With Formula 1 increasingly feeling the pinch from the current global economic crisis, Toyota has dropped a hint that it could become the first of the sport's major manufacturers to pull the plug.

Only a matter of weeks ago it was asserted by Williams CEO Adam Parr that 'there is a serious possibility that one or two teams may pull out and they could be manufacturer teams' given that 'what is broken in Formula 1 is, in broad terms, the revenue available to the teams is less than the costs of participating in the sport' [see separate story - click here].

Now, in the wake of the FIA's dramatic new standardised engine proposals for 2010 and beyond, Toyota has suggested it could be preparing itself for a withdrawal from F1 - possibly to return to Le Mans.

The big budget Japanese manufacturer entered the top flight in 2002, but has yet to register its maiden victory. Whilst it has not prevailed at Le Mans either, it did produce front-running appearances in the iconic round-the-clock La Sarthe classic in both 1998 and 1999.

According to US website Motor Authority, Toyota has been left particularly disillusioned by the single engine supply idea, with the Cologne-based outfit's motorsport president John Howett admitting such a move 'would be a reason' for leaving F1.

Moreover, German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reports that Toyota is considering a return to sportscar circles instead of F1. A dozen Toyota engineers were spied at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours reputedly sizing up the opposition, whilst company officials met with organising body the ACO during the American Le Mans Series round in Detroit in August.

"We would like to go back to Le Mans," confirmed Toyota F1 team principal Tadashi Yamashina. "The final decision is budgetary.

"Under the present economic conditions, it is unlikely that we could do Formula 1and Le Mans in a parallel fashion."

Meanwhile, Renault managing director Flavio Briatore has suggested the standardised engine idea is no longer a viable option following the FIA-FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) meeting in Geneva last week.

The Italian explained in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that a compromise had been reached whereby the sport would 'probably' go down the route of a future engine formula that 'on the basis of costs, will not go beyond certain development borders'.

Briatore added that a similar approach would likely be taken regarding transmissions, with the manufacturers to supply independent teams 'at a reasonable price'.

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