Hamilton calls for severe punishment for cost cap violators

Formula One F1 - Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan - October 6, 2022 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix REUTERS/Issei Kato

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday called for any teams violating Formula One's spending rules to face serious sanctions amid speculation some had exceeded a cost cap last season.

The governing FIA is set to issue 2021 compliance certificates to teams on Monday, a day after Red Bull's Max Verstappen could seal his second successive title in Japan.

Only teams who have stuck to the spending rules will be certified while those found to be in breach could be hit with penalties ranging from public reprimands and fines to a deduction of championship points and even exclusion.

"I think it's imperative, honestly, just for transparency," Hamilton told reporters at the Suzuka circuit when asked if teams should be dealt severe punishments for breaking the budget cap rules.

"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," added the Mercedes driver.

The FIA was widely expected to issue the certificates last Wednesday but, pushing the process on to Monday, noted there had been "significant and unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture".

Red Bull boss Christian Horner hit out last week at speculation concerning his team, threatening rivals with legal action for what he said were defamatory statements.

Hamilton, who fought a tense season-long battle with Verstappen in 2021 that was decided on the last lap of the last race, did not mention Red Bull by name on Thursday.

But he said he had feared for his championship chances when he saw regular updates being added to "the other car" while Mercedes introduced their last major upgrade at the British Grand Prix in July.

"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," added the Briton.

Formula One introduced the budget cap last year, narrowing it from $145 million to $140 million this year and $135 million next season, to rein in runaway spending by the biggest teams and level the playing field.

Verstappen said the matter was between the teams and the FIA and he was just focusing on the driving.

"There's not much more to say on that. I guess we'll find out on Monday," he added.

Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Alan Baldwin and Ken Ferris

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