Toyota is prepared to walk away from Formula 1 if the FIA pursues its controversial budget cap initiative from 2010 onwards, claiming that a two-tier system 'is not the right direction' for the sport to be taking, makes no 'common sense' and 'would make a huge number of people redundant'.
The proposal – which was formally ratified by the governing body's World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in Paris a week-and-a-half ago – has been conceived in an effort to entice new entrants into the top flight and ensure that no more teams follow Honda's lead in pulling out as the global credit crunch takes its toll. The premise is that those competitors wishing to adhere to the optional £40 million cap will benefit from greater technical freedoms and unrestricted out-of-season testing, which will be unavailable to their unlimited-budget rivals.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has angrily branded the plans 'fundamentally unfair and perhaps even biased', with BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen agreeing that 'a two-class Formula 1 is not attractive to BMW', since 'in one go you cannot just evaporate by a factor of three'.
Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn and Williams director of engineering Patrick Head have also both expressed their fears that a two-tier system would be confusing and difficult to police, and would effectively create a situation of haves and have-nots – but Toyota has become the first team to categorically threaten to quit over the move.
The FIA has stipulated that all entries for the 2010 campaign must be lodged by 29 May, but it has already been suggested that the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) – which has demanded 'urgent' talks with Max Mosley on the matter, and of which Toyota Motorsport President John Howett is vice-chairman – is intending to boycott that. The Englishman's comments in Barcelona this weekend will only serve to add fuel to the fire.
“If nothing changes, we won't be submitting an entry,” he is quoted as having said by international news agency Reuters
, “but I don't think that is a unique opinion among other competitors. I think it's very clear that with a double-tier championship, you have to go for the £40 million cap because the [capped] cars will be quicker.
“As a corporation it's not only budget, it's about the value of Formula 1 – and we think the double-tier series is not the right direction. The regulations were announced, but if you read the regulations there is a proper process that should be followed – and our understanding is that that hasn't been done. There are a number of issues that need to be clarified before we can enter.”
Like many of his counterparts in other teams, Howett stressed that the retention of a level playing field is the primary concern, but there is also the issue of staffing numbers and infrastructure – with many of the leading outfits currently employing in excess of 600 people and boasting annual budgets in the region of £100 million to £200 million.
He went on to point to the significant steps made by FOTA in recent months regarding cost-cutting in what is the world's most expensive sport – and conceded that his faith in the amount of 'common sense' employed by F1's rule-makers is dwindling by the minute.