Toyota Motorsport Vice-President John Howett has sought to stress that the ongoing budget cap stand-off is not a power-play struggle between the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and the FIA – insisting that all the former is seeking is 'sensible governance' and 'to improve the sport for the long-term'.
Toyota is one of five teams to have been lodged as 'conditional' entries for the 2010 world championship campaign on the preliminary list released by the sport's governing body on Friday [see separate story – click here
], with the condition being that FIA President Max Mosley abandon the introduction of his controversial cost-cutting initiative for 2010, something the Englishman has insisted is not
an option, even if he has professed himself willing to raising the upper limit to as much as €100 million.
Indeed, all eight remaining FOTA members submitted conditional bids for next year, but three of them – Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso – have been contentiously listed as unconditional, against the teams' will and completely ignoring their opposition to the new regulations. Mosley has allowed the dissenters until Friday, 19 June 'to lift those conditions following further discussions' or risk being omitted from the final selection.
That raises the prospect of a separate, manufacturer-spearheaded breakaway series, which Howett underlines is very real – if a 'worst-case scenario'. Aside from the argument that reducing annual budgets that are in some cases as high as £150 million to £200 million to just £40 million in time for the start of the 2010 season would simply be unworkable, of potentially even greater significance now is that FOTA is calling for the governance of the top flight to be completely re-examined, with Mosley's increasingly autocratic and dictatorial manner coming in for considerable criticism and some understood to be looking for a way to remove him from his highly influential position.
The fact that the Englishman forced through his new plans without first consulting the teams over them has put more than a few noses out of joint, but Howett repeats that the enduring stalemate is not
an effort by FOTA to seize control of the sport.
“We're all very sad we're not focusing on the racing and what's exciting about Formula 1,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live
, “but I really believe FOTA's ambition is to improve the sport for the long-term. What we primarily want is a sensible basis of governance so that the regulations aren't changed willy-nilly, so there is involvement of the teams in a proper process and that process is not deviated from.
“We do feel there is a risk in involving financial forensic control in the sporting regulations and in deciding a championship. It's not about power or FOTA running the sport. What we're saying is we want a proper and balanced governance process, because at times that's lacking.”
Mosley has accused FOTA of trying to stand in the way of new teams joining the grid in opposing cost-cutting – with USF1, Manor and Campos all having been included on the provisional 2010 list of successful applicants – but Howett argued that northing could in fact be further from the truth.
“We welcome new teams,” he asserted. “You have to say Brawn have done a fantastic job, and without the great support of McLaren and Mercedes they wouldn't have been there. There are other teams that get a lot of support from the manufacturers…and I do dispute strongly that we hold the sport to ransom. It is quite the opposite. We make a huge effort to add value and improve the total balance in the sport.”