Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he foresees 'the majority' of current Formula 1 teams not submitting an entry for the 2010 world championship when the stipulated deadline arrives on 29 May – as he admitted that he is 'concerned' at the prospect of Ferrari following through with their threat of walking away from the sport over the budget cap row.
With just eight days now remaining before the deadline, the teams and governing body remain intensely at loggerheads over Max Mosley's unpopular new £40 million cap set for introduction into the top flight next year, with further crisis talks due to be held in Monaco this weekend.
Whilst the FIA President argues F1 will not survive without such radical cost-cutting measures, the competitors in the guise of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) fear the move would engender a 'fundamentally unfair and perhaps even biased' two-tier F1 of haves and have-nots, likely penalising larger and richer entrants – with Ferrari and former double world champion Fernando Alonso suggesting it would significantly reduce the spectacle of what is at the moment the premier single-seater series the world over to that more akin to a junior category [see separate story – click here
Ferrari, Renault, Toyota and Red Bull have all vowed to withdraw should the rules not be amended, but Mosley is standing firm – leaving commercial rights-holder Ecclestone to surmise that entries are likely to be few and far between at the end of the month and that there will be no 'quick fix' to the enduring stalemate.
“We'll have to wait and see,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told international news agency Reuters
in Monte Carlo. “I think the majority probably won't put an entry in. We don't want to lose Ferrari. I hope it's unlikely, [but] I am concerned – I don't want them leaving. I don't think anybody does.”
In explaining the teams' stance, Toyota Motorsport President John Howett underlined the importance both of guarantees from the FIA and unanimity within FOTA, with an attempted walk-out during the Heathrow Airport meeting late last week scuppered when a number of team principals refused to join in.
“Governance is a fundamental issue [for Toyota],” the Englishman stressed, “and for us that's a principle that needs to be clarified before we can actually talk about the detail. The danger we had in the meeting [with Mosley] was being sucked into the detail.
“We need to just understand clearly among the members of FOTA what the position is. We need a tri-partite Concorde Agreement where it is absolutely clear how the regulatory framework can be changed – it's very simple. I don't think we want to actually dictate the rules, but those rules must be changed in compliance with a fixed structure which is legally binding. At the moment that is not the case.
“There is a high probability that we won't enter before the deadline, because I don't think that those items will be clarified. If nothing changes, I don't think that professionally it is possible to commit the company to do that. I can't recommend that in my position.
“With the investment we have and the social responsibility, we need at least a three-year vision of what we are participating in and what the future is and how it can be redefined. At the moment it is too uncertain.”