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2021 title outcome would have changed if we’d spent 300K more

Lewis Hamilton says a minor budget cap infringement could have been enough to change the outcome of the 2021 world championship.

The FIA is preparing to issue certificates of compliance to Formula 1 teams which adhered to the $145 million spending cap, which was introduced for the first time last year. However it has postponed its anticipated announcement from Wednesday to Monday amid speculation more than one team may not have stayed within the limit.

Reports have suggested Red Bull, whose driver Max Verstappen beat Hamilton to the championship by eight points last year, may be found not to have complied with the cap. Its team principal Christian Horner has repeatedly insisted the data they submitted to the FIA showed they were within the spending limit.

However Hamilton says Red Bull brought more upgrades to their car in the second half of last season than Mercedes did. He believes the championship outcome would have been different had his team been able to spend more on their car.

“I remember last year in Silverstone we had our last upgrade and fortunately it was great and we could fight with it,” he told Sky. “But then we would see Red Bull every weekend or every other weekend bring in upgrades. They had, I think, at least four more upgrades from that point.

“If we had if we spent 300,000 on a new floor or an adapted wing it would have changed the outcome of the championship, naturally, because we would have been in better competition in the next race you had it on. So I hope that that’s not the case, for the sport.”

A “minor breach” of the financial regulation is defined as an over-spend of up to 5%, which was $7.25 million in 2021.

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Last year’s world championship ended in controversy when FIA F1 race director Michael Masi failed to follow the rules when arranging a last-lap restart in the final race of the season. The FIA, under president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, publicly admitted the error, replaced Masi in his role and made other changes to the management of races.

Hamilton said he has confidence Ben Sulayem will handle the budget cap controversy correctly and transparently. “I do believe that Mohammed and the FIA will do what is right with whatever they find out,” he said. “That’s what we have to have faith in.”

The FIA has been criticised for its handling of past controversies. In 2020, before Ben Sulayem replaced Jean Todt in charge of the federation, it reached a private agreement with Ferrari following an investigation into the legality of the team’s F1 power unit.

Transparency “is always very important,” said Hamilton. “Particularly with all the fans that tune in and travel around the world.

“It’s important for all of us, all the people that are working, the thousands of people that are working, I think it’s important to have transparency throughout the organisation and accountability is something that we always have to hold true to.

“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 Mohammed. I think integrity is very important to him as it is for F1 nowadays with the new management. So I think we have good people in place. I hope that we get the right governance.”

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