Bernie Ecclestone refuses smaller team financial help making three-car teams a possibility in 2015

Lotus, Sauber and Force India could be on their way out of the sport

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The Independent Online

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has refused three of the sport's smaller teams financial help, leaving Sauber, Lotus and Force India struggling to race next season.

Heated discussions in the wake of Marussia and Caterham's demise were held on Sunday night but Ecclestone is believed to favour a mix of three-car and customer-car teams to fill the grid in 2015.

One executive accused the bigger teams of driving the smaller teams out of the sport, while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff accused the small teams of lying over their version of events.

Lotus, Sauber and Force India insist that there will be no support from CVC Capital Partners, F1's majority shareholders, claiming Ferrari and Red Bull will be allowed to run three cars next season.

"There is a very clear programme coming in, which we were advised of on Saturday, Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fearnley said.

"The goal is to move to customer-car teams and the three cars will be the interim. That would allow them to keep the numbers while the customer cars are brought in."

Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn added: "We’re not begging, let’s make that clear. But they are trying to drive teams out because they don’t suit them anymore."

But Wolff countered, saying: "First of all it is not true. I was in the meetings with the small teams, I represented the unions of the big ones in there. And that wasn’t what was said. CVC, as the commercial rights holder, and Bernie [Ecclestone] are looking at the situation and discussing with the smaller teams what can be done to make life easier for them."

Ecclestone indicated that he was not prepared to pay out £100 million to secure the future of the lesser teams.

"They only do what’s good for them," he said. "I am speaking to Donald but about something completly different. It’s not their position to decide who I speak to.

"The way forward is very easy – don’t spend as much. We are giving these teams collectively $900 million [£566 million] and that’s enough. They have enough to survive but not in the way they are surviving. Start running the business like a business rather than a hobby."