Lewis Hamilton has insisted the FIA must act decisively and with appropriate tough measure if any teams are found to have broken Formula One’s budget cap regulations. The seven-times champion said the integrity of the sport was at stake and pointedly noted how last season his Mercedes rivals Red Bull appeared to be spending heavily on upgrading their car.
At last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix unproven allegations emerged that Red Bull had exceeded the £114m budget cap set for 2021. The team strenuously denied that they had breached the budget with the FIA currently assessing all the teams’ financial submissions for compliance with the cap. On Wednesday they were due to announce their conclusions but instead issued a statement declaring that their judgment had yet to be reached and would be delayed until Monday.
The FIA can impose punishments on teams found to be in breach of the rules, including a deduction of points or exclusion from the championship, either of which could impact the result of last year’s title race, narrowly won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen over Hamilton.
Speaking before this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the British driver said any team found guilty should be punished appropriately.
“I think it’s imperative, honestly, just for transparency,” he said. “I think we need to continue to have transparency for the fans, for the integrity of the sport.”
Hamilton also said the FIA’s delay in announcing their findings indicated that the governing body understood the import of the decision they were making.,
“I would like to think that if it’s been delayed it’s because it’s been taken very seriously” he said. “I trust that Mohammed [ben Sulayem, FIA president] is taking it seriously and will do what is right for the sport, I hope.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, had been blunt in Singapore in expressing how he believed overspending on the budget could definitively make a difference in car performance. Hamilton took the fight with Verstappen to the wire last season, which was ultimately decided after the controversial Verstappen win in Abu Dhabi, where he took the title by just eight points.
The season had ebbed and flowed between the two drivers and Hamilton observed how expensive he believed it was for Red Bull as they had continued to bring a raft of upgrades to their car.
“I remember last year as a driver, you were always asking for updates, updates, updates on things, I remember in Silverstone when we got our last update and that was almost three-tenths and I’m pretty certain it cost less than a million,” he said. “But I remember after that needing more updates but then seeing updates continuing to arrive on the other car, thinking: ‘Jeez, it’s going to be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates.’
“It’s so integral to development, the development race and if we had another half a million to spend we would have been in a different position at some of the following races.”
When asked about the row over the cap at Suzuka Verstappen declined to make a comment on the situation. “To be honest, I’m not really busy with these kind of things,” he said. “It’s up to the teams and with the FIA and I just need to focus on the driving. There’s not much more to say on that. I guess we’ll find out on Monday.”
Verstappen is in position to seal his second championship this weekend if he wins the race and his Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc finishes lower than second place.