(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday he was concerned Formula One could face further breaches of the cost cap this season after teams escaped ‘big punishment’ last year for previous overspending.
Media reports in Italy and Germany this week suggested at least two of the 10 teams could be in breach of the 2022 cap of $140 million.
The governing FIA has said its auditing process remains ongoing.
Red Bull were fined $7 million last season for a ‘minor overspend’ in 2021, with a further punishment of 10% less wind tunnel time over the year.
Aston Martin, owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, and Williams were fined for procedural breaches.
Champions Red Bull have since gone on one of the most dominant runs in the sport’s history, chasing a record 12th successive win this weekend in Hungary after winning 20 of the last 21 races.
“It’s definitely a concern,” Hamilton told Sky Sports television when asked about the possibility of a team being in breach of the financial rules.
“There wasn’t really a big punishment last time so there’s no real… there will be people that probably go for it again and know they are just going to get a slap on the wrist.”
Mercedes team mate George Russell said there needed to be stiffer punishments.
“There were breaches last year and clearly the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” the Briton, whose once-dominant team have being playing catch-up since new rules were introduced last year, told reporters.
“We don’t want to be seeing that happen again and if it’s a second time offender the punishment should be even greater than what perhaps is a fair punishment,” he added.
Russell said he trusted the FIA and “they won’t be letting anybody get away with something that shouldn’t have happened under their watch.”
Federico Lodi, the FIA’s single-seater financial regulations director, said teams sent an interim submission in June last year for the 2022 season and a full submission by the end of March this year.
April was spent reviewing each team’s submitted 150-200 pages of information in detail, with follow-up questions and requests for clarification.
The on-site audits started in early May and were expected to last for months, with Lodi saying it was difficult to commit to a rigid timeline despite increasing the dedicated staff from four to 10.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)