Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn has called for all F1 team principals to work harder to reach agreement on possible cost-cutting measures so that the sport can feature twelve healthy competitors.
Buoyed by Sergio Perez's surprise second place in the recent Malaysian Grand Prix, Sauber has the potential to elevate itself into F1's top five outfits, but Kaltenborn, the only female CEO in the still male-dominated paddock, admits that more has to be done to ensure the survival not only of the smaller competing teams, but also competition itself.
"I think the question is not about how long [the smaller teams] can survive, but how much longer it will take for the big teams to understand that the smaller teams are just as important to F1 as the four big ones," she told the official F1 website, "If the situation of the smaller teams is not good - and I would go so far as saying that we are all in a similar situation compared to the big four - then this is not good for the sport.
"The challenge is to create parameters which will allow all teams that are here today to run sustainably, to stay in the sport and to have the ability to use whatever assets they have to compete at more or less a similar level."
Although the Formula One Teams' Association provided unified opposition to several contentious decisions that the sport's governing body was looking to push through over the past few years, it was seriously weakened at the end of the 2011 campaign when Ferrari
and Red Bull
announced that they were to leave over concerns about the Resource Restriction Agreement put in place in a bid to prevent spending from escalating out of control. Their decisions all but forced the closely-tied Sauber and Toro Rosso
teams to follow suit and, with HRT already on the outside, FOTA was left with just seven serviceable members.
Despite the defection, however, Kaltenborn insists that Sauber - and the others - remain committed to finding a solution to the spending problem, especially if it meant allowing the teams more freedom to experiment.
"At the end of the day, I think [a budget cap is the answer]," she admitted, "We started it with the Resource Restriction Agreement, and that in itself was already an important step, but of course it is far from the only one you need.
"We now have to evolve it to the next step and, in my view, the future should indeed lie in some kind of budget cap under which each and every team could do what they want, because we all have different strengths. Looking at our team, for example, we have a good infrastructure and a good wind tunnel, so it would allow us to benefit from that. Others have other assets. Overall, I think it would make F1 more interesting as it would also mean that we would all use different strategies and take different approaches to the business and the sport."
Despite the wrangling - Ferrari
and Red Bull
left FOTA for different reasons both linked to the existing RRA - Kaltenborn remains hopeful that a swift solution can be found, perhaps tying it in to the negotiations over a renewed Concorde Agreement.
"I think that we should have the next step already in place for next season and take it from there," she said, "Next season for me should already see a major step forward in the financial feasibility of a team. When the current Concorde Agreement comes to an end at the end of this season, I think it would be a good time to set some kind of rules.
"I think the biggest hurdle is us, the teams, but I think, by now, even the big teams should appreciate that F1 with four teams would not be overwhelmingly attractive to fans. That would be a very wrong message. So my hope - and I have to say that most of them have already supported the RRA and have now signalled that they would give their support to taking the next step - is that something is happening very soon."