Team principals must decide for themselves if the Formula One Teams' Association has a future, reckons its chairman Martin Whitmarsh, amid questions about its long-term viability.
After tensions emerged about the implementation of the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA), Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali warned on Sunday that FOTA could collapse if problems are not resolved at a meeting scheduled to take place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner also warning that FOTA is at a crossroads, the get together at the penultimate race of the season appears to be now key to the organization going forward.
Whitmarsh, who has been chairman of FOTA for the past two years, says he is not worried of its collapsing due to the RRA controversy.
"No I am not," he said, when asked if he was concerned about FOTA's future. "I think FOTA is an association that has private meetings and I don't think I have often, I hope never, spoken about what goes on in the meetings. That would be the wrong thing to do.
"We are not a PR machine, we are there to make some progress. FOTA should be very proud of what has been achieved so far. It can only achieve what its membership wants it to achieve and I think we have still got work to do to play a strong and contributing part in this sport, but we will see going forward what we do."
When asked about the stance of Horner, who also said recently in an interview that he does not spend much time thinking about FOTA, Whitmarsh said: "He probably doesn't. I don't think any of us want to spend too much time, I think we all want to go racing.
"We have a business to run and I think we have a range of vulnerable teams. Historically the winning teams and the big teams haven't cared two jots about the small teams.
"This is McLaren's 700th grand prix, and 107 grand prix teams have failed since we have been in motor racing. One of the reasons I subscribe a little bit of time to FOTA is that we have an obligation to try and minimize [this situation] – we cannot afford to spit teams out at the rate we have over the past few years, or over the history of the sport.
"We have an obligation to try and make those teams survive. There are teams here that would openly concede that they would not be here without FOTA. That in itself is a positive, regardless of anything else we want to claim or point to."
He added: "It has never achieved as much as I would have liked, just as my car is never as quick as I would like it to be, and just as I am never as rich as I would want to be, but that is life. But I am proud of what it has achieved. And we can do more if all the teams want to and want to cooperate.
"We are an association that generally required unanimity to go forward on lots of these strategic issues and we are a sport full of egos, personalities, competitiveness and paranoia, but so far what has been achieved is fantastic.
"We have genuinely bought costs down for the big teams, we have arrested a number of things – things like DRS came out of FOTA, and things like Fans' Forums, but you can never do enough. F1 doesn't do enough for the fans, it doesn't do enough to promote itself, but FOTA has contributed.
"There are people around who don't want FOTA to be here I am sure, and ultimately the people who count are the teams. So if the teams reach a decision that, for the time being, we don't need it, then great. We will go and do something different."