Independent Formula 1 team Williams insists that it remains staunchly opposed to the concept of supplying other teams with 'customer cars' in the top flight - despite the reputed loss of one of its key sponsors for 2009.

The Grove-based outfit is the only team in the grand prix paddock without either a major car manufacturer or billionaire funding it, and on top of a reported $88m loss over the past two years, it has now been claimed that Chinese computer maker Lenovo - a prominent Williams sponsor since 2007 - is set to jump ship to McLaren-Mercedes next season.

That comes on top of the possible loss of Petrobras, which was similarly expected to switch camps to the now moribund Honda concern, but the former multiple world champions have revealed that they have conversely extended their agreement with Swiss watch maker Oris and retained the backing of title sponsor AT&T as well as Philips, Allianz and Accenture. There are doubts, however, as to the security of deals with RBS and Icelandic group Baugur, both of whom are feeling the pinch of the current global credit crunch.

Honda became the sport's first victim to the worsening economic situation, and though there are concerns that one or more further teams could disappear before the start of the 2009 campaign - 'and there is a very high chance it will be a manufacturer', Williams CEO Adam Parr has contended - the Oxfordshire squad is adamant that customer cars are not the way forward.

"There is the scope for teams to put three cars on the grid," Parr acknowledged in an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, "and if we have eight teams with three cars, that's 24 cars which is four more than we have had this year.

"Williams would rather compete on equal terms with constructors and take our chances, though, than mess around with customer teams."

An opposing view has been expressed, however, by the sport's much-loved veteran commentator Murray Walker, who sought to underline that an initiative for teams to run three cars would not increase the financial stress in a climate in which everybody is endeavouring to rein in expenditure.

"The overheads are going to be the same," the 85-year-old told the BBC. "Yes, using a third car is going to be a bit more expensive, but if the cost-cutting measures that are hopefully going to be implemented work, then there will be some money left over.

"It's better than Formula 1 disappearing altogether."


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