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FOTA attempting to 'punch above its weight' - Kolles
Colin Kolles insists HRT left the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) for political reasons and not because it failed to pay its membership fees.
It emerged earlier this week that HRT withdrew from FOTA in December, with a team spokeswoman saying: "It's more for the big teams than the small ones". However, FOTA chairman and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh denied that the organisation had any bias towards the larger teams, referring to Tony Fernandes' recent comments on Twitter.
"HRT failed to fulfil its membership fee obligations," he told Autosport. "It's as simple as that. I've read reports in the media that some HRT personnel have claimed that FOTA disfavours smaller teams. I'd take issue with that, and draw your readers' attention to comments made only this week by Tony Fernandes, himself of a smaller team, which are a ringing endorsement of the importance and value of FOTA membership."
But Kolles insists HRT chose not to renew its membership and that the fees were not an issue.
"I can strictly deny it [membership being cancelled because of non-payment of dues]," he told the Hindustan Times. "FOTA has spread a misleading message which will be rectified in the coming days, however, for the moment I don't want to say anything else."
He said HRT did not agree with FOTA's stance on the upcoming negotiations for the next Concorde Agreement, which governs the commercial side of the sport. The current Agreement runs out at the end of the year and it is likely FOTA will push for the teams to get a greater share of the sport's revenues in prize money. However, Kolles wants to remain autonomous in any negotiations with the sports owner's CVC Capital and Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone.
"It is true that FOTA will be trying to be the only counterpart to CVC and Mr Ecclestone, but we feel this is an attempt by FOTA to punch above its weight," said Kolles. "We didn't want to delegate our independent power of negotiation on such a sensitive matter like the Concorde Agreement.
"We left because FOTA defends mainly the interests of the big teams. We see no benefit in paying money for being part of it. We prefer investing our money in the car, instead of paying membership fees that don't benefit to us."