Christian Horner says Red Bull cheating accusations by F1 detractors are ‘shocking’

Horner Red Bull cheating
Clive Mason/Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas — Red Bull team boss Christian Horner denied his championship-winning team gained any competitive advantage by what has been deemed a “minor” breach of Formula One’s spending rules, and called suggestions that it amounted to cheating “shocking.”

Red Bull has been dogged by questions at the United States Grand Prix about driver Max Verstappen’s championships last season and this year after F1’s governing body revealed the team had a “minor” violation of the 2021 spending cap.

But that still could amount to several million dollars and some teams and drivers have demanded harsh penalties to punish Red Bull and protect the integrity of the sport.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown wrote a letter to the FIA that didn’t specifically name Red Bull but said any overspending should be considered “cheating.”

Horner and Brown sat next to each other for F1’s weekend news conference, and Horner angrily complained that Red Bull had been put “on trial” even though few details of the spending violations have been released.

“Suddenly we are tried and subjected to three weeks of effective abuse. And then to be seeing a letter accusing us of cheating and being fraudulent, it is just not right, and this has to stop,” Horner said.

“It is tremendously disappointing for a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating, to accuse you of fraudulent activity is shocking.”

Horner even said that allegations of cheating have led to the children of Red Bull employees being bullied at school.

Brown defended his letter, which said overspending teams should be hit financially and face future car development restrictions.

“My letter set out that if a team spent more than the cap, they’re going to gain an advantage,” Brown said. “We’re not taking a view if they did or didn’t. My letter was if someone has, these are the things that should be addressed.

“I didn’t mention any team, it was a general response now that we are into the cost cap era, here’s what we think the ramifications are.”

The cost cap breach is particularly controversial given the close finish to last season’s championship. Verstappen won 10 races to eight for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, and the Red Bull driver won the title when he passed Hamilton on the final lap of the final race.

And since teams typically begin developing the next year’s car at midseason, any overspending could be viewed as gaining a a future advantage. Verstappen has been untouchable this season with 12 wins. One more ties the single-season record.

Red Bull insists it always believed it was in compliance with the spending rules, which Horner called exorbitantly complicated.

But teams have had time to adjust to the limit and the bookkeeping. And no other team is facing the same overspending claims as Red Bull. Brown called the regulations “manageable.”

Formula One first announced a budget cap would be implemented in 2019, and it started last season with a limit of $145 million. It was scaled down to $140 million for 2022 and drops to $135 million for 2023. It excludes driver salaries and engine costs.

By calling the violation “minor,” the FIA indicated Red Bull’s overspending was under 5% of the total budget.

Horner said he hoped to have the issue resolved with the FIA by the end of the race weekend in Texas. If not, it could drag out for several more months should the team appeal any findings and punishments.

Horner promised the ultimate resolution will be transparent.

“There is going to be no private, secret deal,” he said. “It will all be absolutely above board.”

It’s been a difficult week for Red Bull, which also is dealing with the death of co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”