The expected publication of next year's Formula One line-up could hinge on the outcome of 'secret' talks between FIA president Max Mosley and the eight dissident teams still opposed to posting unconditional entries.
Unwilling to accede to Mosley's suggestion that they exchange their conditional entries - which call for the scrapping of the supposed 'two-tier' F1 that would be brought about by the president's budget-capping plan and the resolution of a new Concorde Agreement by today [12 June] - the eight remaining members of FOTA met with Mosley at an unnamed London location to try and hammer out a compromise that would allow them to take their places on the F1 grid in 2010.
With little sign of the stand-off abating prior to the talks, the top flight faces the spectre of many of its leading lights - including driving and design talent - heading to a proposed breakaway series, while the 2010 grid is repopulated by unproven 'wannabes', many of whom have resurrected names from the past - such as March, Brabham and Lotus - in a effort to add credence to their bids to replace the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.
The FIA has refused to comment on proceedings at the meeting, which is reported to have lasted for more than four hours, but the gathering is expected to be the final opportunity to resolve the differences of opinion and keep F1 intact. While Williams and Force India have since lodged unconditional entries for 2010 - moves which have seen them suspended as members of FOTA - the remainder of the current class is uncertain to be included, although the FIA insists that Ferrari, a name seen as highly valuable to the sport, is legally bound to appear until 2012. The future of McLaren, BMW-Sauber and current pacesetter Brawn GP remains unclear.
The Scuderia, along with Renault, Toyota and the two Red Bull-backed teams have been the most vocally-opposed to Mosley's budget cap plan, claiming that the technical benefits signing up to it may confer on rivals would lead to a two-tier split in the sport. The move has been proposed by Mosley in a bid both to cut the cost of competing in the wake of Honda's 2008 demise and, as a result, bring in new blood to swell the grid.
The FOTA teams, meanwhile, have said that they would be happy to remain in F1 provided that the budget cap rules are rethought and a new commercial agreement can be put in place - requests that Mosley has said cannot be granted before the publication of the entry list. As a result, the president has called on the dissidents to submit new, unconditional, entries that would see them included on the list, with the promise of rules talks to follow.
claims that various sources have suggested that one compromise could see the entry list published incomplete, with some entries unfilled pending further talks.
The news agency also claims that a letter, from Mosley to FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo, admits that the level at which the budget cap is set could be massaged to start at a higher level before following a 'glide path' to the FIA's desired £40m limit in future seasons. That, however, could alienate some of the ten or so organisations who have lodged bids to join the grid under tight cost-capping measures.
"We can agree that all the teams run under the same rules in 2010," the letter is alleged to concede, "These would be as published, but with the technical and sporting advantages offered to the cost-capped teams deleted. Instead of these advantages, we will facilitate know-how transfer between certain current teams and new entrants, at least for 2010, and possibly for 2011."
While all driver salaries currently remain exempt from inclusion in the capped budget, the teams have also called for one key employee, nominally the highly-paid designers, to remain outside the figures.
The outcome of the talks, however, will only be revealed when the FIA finally publishes the list of chosen teams for 2010.