Lewis Hamilton is determined to try and help secure second place in the Formula One constructors’ championship to help offset the cost of living crisis for team members in the UK. The seven-time champion and his Mercedes have two races left to catch Ferrari, beginning at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mercedes are currently third, 40 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, with Red Bull having already taken the title at the last round in Mexico. Ferrari have enjoyed the better car all season but Mercedes, Hamilton and his teammate George Russell have toiled defiantly all season at improving their car and stealing what was an unthinkable second place at the start of the season remains on the cards.
The Mercedes was very competitive against a recalcitrant Ferrari at the last round in Mexico and Hamilton believed the most important advantage in taking second this season was in terms of the increased financial remuneration team members would receive.
“I know how important it is for the team back at the factory in terms of bonuses, especially with energy prices and rising costs in the UK,” he said. “It’s skyrocketed, so I know how impactful and important that is for them and I know how hard we have dug deep to catch up, so it would be an amazing feeling if we could.”
The British driver, speaking in Sao Paolo at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, noted that it would be a challenge but that doing so would also lay down an important psychological marker for next season.
“Ferrari have had an amazing car most of the year and most likely they will be back at the front this weekend,” he said. “It will be no easy feat to beat them but if we did it would be a pretty amazing comeback and with that narrative it would send them into the winter knowing we mean business.”
Also in Brazil, the world champion Max Verstappen, who secured his second title in Japan this year, conceded that he expects the punishment for his Red Bull team’s breach of the 2021 budget cap to have a detrimental effect on his chances to defend the world championship next season.
The row over the budget cap had rumbled on across almost a month before being finally concluded at the Mexican GP when Red Bull entered an accepted breach agreement with the FIA acknowledging their breach and accepting their punishment.
Red Bull were found to have overspent the £114m cap by £1.86m. They were given a £6.05m fine and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time. Their team principal, Christian Horner, described the penalty as “draconian” but other teams believed the sporting punishment of a reduction in aero-testing was suitable given the advantage they believe Red Bull gained by overspending.
Some rivals have noted that the penalty will not be felt too severely by Red Bull, since the money saved on a reduction of wind tunnel time can be spent elsewhere on car development.
Verstappen insisted it could prove a blow to his chances. “It will affect us but how much I don’t yet,” he said. However Red Bull have enjoyed an absolutely dominant car this season which has returned 16 wins from 20 races thus far. They will retain that advantage going into next season and the Dutchman was optimistic his team would react positively to their penalty.
“I am confident the team and the people we have will use that as extra motivation to do even better,” he said. “I know they already give their best. We have a very competitive car and we have a lot of great ideas for the car for next year and hopefully it will be enough.”
Verstappen also confirmed that he and Red Bull’s boycott of Sky Sports, initiated at the Mexican GP, was over. The Dutchman had been angry with Sky presenter Ted Kravitz who had referred to Lewis Hamilton being “robbed” of an eighth championship at last year’s controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Verstappen sealed his first title.
The 25-year-old had been blunt in stating how he believed the remarks were disrespectful and that he was not willing to accept them. He and the team refused to speak to Sky over the weekend in Mexico City. Having felt he had made his point he stated normal service would resume in Brazil. “We drew a line under it, so we just keep on going and I am looking forward to it,” he said.
Brazil plays host to the final sprint race meeting of the season. Qualifying will be held on Friday, with the sprint to decide the grid for Sunday’s GP taking place on Saturday.