Having confirmed that it has no intention of following Japanese rival Honda out of Formula One in the near future, Toyota has switched its focus to backing the campaign for a bigger slice of the sport's financial pie.
Backing Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, team chief John Howett told Britain's Times
newspaper that it was time for a review of how F1's income is divided up between the teams, the commercial rights holders and other interested parties, as it is felt that the Bernie Ecclestone-controlled Formula One Management takes too big a proportion and threatens the future of not only the sport's participants, but also some of the long-standing events that make up its calendar.
“I think the majority position in [teams' association] FOTA is that people feel that the revenue for a modern professional sport is normally distributed more in favour of the participants than the property holder or the commercial rights-holder,” vice-chairman Howett pointed out, “People want to open that discussion and achieve a much more consistent balance with the status in many other professional sports.”
It is estimated that Ecclestone's operation retains around half of all incomes generated by F1, with the rest divided between several groups, including the ten remaining teams according to how they have performed on track. However, with Super Aguri haven fallen by the wayside in May and Honda now having pulled the plug on its factory team, Howett - who repeated the claim that Toyota would continue despite its parent company looking set to post a rare operating loss - insisted that a revised share-out was needed.
“That is something we need to discuss and understand,” he said, pointing out the Howett, who said that Champions League competitors share out 'upwards of 96-97 per cent of revenues, "What is the added value for the [FOM's] 50 per cent?. What is that bringing to us and does that enable us to enhance the business? If we want to see Formula One differentiated uniquely from a GP2-type series, there should be some reinvestment in the core infrastructure and participation in the sport.”
Formula One had been threatened with an increasing number of 'spec' components in an effort to reduce the cost of competing, causing uproar amongst the bigger, manufacturer-backed, operations, who felt that their individuality - and the ability to exploit F1 for marketing purposes - was being distilled by a move to a GP2-style 'single make' series.
Speculation remains that other teams could follow SAF1 and Honda out of the sport before the 2009 season starts in Australia next March, and Howett believes that Ecclestone - who, on Monday, revealed that Montezemolo's Ferrari gets a bigger slice of the pie that its rivals - could be trying to undermine the new-found strength of unity achieved by the teams in opposition to some of the rule proposals aired of late.
“[Ecclestone] may be trying to [cause a schism within FOTA], but all the information that was given is very transparent and openly shared among the members, so it was a bit of a non-event because everybody is aware of the historic status [of Ferrari],” Howett insisted.
Ecclestone earlier claimed that Formula One had 'bought' Ferrari's loyalty when it broke away from the manufacturers' proposed rival to the top flight, with the Italian outfit 'rewarded' with a higher proportion of income that its peers.
Toyota yesterday reported that it is projecting an operating loss of $1.7bn for the fiscal year ending on 31 March 2009, and has slashed its global vehicle sales forecast by 700,000, blaming the current global economic crisis for the figures.