McLaren-Mercedes 'would not want to do anything which potentially jeopardises' the chances of Sauber continuing in F1 following BMW's departure at the end of the season, Martin Whitmarsh has insisted - a declaration that puts the Woking-based outfit somewhat at odds with fellow former world champions Williams.

Sauber is currently waiting anxiously to see if it will be allowed to compete in 2010, following the announcement back in the summer that parent company BMW is to pull the plug on its F1 involvement after this weekend's inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale and the subsequent rescue bid by mysterious investment consortium Qadbak.

However, that may all yet come to nought should governing body the FIA not grant the Swiss operation the right to occupy a theoretical 14th slot on the starting grid next year, after the place that would ordinarily have been taken by BMW-Sauber was allocated in the meantime to Lotus F1.

Williams has vetoed Peter Sauber's request for the field to be expanded to 14 teams in 2010 - much to the 66-year-old team founder's anger and frustration [see separate story - click here] - but McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed that McLaren would by contrast offer no such opposition to the proposal.

"We have a lot of sympathy for all the people who work in Hinwil," the Englishman explained, speaking during a special pre-Abu Dhabi Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In Session. "They have the facilities there and a good group of people and they have worked very hard over the years, and certainly McLaren would not want to do anything which potentially jeopardises their possibility to continue in the sport. It would be damaging to the sport to lose a well-facilitated team such as them.

"We would agree to 14 teams if the 14th team was them; we would help to facilitate that. In the event that they or any other team failed, we would like to see the number of teams reduced because 14 is not the optimum number - but we would make an exception in the case of Sauber."

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