Lewis Hamilton: ‘A slap on the wrist’ will not be enough for Red Bull

Mark Scott
Lewis Hamilton at press conference. Austin, Texas, October 2022

Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton at press conference. Austin, Texas, October 2022

The FIA are continuing to receive pressure from other teams over the punishment given to Red Bull for breaching the 2021 cost cap.

In Japan, Max Verstappen wrapped up a second World Championship title but, just like the first, it is being overshadowed by controversy.

Since it was finally revealed that Red Bull were the only one of the 10 Formula 1 teams to breach the cap by falling into the ‘minor overspend’ category, all the talk has been about how much they exceeded the cap by and what the resulting punishment will be.

Unconfirmed details from reputable sources are starting to emerge on both of those factors. PA Sport believe Red Bull exceeded the cap by £1.8million, while BBC Sport understands the FIA have made Red Bull an offer to enter into a settlement which could have both financial and sporting sanctions attached to it.

Throughout all the furore, Red Bull have been adamant that they have not breached the cap and, in a rare twist of events, had called a press conference on Friday morning in Austin ahead of FP1 to address the matter further – but that now is reportedly cancelled.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s media day at the Circuit of The Americas was unsurprisingly dominated by more questions about Red Bull’s breach of the cost cap.

Lewis Hamilton, who in Japan drew attention to Red Bull’s aggressive upgrade plan during the bitter title fight he was absorbed in last season, has called on the FIA to deliver a punishment that fits the crime or else the whole cost cap structure may as well be rendered meaningless.

“I do believe the sport has to do something about this because if the FIA are quite relaxed with these rules then all the teams will just go over [the budget] and spend millions more,” Hamilton told reporters in Austin, Texas ahead of the United States Grand Prix.

“Only getting a slap on the wrist is not great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in future.

“I do believe [FIA president] Mohammed [Ben Sulayem] and his team will make the right decisions. I have to believe that. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“I am just focused on doing the best job I can, and what they have done is done. I am looking forward, and looking at how I can win another world championship.”

What are the options on the table for Red Bull?

There are several opportunities and ways that the latest mess in Formula 1 can be cleared up.

If reports that the FIA have made an offer to settle with Red Bull are true then Christian Horner’s team can of course accept that – but it would be intriguing to see if that agreement would remain private (similar to the Ferrari engine scandal of 2019) or whether there would be full transparency over the size of the breach and the severity of the punishment.

This would be classed as an Accepted Breach Agreement with the FIA which would protect Max Verstappen’s 2021 title win as the threat of World Championship points being docked would be off the table. However, in entering this agreement, Red Bull would be admitting that they did breach the cap and would lose any right to appeal.

Red Bull can also challenge the FIA’s findings and present a case in front of an independent panel and even take it all the way to the top via the FIA International Court of Appeal.

However, those final options would see this saga become even more drawn out, potentially even more expensive and the punishments could be more drastic if Red Bull were still found to be in breach of the cap.

Read more: Max Verstappen hits out at hypocritical rivals urging Red Bull punishment