The FIA is optimistic that a deal can be agreed with teams to move forward with plans for a budget cap in Formula 1 next year, but has warned that it will not compromise simply because of the "hysteria" by threats to quit the sport.
Ahead of a meeting between representatives of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) and Max Mosley in the next few days, the FIA's technical advisor Tony Purnell has made it clear that the FIA is not in the mood to back down over its £40 million ($60m) rules.Speaking to AUTOSPORT in an exclusive interview
, Purnell said he was confident that talks he held with teams in Barcelona last weekend, plus moves by Bernie Ecclestone, were pointing towards a solution to the situation being found.
"I'm optimistic," explained Purnell. "Whenever change has been required the teams have cried Armageddon: Parc Ferme, engine freeze, V10s to V8, KERS... On each occasion there were those who claimed that F1 would fall apart. These experiences tend to make the FIA more resilient to all the hysteria. People don't like change."
Toyota and Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz said at the Spanish Grand Prix that they would not lodge entries to the 2010 World Championship unless rules were changed – and hinted other teams would follow their lead.
Although there have been suggestions that teams could be appeased by raising the current level for the budget cap, Purnell has said that the FIA is reluctant to do so. He claims that moving the figure much higher will hinder the chances of new teams coming into F1 next year – something which the FIA has targeted as being vital for the future health of the sport.
"The thing is a tremendous balancing act," he said. "We want to attract new teams and my feeling is that if we pushed it much more, the number of new teams, which has already thinned going from £30 million to £40 million, would just disappear. So, the objective of attracting new teams, we cannot lose sight of it.
"On the other hand, there are the manufacturers needing to make big cuts. Well, the FIA is the regulator and we have to see the bigger picture. Ask anyone to study the ownership of F1 teams at the moment, and the main automotive companies, and they are facing a deep crisis.
"And amid that economic environment, if you are right at the top of the company, you think we have got to change the spend and cost profile. What is the most high-profile spend? F1.
"It is a time for difficult decisions to be taken. Sitting dazzled in the headlights won't work. So, for the big teams, they face a massive challenge and whatever you do is a risk. But doing nothing is an unacceptable risk."
AUTOSPORT understands, however, that the teams may be willing to accept the £40 million limit if some concerns about the policing of the budget caps are alleviated.
Sources suggest that some outfits do not want outside accountants looking at their books. One possible way to solve this problem, which Ecclestone has already proposed, is for the task of checking teams' expenditure will be carried out not by the FIA but by the team's own auditors – or totally independent accountants.
Should all the current teams sign up for the budget cap, then that will remove the possibility of a two-tier formula – something which the manufacturers have deemed unacceptable.
Speaking about the possibility of a two-tier F1, Purnell said: "It is all about transition. I think there are certainly many members of the media and many people in the paddock who say, where you want to get to is really admirable. But how do you get from A to B?
"The option route is a means to do it. In the medium and long term we expect things to converge. In the meantime, certainly if all the FOTA teams think that two tiers is wrong, then we absolutely invite them to go one way – problem solved."
He added: "We think what we are trying to do is the right way and the FIA can't dilute its goals. Either we do this and we show courage and resolve, or we allow ourselves to get compromised until things get diluted.
"It's about how we make the transition as acceptable as it can be for everyone. We've created a choice."