The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) has expressed its 'sadness' and 'disappointment' that Toyota has 'unexpectedly' elected to withdraw from F1 competition with immediate effect - but explained that it understands the 'financial pressures' the Japanese car maker found itself under, and envisioned 'a better 2010' for the sport.

The top flight has indeed been rocked over the last twelve months by the departures of firstly Honda, then BMW and now - on consecutive days - Bridgestone and Toyota, as the fall-out from the debilitating global credit crunch continues to take a heavy toll on the automotive industry in particular. There remain doubts over Renault's ongoing participation at the highest level, with some speculation that the French giant called an extraordinary general meeting today (Wednesday) to discuss the future of its Enstone-based F1 operation.

Whilst it was anticipated - and outgoing FIA President Max Mosley had hinted - that one or two manufacturers might leave the fray, for four big names to go in such a short space of time has undeniably dealt a hammer blow to F1, meaning the drastic cost-cutting measures jointly pioneered by FOTA and the governing body can evidently not come soon enough.

'The Formula One Teams' Association today expressed sadness at the unexpected decision by Toyota to withdraw from Formula One and be absent from the 2010 World Championship,' read an official statement. 'Toyota has made a significant contribution to the success of Formula One for the past eight seasons, having recorded a number of podium finishes and other points-scoring results in that time.

'Regrettably, notwithstanding Toyota's commitment to compete until 2012 deriving from the signature of the Concorde Agreement, the particular financial pressures within the car manufacturing industry - together with a period of uncertainty and unnecessary confrontation in F1 that is now finally over - created conditions which have made it difficult for Toyota to stay in the sport at this time.

'We hope very much that Toyota will return to the world's most technologically-advanced racing competition in the not-too distant future, but in the meantime every effort must be made by the sport's management to ensure that the 2010 season is as successful as we all hope. These efforts should include ensuring that the 2010 grid remains fully-subscribed - and we should remember that there are still more teams entered than in any year since 1995 - and that our sport remains a focus for technological innovation and competitive racing. The departure of an important car manufacturer cannot be underestimated, and its reasons need to be addressed.

'All the FOTA teams send sincere messages of goodwill to all at Toyota - staff, drivers and sponsors - and thank them for the positive contribution they have made to Formula One in recent years. FOTA also wishes to put on-record its thanks to John Howett for his great passion and his fundamental contribution, in his role as Vice-Chairman of FOTA, in helping to negotiate the new Concorde Agreement, securing longer-term stability in F1's rules and a more constructive, collaborative environment with all stakeholders.'