McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has expressed his surprise that none of the new entrants joining Formula 1 this season chose to take over the Toyota chassis project.
Toyota was already advanced with its 2010 preparations when its parent company decided to pull out of the sport, and its chassis design has now been acquired by the Stefan Grand Prix team, which hopes to enter F1 if the grid is extended to 28 cars or an existing team withdraws.
After Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo suggested that he would rather see new teams running established squads' customer cars than struggling to build their own chassis, Whitmarsh agreed that acquiring technology from existing teams could have been a better path for the start-up teams. McLaren was ready to supply customer cars to Prodrive in 2008 before a threat of a rules challenge from Williams prevented the partnership.
"I think philosophically McLaren believes that it is important F1 entrants develop their own cars," said Whitmarsh. "However, we are pragmatists and we have demonstrated in the past a willingness to provide customer cars. We remain willing, but I don't know we are ready to do it quite before Bahrain if a team needs it.
"Ironically, quite a lot of these teams have an opportunity to acquire a Toyota chassis. Toyota built two cars that were available from Christmas, and I am rather surprised that some of them did not do that – they rather looked a gift horse in the mouth.
"That was perhaps the wrong decision, but nevertheless they had their own reasons for that decision. We have to see in the coming weeks or months whether we can help those new teams to be there to add to the flavor and diversity of F1."
Whitmarsh, who recently took over from di Montezemolo as chairman of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), added that he was keen for the top teams to assist newcomers – but that all entrants had to prove themselves worthy of a place in the World Championship.
"I think we, as McLaren and myself as chairman of FOTA, recognize that we will do all we can to demonstrate that new entrants are possible in F1," he said. "It is clearly tough for the new teams to come into the sport. We know how difficult it is, with all the experience and resources we have, to be ready for the start of the season. So it must be very, very difficult for any new team.
"I don't think we should apologize for that. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and if it was easy for anyone to get out their checkbook and go motor racing at the highest level next year then we would really not have been working as hard as we should have been as established teams.
"We don't want any team to fail, we should be doing all that we can within the F1 community. I think FOTA has been a coming together of all of the teams for the first time in the history of F1. The spirit that exists in F1 is unique now, certainly in my 20 years of experience in the sport.
"So, I think we will do what we can, but ultimately if there are teams that just don't have the capability or resource, or underestimated the task of being at the highest level of motorsport in the world – then some you can help and some you can't."