Norbert Haug has stressed that the survival of independent teams in Formula 1 is vital to the future livelihood of the sport, describing such concerns as Williams and Force India as 'the heart of Formula 1, not just cannon fodder'.

An increasing number of privateer squads have gone to the wall over the past decade or so, with Super Aguri the most recent outfit to close its doors, meeting a similar fate as had done such as Prost, Forti Corse, Pacific, Simtek and Lola in recent years.

In an era in which the top flight's ten teams are more than ever having to collaborate and work together - with FIA President Max Mosley's request that between them they come up with a new set of regulations to govern F1 in the years to come - and the subsequent creation of the Formula 1 Teams' Association (FOTA), Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Haug has underlined that 'solutions lie in togetherness'.

FOTA is scheduled to meet in Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix next week, to discuss ways in which the teams can cut costs, improve energy efficiency and guarantee a better spectacle in F1, before presenting their argument to the World Motor Sport Council in October.

"We have all recognised that solutions lie in togetherness," Haug told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport on the subject of FOTA, whose figurehead is Luca di Montezemolo, president of McLaren-Mercedes' recent sworn and bitter rival Ferrari.

"We support it and stand fully behind it. There is a high degree of common ground among the teams which should be capitalised upon."

Despite the fact that Mercedes and BMW are the only manufacturers currently participating in the uppermost echelon who have never sold engines to customer teams, Haug is insistent that he has 'always been a supporter' of the privateers.

"They are the heart of Formula 1," the 55-year-old stated, "not just cannon fodder."

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