BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen has conceded that the Bavarian marque could well join rivals Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and Red Bull in quitting Formula 1 'if the framework and conditions change greatly' – after the team's worst-ever qualifying performance as a manufacturer in its own right in Monaco this weekend.
Though the enduring stalemate between governing body the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) may be making what has been described as 'small progress' by way of discussions regarding the controversial £40 million budget cap in the Principality, still no resolution has been found, with time now fast running out before the 29 May stipulated deadline for all 2010 entries to be lodged.
Whilst FIA President Max Mosley insists that the move is vital to safeguarding the future of F1 in the present economic climate and to enticing new teams to enter the sport, its existing competitors fear its optional nature would engender a confusing 'two-tier' championship of haves and have-nots. Moreover, Theissen has underlined that 'in one go you cannot just evaporate by a factor of three', alluding to the fact that some outfits currently spend well in excess of the new suggested limit and would simply be unable to reduce their outgoings sufficiently in time for the 2010 campaign, thereby likely placing them at a disadvantage compared to their capped rivals who will benefit from greater 'technical freedoms'.
Despite denying that the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's abject performance thus far this season would prove the catalyst for a pull-out – with Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica respectively lining up just 17th and 18th on the starting grid around the narrow, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo – the German did hint that BMW's continued participation at the highest level depends very much on the outcome of the ongoing dispute.
“It was positive to have Friday's meeting [with Mosley] and to discuss the issues,” he told the BBC
, “but we have not arrived at a decision. If the framework and the conditions change greatly that would be a reason for us to review the project.
“This has been the worst qualifying performance we have had. [It] reflects the problems we already faced in free practice here in Monaco. No matter which set-up or on what tyre compound, neither of our cars was able to achieve the necessary grip. Our data shows the tyres never reached their operating temperatures.
“Positions 17 and 18 are disappointing [and] we have a lot of work ahead of us. We are analysing the reasons behind this, but I don't have an explanation yet. However, this is a single event and has nothing to do with long-term strategy.”
Theissen's clear disappointment was shared by his drivers, with both having ascended the rostrum in the Monaco Grand Prix before – Kubica in second place last year and Heidfeld in the same position with Williams back in 2005 – but both equally well aware that barring a miracle, a similar result this time around is little more than a pipe dream around the most difficult circuit on the calendar on which to overtake. And miracles, Kubica pointed out, rarely occur.
“We have been struggling for a long time,” conceded the Pole, widely tipped as a title contender prior to the start of the campaign after battling for the laurels for much of last year, but still to notch up his first points in 2009. “This is not a problem that was born two days ago. We want a miracle to happen, but I don't think they happen so often, especially when we're talking about performance in F1.