Hamilton: Imperative FIA punishes budget cap breaches

Lewis Hamilton says it is “imperative” that any Formula One team found in breach of last year’s budget cap faces severe consequences as the FIA finalises its audit process of team accounts.

The sport’s governing body was due to announce its findings on Wednesday but has now delayed the issuing of compliance certificates until October 10 due to the “ongoing analysis” of the team’s financial submissions, which were made in March.

In the build up to last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, rumours circulated that Red Bull and Aston Martin may have breached the $145 million budget cap last year, although the FIA has since referred to rumours around its audit process as “unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture”.

Teams that met the cost cap will receive certificates of compliance on Monday while any team that overspent will enter a process to determine a sanction, which could range from a financial penalty for a procedural breach to exclusion or suspension from the world championship in the most extreme cases.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen beat Hamilton to last year’s title after the championship went down to the final lap of the final race of the season.

The 2021 season was the first under F1’s new financial regulations, with teams splitting their limited expenditure between the development of last year’s car and this year’s car.

Asked if it was important for teams that breached the budget cap to receive a “severe” penalty, Hamilton said: “I think it’s imperative, honestly, just for transparency.

“I think we need to continue to have transparency for the fans, for the integrity of the sport. I don’t really know enough about it. I know obviously there’s lots of conversations that are going on in the background. No one truly knows.

“There’s different numbers and different things being said here and there, so I was expecting those results — like you — to come out yesterday.

“I would like to think that if it’s been delayed it’s because it’s been taken very seriously and I trust that Mohammed [Ben Sulayem, FIA president] is taking it seriously and will do what is right for the sport, I hope.

“I think it would be bad for the sport if action wasn’t taken if there was a breach, but I don’t know if there is so I’ll wait just as you will.”

Hamilton stressed that the “integrity” of the sport was at risk if an appropriate punishment wasn’t meted out, saying his chances of beating Verstappen to last year’s title would have been significantly boosted had his team been able to spend more money.

“I remember last year as a driver, you were always asking for updates, updates, updates on things, whether it’s fuel, whatever it is.

“And I remember in Silverstone when we got our last update and I remember that was almost 0.3s, I think that update, and I’m pretty certain it cost less than a million.

“But I remember after that needing more updates – but then seeing trucks…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 if we were just bought another floor which we could have easily done 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 amazing job. So it needs to be taken seriously as I said.”

Four-time champion and current Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel agreed that any failure to comply with the financial regulations should be met with consequences.

“We try to control our driving and I think we know when we are right and we are wrong in terms of being fair, giving enough space,” Vettel said. “We try to obviously be fair most of the time and I think that’s the same for any governance of the sport is to ensure the fairness is there across the teams, across the year, across the season, across the sport.

“The FIA is in charge of that and we have to trust they’re doing the job and if you fail to comply with the rules then there should be consequences. It’s a complicated or complex matter and we’re not the best judges to understand but I think the art is to break it down, make it simple and make it clear.”

Meanwhile, Verstappen, who is on the brink of securing his second title in Japan this weekend, said he had not been following the budget cap story closely.

“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.”

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