Lewis Hamilton says the future of Formula 1’s budget cap depends on the punishment Red Bull are given for breaching it last year.
Red Bull committed a “minor” breach of the $145m (£114m) cap last year, governing body the FIA has said.
Hamilton said: “If they are relaxed with these rules, all the teams will just go over.
“Spending millions more and only having a slap on the wrist is not going to be great for the sport.”
He added: “They might as well not have a cost cap in the future.”
The FIA has made an offer to Red Bull for the terms of what is known as an “accepted breach agreement” for them breaching the cost cap.
The offer, the details of which are confidential, specifies the penalty the FIA would hand out if Red Bull accept they breached the cap.
Red Bull, who continue to insist that they were within the cap in 2021, have the choice of accepting they were in breach and taking the penalty, or fighting the judgement.
If they contest it, the matter will go to an adjudication panel of independent experts in financial law to decide whether Red Bull were in breach and what penalty to impose.
Hamilton lost a tight championship fight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in 2021 in controversial circumstances after the FIA’s race director failed to apply the rules correctly in a safety-car period at the final race of the season.
Asked for his reaction to the FIA’s announcement and what consequences Red Bull should face, Hamilton said: “The integrity of the sport is where the decisions hopefully will be made.
“I do believe Mohammed [ben Sulayem, the FIA president] and his team will make the right decisions, I have to believe that. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. What they [Red Bull] have done is done.”
Red Bull have not commented on the matter publicly since releasing a statement last week insisting that they believed they were within the cap.
The board of management at Red Bull Racing is discussing its response to the FIA’s offer and team principal Christian Horner is expected to make a public statement on Friday at the US Grand Prix.
Verstappen said at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Thursday: “It is between the team and the FIA, and from our side we have a strong belief that we were in it, so that’s why we are discussing with them about it to show what we think is right.”
Alpine driver Fernando Alonso, who lost two close title fights against Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in 2010 and 2012 when he was at Ferrari, said: “This has been always part of F1. This is a new thing we implemented recently, the cost cap, but there were always things aerodynamically that you could explore, some grey areas.
“And always people who won the championships, they won exploiting that grey area. And then the other teams copy and they eventually get to that level or they ban that thing that was allowed for one or two races.”
Alonso also drew parallels between Red Bull’s situation and the controversy over Ferrari’s engine performance in 2019.
The FIA announced after that season that they believed Ferrari’s engine was not always operated within the rules but could not prove it. They reached a private settlement with the Italian team, whose engine performance dropped markedly for the 2020 season.
Alonso said: “Ferrari won I think two races in 2019 with something we all knew was not legal and nothing happened. They kept those wins. It’s quite amazing. Imagine that they won the championship in 2019 with that engine. It is very difficult and we need to rely on the people who have the power and trust them.”
Ferrari team Mattia Binotto said in an interview with BBC Sport in May this year: “What we were doing at the time was pushing somehow the line of interpretations. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t illegal, or we would have been disqualified.”
Lewis Hamilton says F1 should back W Series
Hamilton also said that he believed F1 and the FIA should step in to try to support the female-only W Series, which was set to race in Austin this weekend but has cancelled the final three races of its season because of financial difficulties.
Hamilton, who has been pushing for greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport since 2020, said: “There has not been enough focus on women in the sport the whole of F1’s life and there is not enough emphasis on it now. And they are not magnifying enough the great work that is being done there.
“There is not enough representation across the board in our industry and there is not really a pathway for those young amazing drivers to get to F1 and then you have some people say there is never going to be a female F1 driver, and that’s not a good narrative to be putting out.
“We need to be doing more. With F1 and Liberty [Media, F1’s commercial rights holders] doing so well, it is not a lot for them to help out in that space.”