedure, but only one team exceeded the actual spending limit of $140 million.

Constructors’ Champions Red Bull were found to have committed a ‘Minor Overspend Breach’ of just under £1.9 million ($2.3 million) after a lengthy investigation into each team’s accounts for 2021.

The overspend breach (a 1.6% overspend) occurred due to Red Bull incorrectly excluding and adjusting costs. Catering services, associated employers’ social security contributions, clerical errors, certain travel costs, and maintenance costs were among the expenses.

The FIA admitted that if a tax credit had been correctly applied, Red Bull’s violation would have been ‘just’ £432,652.

After committing the violation, Red Bull was offered an Accepted Breach Agreement that included a $7 million fine and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel development time for 2023. The monetary penalty is the second-highest in Formula One history.

1. McLaren [2007] – $100,000,000

Alonso in a McLaren car.

Alonso in a McLaren car.|PHOTO: Marca|

McLaren received the most significant penalty in the history of any sport when they were fined $100 million in 2007.

A McLaren employee was discovered to have had detailed documentation regarding the design of the 2007 Ferrari F2007 car; the matter came to light as a result of the employee’s wife taking the documentation to a photocopying shop in the UK and an employee of the photocopying shop becoming suspicious and contacting Ferrari’s Maranello factory.

As the FIA intervened, an extensive investigation began, with McLaren’s Mike Coughlan and former Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney at the centre of the matter.

On the track, the Ferrari vs McLaren battle was as heated as the off-track dramas. While an internal McLaren investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing or that employees were aware of the Ferrari design, the matter was reopened after team boss Ron Dennis engaged then-FIA President Max Mosley after a terse exchange between Dennis and then-McLaren driver Fernando Alonso.

McLaren would later publicly admit that certain team members had access to Ferrari’s technical information, apologizing that it took an FIA investigation to address the situation adequately.

McLaren paid the fine, and the FIA considered the case closed in early 2008 after various legal fees were paid and an extensive examination of the 2008 McLaren MP4/23.

 

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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