Lewis Hamilton reveals cost cap ‘concern’ after Red Bull failed to receive ‘big punishment’

Thomas Maher
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton believes teams may be tempted into a breach of the budget cap, due to Red Bull only getting a ‘slap on the wrist’.

The seven-time World Champion has made some pointed remarks about the prospect of teams potentially breaking the budget cap, due to the lack of sporting punishment handed out in the first year of the regulations.

Introduced in 2021, Red Bull won the Drivers’ Championship but were found out in the FIA’s audit of their accounts to have exceeded the budget cap and to have committed a Minor Overspend Breach, as defined in the Sporting Regulations. The breach did not result in a sporting penalty, but did cost Red Bull wind-tunnel time in 2023, as well as them being given the second-largest monetary in the sport’s history.

Lewis Hamilton: Some teams will break the budget cap again

But the extent of the penalties given to Red Bull won’t be enough to deter some teams from potentially having broken the budget cap for 2022, according to Lewis Hamilton.

With the 2022 accounts currently being examined by the FIA to ensure compliance, rumour has swirled in recent days that as many as three teams could have broken the budget cap rules – ensuring a huge furore will be set off, given the precedent set by the punishment meted out to Red Bull.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali Stefano Domenicali’s ‘very clear’ request to FIA on cost cap breach punishment to ensure the teams do their best to comply with every facet of the Financial Regulations, and Hamilton said the current rules mean teams may be tempted to play fast and loose with the limits.

“Yes, it’s definitely a concern,” he told Sky F1.

“I mean, it wasn’t really a big punishment last time so there’s no real [deterrent].

“There’ll be people that will probably go for it again, and know they’re just gonna get slapped on the wrist.”

Speaking to the media later on Thursday, Hamilton was asked what penalties might be appropriate for teams that breach the budget cap, knowingly or otherwise, given the rumours that as many as three teams might have exceeded the limits.

“It’s not my job to do that,” he said.

“But we have people in place who are supposed to police that. But it doesn’t surprise me because it was not a big penalty before.”

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Stefano Domenicali: We want sporting penalties for budget cap breaches

During the Austrian GP weekend, Hamilton had told Sky F1 that the penalty for Red Bull, which consisted of a 10 percent reduction on wind tunnel time on top of their already reduced allotment as 2022 Constructors’ Champions, had had no discernible effect.

“I don’t think it did anyways,” he said.

“The penalty didn’t cost them anything. Definitely. Definitely, definitely didn’t. It was so small!”

With the FIA set to sign off on the 2022 compliance certificates over the next few weeks, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has said it’s time for sporting penalties to be introduced to increase the pitfalls for teams.

“I would like the penalty to be sporting in case of infringement, it is something we asked for very clearly,” Domenicali told Autosport.

“There are three regulations to be respected: sporting, technical and financial. Any infractions must be punished with sporting measures. You can’t go in other directions.”

What Domenicali has also made clear is that he does not want the wait for confirmation on cost cap breaches and subsequent punishments to go on as long this time as it did last season, when the matter finally came to a close in mid-October.

“Control is in the hands of the FIA. Personally what I have asked is to anticipate as soon as possible the publication of the investigations made by the staff of the FIA,” he said.

“But I say this only because, in this way, it does not give rise to speculation and comments that are not good for anyone.”

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