Lotus F1 co-owner Gerard Lopez has admitted that the sport needs to find a solution to current disagreements over the controversial Resource Restriction Agreement or face more withdrawals from the teams' association.
Speaking in the wake of the opening test of the season, and aware that Ferrari, Red Bull, Sauber and Toro Rosso
have all joined minnow HRT on the outside of FOTA in recent months, Lopez insisted that a workable RRA, complete with means of monitoring teams, needed to be put in place before unity could be restored - and hinted that it was not only Lotus questioning the viability of the once unified teams' group.
"It's not a question of numbers, it's more a question of deciding once and for all what it has to be and then making sure that everybody respects it," the Genii Capital CEO told ESPNF1
, "I'm not going to give you a number because, at the end of the day, a lot of people have tried that before and not succeeded in targeting the right number.
"However, it would be good for the sport, [as] we see it in other sports - the NBA has a very successful salary cap and so forth. I think there would be nothing wrong with having a high one, but saying this is it and evening up the playing field. If you put the right way of checking, you also get the right answers. It's just a question of whether you are willing to do it or not."
As things stand, however, even for a midfield team like Lotus, Lopez does not believe it is possible for an F1 team to turn a profit.
"I hate to say it, but I don't think it is," he conceded, "It's probably as close as you will get to being neutral because, either you have a very strict Resource Restriction Agreement, in which case you could [be profitable]. But, if not, you're racing for sponsors and racing for points and racing for money at the end of the day - whatever you get, you invest to try to make your car faster. That is kind of a conundrum, a very difficult question to answer."
As a result of the uncertainty over the RRA - with teams claiming that they are toeing the line financially, but also suspecting their rivals of not doing the same - Lopez admitted that leaving FOTA was an option open to all.
"I think everybody else has [considered it]," he opined, "We've certainly considered it, but we haven't decided yet what we're going to do."
Despite the defections, which F1 insiders fear could lead to conflict when it comes to signing a new Concorde Agreement, FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh insists that relationships between all twelve teams remain cordial, with such FOTA innovations as the summer factory shut-down still set to be respected - a point reinforced by Peter Sauber just this week.
"We are in constant contact with all the other teams and discuss any important issues, like the [Resource Restriction Agreement]," the Swiss confirmed, "It definitely has not become easier for the smaller teams, [but] to cut costs in F1 is a very difficult and thorny issue. The RRA was a step in the right direction, but now other steps must urgently follow..."