Bernie Ecclestone has called upon Formula 1's teams and governing body to stop the public 'mud-slinging' in which they have been engaged of late over the escalating budget cap war, as the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) meets again today (Monday) in an effort to avert an impending crisis threatening to tear the sport apart.

Max Mosley has given the rebel FOTA competitors until this Friday (19 June) to remove the 'conditional' nature of their entries to the 2010 world championship, after they submitted their bids contingent upon the FIA President abandoning the introduction of his controversial ?40 million budget cap next year, something he has repeatedly insisted is not an option.

What's more, the Englishman seemed to resort to his favoured divide-and-conquer method in naming five of the remaining FOTA teams as 'conditional' and the other three - Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso - as being entered regardless, a move seen as a provocation and one that was swiftly countered by angry and blunt denials.

Whilst Mosley contends that without his radical cost-cutting initiative no new teams would be willing to join the grid and F1 would ultimately implode as a result of years of extravagant over-expenditure, FOTA's argument is that it would be simply unworkable for outfits that currently spend as much as ?150 million to ?200 million a year to slash their annual budget to a mere ?40 million in time for the start of next season, advocating rather a more gentle sliding scale of cost reduction.

Moreover, the debate has now moved on to the topic of Mosley's governance of the sport, with the general conviction amongst competitors being that the 69-year-old has become too autocratic and dictatorial and that a revolution is required, believing that forcing through his latest reform without first consulting the teams over it was unacceptable and set a dangerous precedent.

Indeed, with the backing of the Board of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) [see separate story - click here], FOTA has appealed to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in what has been seen as an effort to bypass Mosley - and with some calling for the FIA President's head as he refuses to back down and the spectre of a manufacturer-spearheaded breakaway series looming ever larger should no satisfactory resolution be found to the row, the situation appears ever-more perilous.

"The problem with Formula 1 will be solved with a responsible FIA, as we want, or organising our own championship," Ferrari and FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo told Reuters, pushing for dramatic changes to the present 'grey' rules within F1 to 'prevent the sport [from] being destroyed'. "When you have engines, gearboxes, brands, technology and ability to invest, starting [a new championship] is not difficult."

FOTA members are due to meet again at Heathrow today to begin a week of talks with the FIA aimed at avoiding a split, something Toyota President John Howett has described as a 'worst-case scenario' - but a scenario nonetheless.

Though Mosley has sought to play down the menace of a breakaway series, the FOTA dissenters are adamant that they are 'not bluffing' and that in the absence of an agreeable compromise F1 'runs a high risk of alienating and losing a number of teams' - and they are even understood to have held discussions with MotoGP organiser Carmelo Ezpeleta of Dorna in a move that reinforces their credibility and determination.

"The difference this time is that all the big teams are united against Max," an insider told British newspaper The Times. "The normal divide-and-rule tactics have not worked."

"All our problems stem from one problem - there isn't a balanced and correct governance system in place," added Howett, with Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore concurring: "We accept the need to cut costs in Formula 1 and we are happy to have new teams, but not like this. We are confusing our sponsors and the audience."

Other sources of dispute are the 'cost commission' that would be set up to police the capped teams' budgets, essentially giving the governing body the power to pry into competitors' financial affairs, with a letter from FOTA to the FIA stating: 'The publication of absolute team budget figures risks inflicting serious damage to the value of existing teams and has significantly reduced the fees that can be charged to sponsors.'

There is similarly said to be concern about the impartiality or otherwise of prominent FIA steward Alan Donnelly, a man who became embroiled in controversy over the Lewis Hamilton Belgian Grand Prix penalty last year. According to former ITV-F1 commentator James Allen's internet blog, a letter has been published in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in which FOTA complained about Donnelly having allegedly applied pressure on each of the teams individually to sign up unconditionally for 2010 over the weekend of the Turkish Grand Prix.

The FIA has also come under fire, finally, from N.Technology, which claims its entry for next year was not handled responsibly or with due care, with important documents being lost. Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone, however, has called for calm.

"I would ask everyone, instead of throwing mud at each other in public or behind each other's backs, to just be quiet and let things settle down a bit," the sport's commercial rights-holder is quoted as having said by Flagworld.