Lewis Hamilton has warned that if Red Bull do not receive a serious penalty for their breach of the Formula One budget cap the purpose of the spending limit will be rendered pointless in future. Hamilton has previously made it clear he believes an overspend could have had a material effect on the outcome of the 2021 world championship, in which he was narrowly beaten to the title by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The row has dominated F1 since the FIA announced Red Bull had breached the cap, the day after Verstappen sealed his second title at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago. Red Bull deny they exceeded the $145m ceiling imposed in 2021, with the team understood to believe the discrepancy is due to a differing interpretation of the rules. It has been reported that the breach may have been as much as $2m, a sum Hamilton has pointedly noted would have been enough to bring significant performance upgrades to a car in 2021.
Before this weekend’s US GP in Austin, Texas, the seven-time champion was insistent the FIA had to act decisively to punish any transgression of the cap. “I do think the sport needs to do something about this for the future,” he said. “Because otherwise if it is quite relaxed with these rules then all the teams will just go over and spend millions more. Then only having a slap on the wrist is not going to be great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in the future.”
The process is continuing regarding the breach, which the sport’s governing body considers “minor” – within 5% of the cap, anything up to a total of $7.25m. Hamilton noted that the “integrity” of F1 was at stake in regards to how it was dealt with.
It is understood that the FIA has proposed the terms of an “accepted breach agreement” to Red Bull. If it is agreed it would bring the process to a close. Should Red Bull accept the agreement their penalties would be limited to a financial sanction but crucially not a reduction in a future budget cap, or minor sporting penalties including limitations on aerodynamic testing, but not a deduction of points from drivers or teams, removing any chance last year’s championship could be overturned.
Should Red Bull not agree and take their case to an independent adjudication committee, they would then be subject to a full range of penalties.