Toyota has become the first team to confirm it is unlikely to enter the 2010 world championship unless 'significant' compromises are made to plans for a voluntary budget cap for next season
Amid increasing unhappiness from teams about the decision of the FIA to impose a two-tier budget cap system next year, with a number of outfits evaluating whether or not to hold back on entering the 2010 championship, Toyota president John Howett has said his team was currently not in a position to commit for next year.
Teams only have until May 29 to confirm whether or not they will enter 2010, although there is a chance they could be allowed in at a later date.
"Under the rules as they are published, we cannot submit an entry," he told AUTOSPORT in an exclusive interview. "There are concerns about the governance process within the sport, that there are clearly prescribed areas of discussion within the sporting and technical rules and we don't feel they are being complied with.
"From Toyota's perspective there are a number of concerns that really need clarifications before we commit to the future. We want to be here. We believe we have been a good corporate citizen within the F1 environment, but now we must reflect long and hard on what we do in the future."
When asked to clarify what the chances were of Toyota lodging an entry by the end of this month, Howett said: "I would say it is very likely we won't enter unless something changes significantly."
AUTOSPORT understands that FOTA members have discussed the possibility of a block boycott of entries for 2010 while discussions between teams and the FIA continue about implementing a future budget cap that is acceptable to everyone.
Furthermore, high level sources have hinted to AUTOSPORT that Ferrari is seriously evaluating a future outside F1 - having been left furious at both the imposition of a budget cap and the manner in which it has been introduced.
There are suggestions that some teams believe the FIA using last week's FIA World Motor Sport Council to push through the 2010 regulations went against official protocol - and also could be a breach of a 'veto' right that Ferrari is believed to have relating to future regulation changes it received as part of an agreement signed with Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA in 2005.
It is this right that di Montezemolo is believed to have been referring to in a letter he sent to FIA president Max Mosley last week detailing an agreement Ferrari had with the FIA confirming that the team would maintain contractual rights that existed under the 1998 Concorde Agreement.
"As you know additional rights were also granted to Ferrari on the same occasion and reconfirmed at a later stage," added di Montezemolo.
While time is running out for teams to settle their differences with the FIA, Howett conceded that his outfit felt comfortable about the possibility of switching to other categories.
In recent months, the Japanese manufacturer has been linked with a return to Le Mans - having last raced there in 1999. The company is believed to feel it has unfinished business at the French classic, having failed to win with its GT-One car.
Coincidentally, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is to be the official starter at this year's Le Mans race amid suggestions he too could be seeing sportscars as the future for his team's racing programme.
Howett said: "I believe there are many other activities that we could undertake. We are a motorsport team and I think we are not against cost saving, we are not necessarily against budget cap but it depends how it is administered.
"It is value that is intrinsically important. What is the value of the environment we are competing in? There are many alternatives we can consider.
"Our real heart is to remain in F1, but now we have to start considering what are the best alternatives and discussing with the other manufacturer teams what their opinion is and what their intentions are."
FOTA is still pressing ahead with plans to implement dramatic cost cuts in F1, and hopes to submit proposals to the FIA within the next fortnight.
Howett added: "I think within Toyota we are really relaxed. We want to remain here, we want to be here next year, but if it is felt we are not welcome then we have got lots of other things we can do.
"We can be as competitive and happy doing that, so hopefully common sense will prevail. But we are becoming increasingly concerned about whether common sense does exist."
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