Lewis Hamilton has stepped up pressure on the FIA to ensure Red Bull is punished appropriately if it is found to have breached last year’s budget cap, saying it is “imperative for the ‘integrity of sport’ that the governing body of motorsport shows ‘transparency’ in the matter.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton followed the example of his Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, who in Singapore last weekend called for ‘robust’ penalties for any team that breaches the 145m (£114m) cap.
“I think it’s imperative, honestly, just for transparency,” said the seven-time world champion at Suzuka. “I think we have to continue to have transparency for the fans, for the integrity of the sport. Obviously I know there are a lot of conversations going on in the background. Nobody really knows.
“There are different numbers and different things being said here and there so I was expecting those results to come out yesterday. I would like to think that if it was delayed it was because it was taken very seriously and I hope that Mohammed [bin Sulayem, FIA president] take this seriously and do what is good for the sport, I hope.
“I think it would be bad for the sport if no action was taken in the event of a breach, but I don’t know if there is, so I’ll wait.”
Certificates of compliance were due to be handed out on Wednesday by the FIA to all teams running under the cap. However, that deadline was pushed back to next Monday at the last minute, with the FIA saying the “long and complex process” was still ongoing.
Red Bull angrily denies overspending, insisting the bid they made in March was well below the cap and approved by their auditors – one of the Big Three accounting firms. They also threatened to sue Mercedes and Wolff for defamation over the “fictitious” allegations.
It is thought that if they are found to be in breach, it is likely a ‘minor’ breach rather than a ‘substantial’ breach – i.e. less than 5% of the ceiling – and perhaps only “procedural”.
“Hard to beat the teams that bring updates”
Nonetheless, Hamilton has called on the FIA to ensure the matter is taken “seriously”, arguing that any overrun would have had a serious impact on last year’s championship, which he lost by a hair’s breadth to to Max Verstappen in the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Asked if a team going over the budget cap would hurt F1, Hamilton replied: “Of course because it will challenge our values, the integrity of the sport. I remember last year as that driver, you were always asking for updates. , updates, updates [on the car].
“And I remember at Silverstone when we had our last update it was almost three tenths, and I’m pretty sure it was less than a million.
“But I remember, after that, needing more updates – but then seeing…updates keep coming on the other car, thinking ‘God, this is going to be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates.
“It’s so essential to the development race and if we still had half a million to spend we would have been in a different position in some of the following races…but that’s not the name of the game.
“I’m grateful that our team is very strict, given the way we work and they do an incredible job, so it has to be taken seriously, as I said.
Verstappen: ‘I guess we’ll find out on Monday’
Verstappen – who missed the chance to win his second drivers’ title in Singapore but is lucky to finish the job in Japan – said he was not focused on speculation.
“To be honest, I’m not really busy with that stuff,” said the Dutch driver, who has a 104-point lead over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, will win the title at Suzuka if he finishes the weekend. with a lead of 112 points. or more. “It’s up to the teams and the FIA and I just have to focus on the driving. There’s not much more to say on that. I guess we’ll find out on Monday.”
However, other drivers supported Hamilton’s view, Leclerc adding: “Speaking of us, of course, if we have more to spend, you’ll get on track faster.
“So if there’s a team found guilty of this, they should be punished. So what’s the punishment? I’m not the only one to decide, but for sure they should be punished.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell argued that any overruns should be deducted from next year’s budget.
“I have confidence in Mohammed and the FIA to deliver a proper sentence to anyone found guilty of the charges against him,” Russell said. “It should be fairly simple and you would expect the amount exceeded to be the amount that will be taken for next year’s budget, and probably a little more on top of that, as punishment. But let’s wait and see.”