It is being rumoured within the Formula 1 paddock that both Prodrive and Epsilon Euskadi could be granted slots on the 2010 starting grid, depending upon the fate of BMW-Sauber.

There are currently twelve confirmed teams for 2010 and space for a 13th, but whilst Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore has stressed that the R?gie is fully committed to the top flight for the near future [see separate story - click here], there remain serious doubts regarding Toyota's ongoing participation.

Over the weekend, the Cologne-based concern's motorsport president John Howett revealed that the big-budget Japanese outfit's 2010 budget has not yet been agreed with the parent company, and nor is it likely to be until later this year. Some remain convinced that it is a matter of when rather than if Toyota follows Honda and BMW out of the exit door.

Such a scenario would potentially free up two available places on next season's grid, and grandprix.com muses that Prodrive and Epsilon Euskadi are very much in the pound seats. Both missed out on graduation when governing body the FIA announced USF1, Campos and Manor as the three successful initial applicants back in June, but both are equally understood to have access to the necessary funding to make the F1 grade, as well as the requisite calibre and pedigree.

David Richards' independent Prodrive operation has been on the verge of securing a place in the paddock for some years and, it is widely deemed, is the most well-equipped of any team outside of F1 to make the leap. Epsilon Euskadi, meanwhile, is run by respected former Benetton and Prost team manager Joan Villadelprat, and is believed to be next in-line to join the grid should any of the current entries pull out or run into difficulties.

It has also been reported that rather than shutting down its F1 factory in Hinwil, BMW could convert the premises into a research and development centre for its new environmentally-friendly road car models.

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