Toyota's future in Formula 1 is not guaranteed, AUTOSPORT has learned, with the signing off of the team's 2010 budget by its parent car company being postponed until later this year.
Although the Japanese car manufacturer has signed the Concorde Agreement, which in theory commits it to F1 until the end of 2012, it has emerged that the team has not yet had its finances for next season officially signed off.
Toyota F1 president John Howett confirmed the delay to AUTOSPORT, and said that the worldwide economic downturn that has affected the car manufacturer meant there was now severe pressure to cut costs.
"We have submitted the budget and because of the economic situation, the Toyota group wants to wait for the full half year of the current financial year [before signing it off]," he said. "I am honestly expecting severe pressure on budget."
AUTOSPORT understands that there is a board meeting in Japan in the middle of November where 2010 budgets will be discussed - which means a firm decision on the F1 plans may have to wait until after the current season has finished.
That situation has prompted speculation in the Valencia paddock that Toyota chiefs could spring a surprise and opt to follow Honda and BMW in pulling out of Formula 1.
Such rumours have intensified with Toyota driver Jarno Trulli himself suggesting in Valencia that he thought another car maker could leave the sport
"In this economic crisis, nothing is sure," said Trulli, whose contract talks with Toyota for next year have stalled. "If you look back over the last year it is a disaster. Honda has pulled out, BMW has pulled out, and probably they will not be the only one.
"I think you can expect anything. Nothing is sure at the moment, because there are plenty of things which have happened, and from one day to another the situation changes."
He added: "You need to wait because no one knows what they can do for next year yet. Everyone has probably signed [the Concorde Agreement], I'm not really into it, but I personally think anything can happen."
Howett has, however, moved to play talk of Toyota quitting - although drew short of saying that anything was definite.
When asked if he felt the Toyota board's response to the budget request would be to cut the F1 programme totally, he said: "I don't believe so.
"We've signed [the Concorde Agreement] and we should be here for three years."