Formula 1 teams are set to reject plans to expand the grid to 14 teams next year - leaving the future of the BMW Sauber squad dependent on one of the sport's new entrants failing to make the 2010 grid.
The subject of boosting the field beyond the current planned 13 slots is due to be discussed at a meeting of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) at Suzuka on Sunday morning. With the matter theoretically requiring a change of the Concorde Agreement, only unanimous approval from outfits would allow the change that would guarantee BMW Sauber's slot for now. However, team principal Frank Williams has made it clear that his team will block any move to allow a 14th team in.
"I will be repeating what I said – one: that there should only be 13 teams, that's what there always has been and two: that I would suggest they apply to be first reserve," Williams said. "That's the logical thing to do. It's illogical to change the rules suddenly for one extra person. And they may have a chance of getting in based on the gossip that's going around. Who knows?"
Williams says that part of the reluctance to allow BMW Sauber an automatic entry as the 14th slot is because there is such uncertainty about the identity of its new owners, investment group Qadbak. The mysterious organization has already been the subject of controversy in Britain with its involvement in Notts County Football Club being the subject of an inquiry by the Football Association.
Williams added: "If this was Ferrari somehow retired halfway through a year and wanted to come back, we'd find a way to bend the rules. But this is a team that is owned by someone, we don't know who they are, their long-term plans. They bought Notts County and the FA... what did they say? We're not at all happy until we know who the owners are and their long-term plans. We would like to know."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes that any decision to block the 14th entry would not mean automatically mean that BMW Sauber is out – because he has doubts that all the new teams will make it.
"What FOTA is concerned about is we're having an artificial debate because the strong suspicion is that there will not be 14 teams, and there may even be less than 13," he explained. "As a pragmatist, it gives clarity to Sauber and it would be right to agree to there being 14 teams in the event that after you've agreed one of them should drop out and then the number will be smaller. I think 14 teams is too many, but I personally would agree to supporting Sauber. One because they deserve it and two because I don't think there will be 14 teams anyway."
BMW Sauber team principal Mario Theissen said he was waiting for the outcome of the FOTA meeting before deciding on the next step.
When asked to comment on reports that many people believe there will not be a 14th team, Theissen said: "Yes, that's a common guess but it doesn't really help. We need confirmation."