Lotus could become the next team to withdraw from the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA). Already departed are HRT, Sauber and Toro Rosso and also the top teams Red Bull and Ferrari, leaving fellow grandees McLaren, Mercedes and the others on the wrong side of their competitors’ former unity.
Now, this week, team owner Gerard Lopez has been quoted as admitting that Lotus is contemplating pulling out.
The reasons for the withdrawals appear different, with Red Bull having been accused of breaching the gentleman’s Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) and Ferrari rumoured to want to use its individual power to shape the future of the sport’s rules and structure.
The formerly BMW-owned Sauber, however, insisted that recent cost-cutting in Formula One has not made it easier for smaller teams to survive.
“The RRA was a step in the right direction, but now other steps must urgently follow,” he told F1’s official website. “It definitely has not become easier for the smaller teams.”
But beneath the surface, unity has not broken down completely, argues McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh, who doubles as the FOTA chairman. It is true, for example, that the new non-FOTA members will continue to respect aspects of the body’s agreements, such as the summer factory closure.
“I’m not too hung up on the brand ‘FOTA’,” Whitmarsh said recently. “I think what’s important is that the teams realise there are critical issues within this sport where it will be better if we cooperate and take sensible decisions, and I hope and believe that we’ll continue to do that.”
He added last month: “Relations between McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari remain very good indeed.”