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Formula 1 Japanese GP

Hamilton: Mercedes 2021 title hopes held back by not pursuing $500,000 upgrade

Lewis Hamilton says how the FIA handles any cost cap breaches last year is so important because spending proved critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 world championship.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG

After several delays, the FIA is due to announce on Monday its findings in the audits of F1 team spending last year.

Those outfits who were below the $145 million limit will be issued with compliance certificates, while any squad that spent too much will likely face a hearing for potential sanctions.

There has been huge intrigue that two teams have been found to have overspent, with paddock speculation pointing towards it being Red Bull and Aston Martin. Both teams insist, however, that they have done nothing wrong.

But for Hamilton, who lost out in the title chase last year to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the situation is so critical because he knows the influence spending had in their on-track battle.

He cites the fact that while Mercedes had its hands tied and could not bring major upgrades it wanted to over the second half of the campaign, rival Red Bull kept bolting on new bits in a major push.

Asked if it would be damaging for F1 if it is found teams broke the limit, Hamilton said: “For sure, because it would put in question our values, the integrity of the sport.

“I remember last year, as a driver, you are always asking for updates. I remember at Silverstone we got our last update, and it was worth almost three tenths. I’m pretty certain it cost less than a million… but maybe over time it would cost more in terms of being built.

“I remember after that needing more updates, but then seeing trucks from those guys [Red Bull], updates continuing to arrive on the other car. I was thinking, ‘jeez, it’s gonna be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates’.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, make contact as they battle for the lead

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, make contact as they battle for the lead

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

He added: “It’s so integral to the development race. 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 had brought another floor, which we could have easily done.

“But that’s not the name of the game and I’m grateful our team is very strict and abides [to the rules]. The way we work, they did an amazing job. It needs to be taken seriously.”

Hamilton hopes that when the FIA announces its findings in to the 2021 cost cap, that it does so with a proper explanation and complete openness so competitors and fans can understand exactly what has happened.

“I think it’s imperative,” he said. “We need to continue to have transparency for the fans, for the integrity of the sport.

“I don’t know enough about it, there are a lot of conversations in the background but no-one truly knows. There’s different numbers and different things being said.

“I was expecting the results to come out already and I like to think if it’s been delayed it’s because it’s being taken very seriously and I trust that Mohammad [Ben Sulayem] is taking it seriously and will do what is right for the sport.

“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.”

While Red Bull has been the main focus over a potential rules breach, the team has insisted that it has done nothing wrong and that’s its 2021 submission was below the limit.

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Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Insiders have even suggested that the team was several million dollars below the $145 million cap as it wanted to give itself some leeway to prevent it from going over.

Max Verstappen, who could wrap up his second world title in Japan this weekend, said he was ignoring the paddock speculation on the topic, especially as he was convinced Red Bull was in the right.

“First they [the FIA] have to decide that something is wrong,” he said. “And as far as I know, and also based on what I hear from the team, we haven't done anything wrong.

“So to be honest I’m not really busy with all these kind of things. It’s up to the FIA and the teams and I just have to focus on driving. I don't have much more to say on that, I guess we will find out on Monday."

Additional reporting by Ronald Vording

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