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Whitmarsh: F1 at a 'critical' point

Martin Whitmarsh leaves the Toyota motorhome after a meetingMcLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes Formula 1 is at a 'critical' point, with a boycott by manufacturers of lodging entries to the 2010 championship looking increasingly likely unless progress is made with the FIA in the next few weeks.

Although rival outfits have not joined Toyota's public confirmation that they will not lodge an entry to next year's championship by this month's deadline unless the rules are changed, there is intense debate going on behind closed doors about what to do.

Members of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) held a two-hour meeting in the Toyota motorhome at Barcelona on Sunday morning, and it is expected that the teams will meet again next week to discuss their next plan of action.

Speaking about the situation going forward following this week's two FOTA meetings, Whitmarsh said: "I think we are at a critical time for F1.

"FOTA has made a lot of progress, you never make as much progress as you want in these situations. I think that was the case this week, and we've got to continue to work together.

"It is inherently healthy and right for F1 that for the first time in the history of F1, the teams are sitting down and having sensible conversations about the health and wellbeing of our sport. There is a lot of challenge there and we have to continue to press."

Whitmarsh felt that Toyota's confirmation about its intention for the 2010 entry was not helpful to the situation, however, as the teams and the FIA seek a solution to the current dispute.

"I think we will keep our opinions to ourselves," he explained. "I think really making those sorts of comments probably isn't helpful.

"What F1 needs is a good sense coming together, and working together. I think there is enough challenge in F1 without us creating other problems for the sport.

"Clearly as is normal in life, there are a range of opinions, and the teams should be able to discuss that privately amongst themselves and engage in constructive conversations with the FIA. Holding that discussion via the media is not right the quite way for us to get a good outcome."

Whitmarsh was not the only team principal keen to keep the matter behind closed doors. When asked about his team's situation regarding an entry for 2010, BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said: "Our position is to talk about it within FOTA next week and then to announce what we do."

Although there is deep unhappiness about the possibility of a two-tier F1, Whitmarsh did concede that there was not full blown resistance to a budget cap.

"We operate with one now, and it is the one that the shareholders give me to go motor racing," he said. "Anyone who says they are not operating a budget cap is operating in an artificial world. There is a cap on what we can spend going motor racing.

"So the concept isn't foreign to any of us. At the moment F1 has to recognise the real challenges, even if you are part of a team that is facing a less of a fiscal challenge. It is important that we keep 10 teams or more in F1."

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