In the Singapore Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc took pole for Ferrari and broke the hopes of Max Verstappen to seal his second title as he managed only eighth on the grid.
The qualifying drama was completely overshadowed, and the row over potential breaches of the F1 budget cap in 2021 has escalated. Lewis Hamilton described this as an issue that had to be taken seriously and insisted the FIA apply the rules rigorously.
Leclerc delivered a fine lap to secure the pole by beating the Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez into second and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton into third.
Last year, Toto described Red Bull and Aston Martin’s alleged overspending as an open secret in the paddock, and this year the FIA was investigating the budgets of these two teams before the Singapore GP event.
On Saturday, The public dispute continued with Christian Horner, who threatened legal action against Mercedes and accused Wolff of hugely defamatory, fictitious claims.
After qualifying, Lewis Hamilton pointedly called on the FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem to strictly enforce its rules.
Lewis said I have full confidence in Mohammed, in the way he has conducted himself to this point in terms of being strict and clear with the rules. The rules are the rules and those sorts of things can lead to real alterations in terms of our performance, and we have to take it seriously, he added.
Wolff supported his driver and demanded the sport impose sufficient punishment if the rules have been broken. Wolff said all the stakeholders in this sport, all the teams that have complied with the regulations, the FIA, and F1, need to make sure that these regulations have teeth.
It is a crucial moment for F1 and FIA president Ben Sulaymen’s leadership. When the budget cap was imposed, it was intended to create a level playing field in the sport, in which the smaller team began the process of closing toward the big three.
Any breach has yet to be confirmed, and the FIA will not comment till it makes its assessment with the conclusions on the teams’ cost submissions expected on Wednesday.
The governing body could apply different sanctions, such as fines and race bans, point deductions, and excluding a team from a championship.
The FIA defined two types of a breach that are a minor below 5% of the cost cap and a material infringement above 5%. FIA could impose serious penalties for these breaches.
In a press conference at the Marina Bay circuit, Horner was defending his team and accusing his rivals of wanting to detract from Verstappen, who holds a 116-point lead. Horner insisted he believes last year his team was within the budget cap set at $145m. Moreover, he said he would be willing to take action against the comments from rival teams.
Horner said the FIA has stated that they have not finished their process, so unless there is a clear withdrawal of those statements, we will be taking it seriously. Moreover, he said we would look at all the options available to us because it is unacceptable to be making the comments that were made yesterday, which are defamatory to the team, brands, and F1.