Troubled F1 2010 newcomer Hispania Racing (HRT) has left the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), arguing that it 'defends only the interests of the big teams' - but the umbrella organisation's general secretary insists that the real reason was that the financially-struggling Spanish outfit had defaulted on its membership fees.

Switzerland-based FOTA came into being midway through 2008 as a united front through which competitors could negotiate with governing body the FIA and commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone for F1's common good - and Hispania is the first team to head for the exit door.

"We left because FOTA defends only the interests of the big teams," lamented team principal Dr. Colin Kolles, arguing that whilst all teams pay the same entry costs, there is too much discrepancy in the distribution of the sport's television rights money.

"For our interests, it is better not to be there," added an HRT spokeswoman. "It's more for the big teams than the small ones."

However, FOTA general secretary Simone Perillo has offered a different interpretation of the divorce, telling Reuters that 'Hispania Racing F1 Team did not fulfil their 2010 FOTA membership fee obligations' - although he refused to divulge exactly how much of the EUR100,000 annual payment remained unsettled.

HRT is widely-considered to have the smallest budget in the paddock, and despite having signed up Narain Karthikeyan - who has not competed at the highest level for five years - and Kolles' protestations that the Murcia-based operation will make the pre-season F1 2011 group tests, there is still considerable cynicism and a general consensus that the team's presence on the grid this coming season will only be believed once it is seen.