As has been extremely well documented, Lewis Hamilton missed out on an 8th F1 Drivers' World Championship on the very last lap of the final race of the 2021 F1 season in Abu Dhabi to Max Verstappen. After a season of such fine margins and now with continued rumours of some teams allegedly breaking budget caps, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 that if Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team had matched Red Bull Racing in upgrades since Silverstone it would have “changed the outcome of the championship”.
It must be reiterated that rumours of teams breaking budget caps in 2021 are for now exactly that - rumours. One of the teams supposedly under suspicion is Red Bull Racing for breaking the $145 million budget-cap by overspending by as much $10 million. Again though, this is strongly denied by the Milton Keynes based racing outfit.
In a gripping 2021 F1 season, Mercedes and Red Bull Racing were in a field of their own with fans unaware who would come out on top one weekend to the next. However, the British Grand Prix was the time when Mercedes introduced their last big upgrade of the season. The same was not said of Red Bull Racing as intermittent upgrades continued for the team right up to the penultimate race in Saudi Arabia.
F1 is now stranger to controversy. Lewis Hamilton shared his thoughts on this latest issue in the Suzuka paddock as he spoke to Sky Sports F1 ahead of the first Japanese Grand Prix since 2019.
“It’s not something I hadn’t been thinking about, 2021, during this season, I think I don’t know enough about it. Obviously, there’s whispers of all these different things so I can’t say anything really.
“But what I can say is I remember last year in Silverstone we had our last upgrade and fortunately it was great, and we could fight with it.
“But then we would see Red Bull every weekend or every other weekend bringing upgrades. They had, I think, at least four more upgrades from that point.
“If we spent $300,000 on a new floor, or adapted a wing, it would have changed the outcome of the championship naturally because we would have been in better competition in the next race if you add it on. So, I hope that that’s not the case."
With the FIA findings now set to be released on Monday October 10th (despite being originally expected this past Wednesday) Lewis Hamilton then referred to the powers that be by name as he said:
“And I just hope that, I do believe Mohammed [Ben Sulayem] and the FIA will do what is right with whatever they find out. So that’s what we have to have faith in.”
Sky Sports Presenter Ted Kravitz then remarked how important clear findings are for the good of the sport, to which Hamilton replied “1,000%, I think transparency is always essential. It’s always very important, particularly with all the fans that tune in and travel around the world.
“I think it’s important for all of us, plus all the people that are working, the 1000s, I think it’s important to have transparency throughout the organisation.
“And accountability is something that we always have to hold true too. We’ve seen in previous years of the sport where things have been dealt with in the background… I don’t think that’s the new way forward with the new way of working with Muhammad.
“I think integrity is very important to him and as is F1 nowadays with a new management so I think we have good people in place. I hope that we get the right governance.” Hamilton concluded.
The matter though was far from done as comments first published on autosport.com showed Lewis Hamilton respond to whether it would be damaging for F1 if it is found teams broke the budget-cap limit.
“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’.”
“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…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 stated.
There is no doubt that the longer this issue drags on - the worst it is for the sport. The delay in releasing the findings is regrettable. However, there is every chance that Max Verstappen could claim his second F1 Drivers' Championship this weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix. Such an outcome would produce global headlines on Monday - irrespective of whatever report may follow later that day.