Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver says Red Bull cost cap breach 'brings up emotion' of controversial Max Verstappen title
Red Bull are set to be punished by the FIA for breaching the 2021 cost cap; Lewis Hamilton says the saga has brought back memories of his controversial denial of an eighth world championship; watch the US Grand Prix on Sky Sports all weekend, with the race at 8pm on Sunday
Last Updated: 21/10/22 12:54am
Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull being found to have breached Formula 1's cost cap has brought up "emotion" from agonisingly losing out in his 2021 world championship battle with Max Verstappen.
Mercedes driver Hamilton was denied an eighth world championship in controversial circumstances as an unprecedented call by race director Michael Masi afforded Verstappen the chance to take the lead on the final lap, before winning the race and title.
Hamilton considered walking away from the sport before returning for 2022 and "moving on" from the incident, but admits old wounds have been opened up with the Dutchman's team now having been found to have breached the sport's budget cap in its first season in operation.
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"I don't necessarily have much of an opinion because I'm not really focused on it," Hamilton said on Thursday ahead of this weekend's United States Grand Prix.
"It's happened in the past for me. I would say I'd moved on from last year, and of course this popping up at this point in the season definitely brings up emotion for many people, the fans, for everyone. For how it went down at the end of last year and then on top of that, this happened."
With Verstappen having gone on to claim the 2022 title, and Red Bull set to end Mercedes' eight-year constructors' championship streak, rival teams are calling for significant punishment, arguing the 2021 breach has impacted this season, and will also be a factor in 2023 if severe action isn't taken.
The FIA is understood to have offered terms of an 'accepted breach agreement' to Red Bull ahead of this weekend's US GP, with the team now left to decide on whether to accept the offer and likely a lesser punishment, or go before an adjudication panel. The details of the FIA's offer to Red Bull, however, are still unclear.
Red Bull were last week the only team found guilty of exceeding the 2021 $145m spending limit - with a 'minor' breach meaning they had overspent by less than five per cent ($7.25m) - although have emphatically rejected claims from rival teams that they have purposely cheated.
"I'm not the one to be able to decide what that (punishment) is," Hamilton said.
"The fact is that breach affected the result of last year, but it also affects this year, because they would have taken on the same practice, most often perhaps into this season, there would have benefits from that moving on into this season and it rolls on.
"When these new rules come out, if you've got a head start it's very, very hard to close that gap. It just goes back to integrity, we've got to stick to the core values of what this sport is.
"We got a 25k fine for me having this nose ring in and a 50k fine for having that wing and put to dead last in the race, so I'm hopeful, I truly believe that I have to have belief in the FIA and the people that are leading this team, that they're going to make the right decisions. What those are, everyone has an opinion on what should or should not happen, but I'm not giving it energy, I'm trying to win a race right now."
During a separate press conference, Hamilton warned that the future of F1's budget cap rests on the FIA's decision.
"I do think this sport needs to do something about this, otherwise if they're relaxed with these rules, then all the teams will just go over," Hamilton added.
"Spending millions more and then only having a slap on the wrist isn't going to be great for the sport. They might as well not have a cost cap in the future."
Russell: Punishment has to take performance away
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate George Russell says the FIA's decision will be a "defining moment" for F1 and that even a $100m fine would not be a strong enough penalty.
"I think we're all interested to see [the punishment] and it's going to be a defining moment for the sport and the FIA when we hear the outcome of this breach," Russell said.
"I think the cost cap regulation has been a real benefit, and a positive impact for the sport, trying to bring a level playing field.
"When it comes to this, we live in such a technical world with small details where if you go beyond the limit, you're punished. It doesn't matter if it's 100 grams too much fuel, or if you're rear wing - like Lewis in Brazil - is too wide, you're disqualified and you're punished accordingly. When it comes to something about the money you're spending, this is a pretty serious breach.
"If they've overspent and it's brought performance to their race car, it's got to be something to take performance away. Giving a fine, which has got nothing to do with their overall development or performance, would not be suitable.
"Even if the fine was a hundred-odd million, they'd probably take that and be happy with that punishment. Whereas if you're talking reducing their cost cap or reducing the amount of time they can put into the wind tunnel, that is truly damaging."
Bottas calls for penalty that 'really hurts' Red Bull
Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas, who was Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate during the fiercely contested 2021 battle with Red Bull, demanded a "strict and harsh penalty".
"The rules are the rules and if you don't follow them there should be a penalty that really hurts," Bottas said.
"You don't want anyone to have the appetite to maximise for one year and risk it with the budget cap.
"I personally hope it's going to be a strict and harsh penalty because that shouldn't happen. The rules are the rules. There's many rules in F1 and this shouldn't be any different in terms of the penalty.
"Let's hope it's a good penalty that really hurts them, because I was in the fight last year. We got the constructors' but we missed the drivers' title by a few points, and a few million can make a big, big difference."
Ferrari have been Red Bull's closest challengers this season, and their driver Carlos Sainz says that the FIA must make a decision that provides "fairness".
"I think every team and every driver, we just want clarity first of all, and second, fairness," Sainz said. "We all know how much one-two-three-four, I don't know the number, million can make to car development and car speed in F1.
"That's why a few years ago all the top teams were spending 350m, and now we're spending 150 to keep these things under control.
"I just hope that if there's a penalty, the penalty is relatively important enough to take the appetite away from overspending two or three million to waste on next year's car, because you think next year's car is worth it more than the other year, and then you take a penalty for it.
"I just think it needs to be fair play for everyone, and if there's a cost cap it needs to be followed and I just hope the FIA takes the right decision to make sure everyone follows it."