Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he is “absolutely confident” his team did not breach Formula 1’s budget cap in 2021.
Ferrari and Mercedes say it is an “open secret” that two teams breached the limit to one degree or another, and it is widely claimed in the paddock within F1 that they are Red Bull and Aston Martin.
Horner said: “We stand 100% behind the submission that we are below the cap.”
He said comments by his rivals were “unacceptable” and “hugely defamatory”, and he threatened to take further action in response.
Aston Martin say they are “in discussion with the FIA and awaiting certification”.
Ferrari did not name Red Bull in their public comments on Friday.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, in response to Horner’s claim that he had “no knowledge” of any breaches by Red Bull, told Sky Sports: “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 [chief financial officer].”
Horner accused both rivals of employing “an underhand tactic” to distract from the fact that Red Bull driver Max Verstappen could clinch his second world title at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Horner said the process of governing body the FIA assessing Red Bull’s accounts was “ongoing” and that the team were “a little bit taken aback” by the comments.
Mercedes and Ferrari both said they believed one team had broken the cap by a large amount and the other by a smaller one. The F1 financial regulations define a minor breach as one less than 5% of the cap, which was $145m (£114m) in 2021, and a material one as more than that.
The FIA has told teams it will issue certificates of compliance or otherwise on 5 October.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “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. So that’s an open secret in the paddock.”
Horner said: “The facts are that it is a private submission to the FIA.
“So how on earth can any team know the detail of our submission? How can any team know a team is in breach or not? We don’t even know if we’re in breach. We don’t know until next week, until the process has been completed.
“So perhaps when these accusations are made, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and you know we take umbrage and extremely seriously the remarks that have been made.”
He added: “Unless there is a clear withdrawal of these comments, we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options are.”
Mercedes and Ferrari rejected Horner’s request to withdraw their remarks.
Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies echoed Wolff’s remarks on Friday in saying it was”no secret” two teams had breached the cap.
Mekies added in a news conference on Saturday that any breach of the cap last year would also have an impact on performance in 2022 and 2023.
“If there was a breach in 2021, what advantage is being carried into 2022 and 2023?” Mekies said. “After, you can discuss the penalty and how do you make it meaningful.
“We are banging on about transparency and severity because if it turns out to be something a team can bet on to gain a competitive advantage, the whole system collapses. The first time the budget cap is challenged, you need a certain amount of severity.
“It’s a simple calculation, we take it very seriously because this is a serious amount of lap time – $7m would give you 70 engineers, 70 engineers would give you a serious amount of lap time.
“If you think about the power of the financial regulations, it probably overpowers the sporting and technical regulations, so this is why we are looking forward to a transparent and severe approach.”
He added: “It is a very vital test for the cost cap. And if we don’t pass that test then it’s probably game over, because the implications are huge.”
Sanctions for a minor breach can include a deduction of points for the championship in which the breach took place, a suspension from a limited number of events, limitations on research and development and a reduction of the cost cap for the team in question.
For a material breach, the possibility of banning a team or driver from an entire championship is included.
The cap was introduced in 2021 as part of a series of rule changes aimed at closing up the field and making the sport more competitive.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said: “The financial regulations are as important as technical and sporting ones, and it’s very important the FIA police then properly and enforce them with the proper penalties in place even if it affects championships outcomes from the past.”
He added: “It is the only way to be in F1 in a sustainable way.”
Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur said: “We can’t jeopardise the budget cap. [If it collapses], it’s not the end of F1, but almost, and we have to take action.”
Horner also accused Williams of “forgetting” to make their submission, which Williams chief executive officer Jost Capito, sitting beside him in a news conference, said was “not true”.
Williams were fined $25,000 in June for a “procedural breach” of the financial rules. Capito said it was caused by an auditing delay of one of the team’s related companies, the FIA was forewarned, it was dealt with within the week and was “nothing to do directly with the team”.