Lewis Hamilton's warning over potential F1 cost cap breach

Lewis Hamilton is pictured during a press conference at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton says the integrity of F1 rests on the FIA certifying each team's cost cap data from the 2021 season as quickly and as transparently as possible. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has implored F1's governing body to swiftly and transparently certify each team's cost cap data from last season amid reports one team has breached the rules.

Formula 1 introduced a cost cap for the first time in the 2021 season to reign in outrageous development costs, in an effort to level the playing field among the sport's 10 teams.

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The FIA was scheduled to certify each team's financial submissions on September 30, but has since delayed the certification three times - the latest delay announced on Wednesday night as teams arrived for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Several team principals have already acknowledged rumours of potential cap breaches, with reports emerging the championship-winning Red Bull outfit had gone significantly over the cap.

Those reports haven't been verified and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has responded furiously to suggestions his team was involved, labelling such comments 'totally defamatory'.

The latest delay means the certification will be made on Monday, after the Japanese GP and likely as most teams are returning home.

Asked if he was concerned by the rumours of a potential breach, Hamilton he was and implored the FIA to certify the cost data from each team as soon as possible to maintain the integrity of the sport.

“For sure, because it then will put into question our values, the integrity of the sport,” Hamilton said.

“I remember last year as a driver, you’re always asking for updates — updates, updates, updates, whether it‘s fuel or whatever it is.

“I remember in Silverstone we got our last update. I remember that was almost 0.3 seconds … and I’m pretty certain it cost less than $1 million.

“But I remember after that needing more updates but then seeing trucks from [Red Bull Racing] of updates continuing to arrive on the other car and thinking, ‘Jeez, it’s going to be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates’."

Sporting penalties, including retroactive points deductions for the 2021 championship, have not been ruled out but are considered a long shot possibility.

Hamilton was adamant that any potential breach 'needs to be taken seriously'.

“It‘s so integral to the development race. If we’d had another half a million to spend, we would have been in a different position as some of the following in races — if we had just brought another floor, which we could have easily done. But that’s not the name of the game," he said.

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

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In a statement, the FIA said the latest delay to the certification was due to the complex nature of the process.

“The FIA informs that the conclusion of the analysis of the 2021 financial submissions of the Formula 1 teams and the subsequent release of certificates of compliance to the financial regulations will not take place on Wednesday, 5 October,” it said.

“The analysis of financial submissions is a long and complex process that is ongoing and will be concluded to enable the release of the certificates on Monday, 10 October.

“The financial regulations were agreed unanimously by all competitors, who have worked positively and collaboratively with the FIA cost cap administration throughout this first year under the financial regulations.”

Christian Horner is pictured during an F1 press conference.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has labelled suggestions the team breached the F1 cost cap in 2021 as 'totally defamatory'. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images,)

Both Red Bull and Aston Martin were implicated in rumours that emerged prior to the Singapore GP that they had gone over last year's cap.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff ignited another war of words with fierce rivals Red Bull when he suggested they had gone 'quite a lot over' the cap, describing it as a 'heavyweight' issue.

Horner though, rejected the suggestions entirely and said legal action against rivals was not off the table.

“Unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements, we will be taking it incredibly seriously and looking at what the options available to us are,” he said.

“That is totally defamatory to the team, to the brands and even to Formula 1, and I‘d be intrigued to know where their source of information has come from.”

The FIA knocked back suggestions there had been a leak of information throughout the lengthy process.

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