Lewis Hamilton has ramped up the pressure on the FIA to make sure Red Bull are suitably punished if they are found to be in breach of last year’s budget cap, saying it is “imperative for the integrity of the sport” that motorsport’s governing body shows “transparency” in the matter.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton followed the lead of his Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff who in Singapore last weekend called for “robust” sanctions for any team found to be in breach of the 145m (£114m) cap.
"I think it's imperative, honestly, just for transparency," the seven-time world champion said in Suzuka. "I think we need to continue to have transparency for the fans, for the integrity of the sport. I know obviously there's lots of conversations that are going on in the background. No one truly knows.
"There's different numbers and different things being said here and there, so I was expecting those results to come out yesterday. I would like to think that if it's been delayed it's because it's been taken very seriously and I trust that Mohammed [bin Sulayem, FIA president] is taking it seriously and will do what is right for the sport, I hope.
"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."
Certificates of compliance were due to be handed out by the FIA on Wednesday to all teams who came in below the cap. However, that deadline was put back to this coming Monday at the last minute with the FIA saying the “long and complex process” was still ongoing.
Red Bull angrily deny they have overspent, insisting the submission they made in March was well below the cap and signed off by their auditors - one of the Big Three accountancy firms. They also threatened to sue Mercedes and Wolff for defamation over the “fictitious” claims.
It is believed that if they are found to be in breach, it is likely only a “minor” breach rather than “material” breach - ie less than 5% of the cap - and possibly only “procedural”.
'Hard to beat teams who bring updates'
Nevertheless, Hamilton has called for the FIA to make sure that the matter is taken "seriously", arguing that any overspend would have had a serious impact on last year’s championship, which he lost by a whisker to Max Verstappen at the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Asked if a team breaking the budget cap would damage F1, Hamilton said: "For sure, because then it'll put in question our values, the integrity of the sport. I remember last year as a driver, you were always asking for updates, updates, updates [on the car].
"And I remember in Silverstone, when we got our last update, that was almost three tenths, and I'm pretty certain it cost less than a million.
"But I remember, after that, needing more updates – but then seeing...updates continuing to arrive on the other car, thinking 'Jeez, it's going to be hard to beat them in the championship if they keep bringing updates'.
"It's so integral to the development race and 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.
"I'm grateful that our team is very strict, given the way we work and they do an amazing job. So it needs to be taken seriously as I said."
Verstappen: 'I guess we'll find out on Monday'
Verstappen - who missed out on the chance to claim his second drivers’ title in Singapore but has the chance to finish the job in Japan - said he was not focused on the speculation.
"To be honest, I'm not really busy with these kind of things," said the Dutch driver, who has a lead of 104pts over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, will win the title at Suzuka if he finishes the weekend with a lead of 112pts or more. "It's up to the teams and with the FIA and I just need to focus on the driving. There's not much more to say on that. I guess we'll find out on Monday."
However, other drivers backed up Hamilton's opinion, with Leclerc adding: "Speaking about ourselves of course if we have more to spend you will go faster on track.
"So if there's any team found guilty of that they should be punished. Then what's the punishment? I'm not the one to decide, but for sure it should be punished."
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate George Russell argued that any overspend should come off next year’s budget.
"I trust in Mohammed and the FIA to bring an appropriate punishment for anyone who's found guilty of the charges accused," Russell said. "It should be quite straightforward and you'd expect that the amount that's gone over should be the amount that's taken off for next year's budget, and probably a bit more on top of that, as a punishment. But let's wait and see."
Norris calls for 'hefty penalty'
Lando Norris has joined the call for a "hefty penalty" to be imposed on teams who break the budget cap – claiming they would benefit for years to come from any infringement.
"I think because teams are trying to find and trying to be as efficient as possible with every single thing that they do, any small amount over is, in any part of Formula One, maybe not huge, but depending on what it is, a big advantage," the McLaren driver said.
"Considering there has been a rule to make things a bit more comparable for everyone, give all teams a better chance at fighting, then it's just an unfair stat within the performance of Formula One. There should be a pretty hefty penalty for whoever does cross the line.
"The thing is, it doesn't just benefit you for one single season. If it helps you in that first one to get going, it's always kind of a knock-on effect the next few years."