Helmut Marko has light-hearted dig at Lewis Hamilton about Red Bull 'over spend'

Helmut Marko has had a light-hearted dig back at Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton over his reaction to the Red Bull budget cap controversy.

As rumours swirled that Red Bull had breached the cost cap, Hamilton was asked for his views on the matter during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

The seven-time former World Champion was reluctant to give too strong an opinion, given nothing had officially been confirmed at the time he spoke.

But he did insinuate Red Bull had been able to afford a surprising number of updates to their car at a time when Hamilton and Max Verstappen had been waging battle for the 2021 World Championship - a title that eventually went to the Dutchman.

"What I can say is I remember last year at Silverstone we had our last upgrade," said the Mercedes driver. "But then we would see Red Bull every weekend, or every other weekend, bringing upgrades. They had, I think, at least four more upgrades from that point.

"If we spent 300,000 on a new floor, or adapted a wing, it would have changed the outcome of the championship naturally because we would have been in better competition in the next race if you add it on.

"So, I hope that's not the case."

In the end, Red Bull were found guilty of exceeding the budget cap by $2.2million, although an unclaimed tax credit offset that figure and brought it down to just over $430,000.

They signed an Accepted Breach Agreement with the FIA and took a $7million fine and 10% reduction in their wind tunnel and CFD quota.

Marko, during an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, hinted Hamilton had been way off target by implying Red Bull could have developed a new wing with the amount they had gone over the limit.

"It was the first year of the budget cap," said the Red Bull driver development chief. "The rules were vague. It was late to react with clarifications.

"We had everything checked by Ernst & Young. You have to rely on something.

"We believed we had a safety net of three million. In the end, only 400,000 dollars remained. With that money, Hamilton is building a front wing (grins). Haas are making a whole new car."

The budget-cap saga unfolded during the final weeks in the life of Red Bull company co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, whose death was announced on qualifying day for the United States Grand Prix.

Marko said Mateschitz had been aware of what was happening, but the 78-year-old passed before the conclusion of the cost-cap episode.

"A meeting was planned for the week after Mexico, but that didn't happen," reflected Marko.

"Mateschitz took such a beating in his entire career. Red Bull have been confronted with many accusations in the past years. So there is a certain fighting mood."

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