The three largest fines in the history of Formula 1

Which team has incurred the highest penalty?

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1. McLaren [2007] - $100,000,00McLaren_Spanish_GP.jpg

McLaren holds the record for the largest fine not only in F1 history but also in any sport's history. In 2007, the 'Spygate' scandal dominated the season when a McLaren employee was discovered to possess detailed documentation of Ferrari's 2007 car design. The matter came to light after the employee's wife went to a photocopying shop in the UK with the documents, arousing suspicion from an employee at the shop who then contacted Ferrari. Following this revelation, an extensive investigation began with McLaren's Mike Coughlan and former Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney at the center of the controversy, leading to intervention by the FIA. 

Despite an internal investigation finding no evidence of wrongdoing or knowledge among McLaren employees regarding Ferrari's design, the matter resurfaced when McLaren team boss Ron Dennis engaged with FIA President Max Mosley after a heated exchange between Dennis and McLaren driver Fernando Alonso. Alonso, along with Lewis Hamilton and test driver Pedro de la Rosa, were summoned by the FIA and granted immunity in exchange for relevant information. 

Both Alonso and Hamilton continued competing for the Drivers' Championship, while McLaren faced disqualification from the Constructors' Championship and were hit with the staggering $100 million fine. McLaren later acknowledged that certain members of their team had indeed accessed Ferrari's technical information and publicly apologized for the situation, which required an FIA investigation to be properly addressed. McLaren paid the fine while the FIA considered the matter closed in early 2008, following legal fee settlements and a thorough examination of the 2008 McLaren MP4/23.

2. Red Bull Racing [2022] - $7,000,000Red-Bull-RB19.jpg

With the introduction of the budget cap in 2021, one team breached the spending limit of $140 million. After a thorough examination of each team's accounts for 2021, Red Bull Racing, the Constructors' Champions, were found to have committed a 'Minor Overspend Breach' of approximately £1.9 million ($2.3 million). 

This breach occurred because Red Bull incorrectly accounted for certain costs such as catering services, employers' social security contributions, clerical errors, travel costs, and maintenance expenses. If a tax credit had been properly applied, the breach would have amounted to approximately £432,652. Red Bull agreed to an Accepted Breach Agreement which included a $7 million fine and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel development time for 2023. This monetary penalty stands as the second largest in F1 history.

3. The Turkish Grand Prix organizers [2006] - $5,000,000F1_Turkish_Grand_Prix_2006.jpg

In a rare occurrence, one of the biggest fines in F1 was imposed on a non-competitor in 2006. The Turkish Grand Prix organizers were fined $5 million for their involvement in some unusual podium politics. During the award ceremony, Felipe Massa received his trophy from Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who was introduced on television as "the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." This action was deemed inappropriate and contradictory to FIA's stance on political neutrality. 

The World Motor Sport Council summoned representatives from Turkey's national sporting authority and race organizers to address these violations. After investigating, the FIA concluded that the actions were opportunistic rather than premeditated and imposed a fine of $5 million, the largest fine in F1 history at the time. Acceptance of the fine allowed the Turkish Grand Prix to remain on the calendar until 2011 before its temporary return due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. 

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