All Formula 1 champions operate in “grey areas” of the regulations, according to two-time drivers’ title winner Fernando Alonso.
He was speaking in the Austin paddock amid the budget cap scandal, in which Red Bull has reportedly now been offered a penalty deal by the FIA after being found in minor breach for 2021.
It is now up to the energy drink-owned team to either accept the deal publicly, or dispute it – which could mean even heftier penalties handed down after a further probe.
Tellingly, Red Bull has called a press conference for Friday morning ahead of the US GP.
“I personally hope that it’s going to be a strict and harsh penalty because rules are rules,” said Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas, who was Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes until last year.
“I was in the fight last year and we missed the drivers’ title by a few points – and a few million can make a big, big difference.”
Predictably, Red Bull’s two drivers hit back at that narrative, with new double world champion Max Verstappen accusing his rivals of “hypocrisy”.
“This is how Formula 1 works,” said the Dutchman. “Everyone criticises their rivals as much as possible, but I don’t see this as a problem.”
Red Bull’s other driver, Sergio Perez, added in Austin: “At the end of the day facts will come out and people will see and understand the situation.”
Fernando Alonso, who has been embroiled in many a F1 scandal over his long and successful career, these sorts of controversies have indeed “always been part of Formula 1”.
“The cost ceiling is new, but there have always been things you could explore – grey areas,” said the Spaniard.
“People who have won championships have always done so by exploiting a grey area. Then other teams copy it and get to that level, or that thing that was allowed for a couple of races gets banned.
“It is the nature of F1.”
Alonso, 41, appears to agree with Verstappen that many of their rivals are being “hypocritical”.
“I can’t remember a champion team that hasn’t exploited some element that has surprised the other teams,” he said.
“Brawn, Red Bull in 2012, the dominance of Mercedes,” Alonso explained. “Ferrari won two races in 2019 with something that everyone knew was not legal, and nothing happened. Those two victories stayed.
“Imagine if they had won the world championship with that engine,” he added.
“In the end I trust in the people who have power. I’m just a driver.”