Formula 1 needs to wake up to the dangers it is facing at both ends of the grid amid ongoing uncertainty about the futures of several teams, claims Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley.
With Lotus having faced a spate of financial issues while it waits news on a possible Renault takeover, there also remains no guarantee that Red Bull's two teams will be around in 2016 if they cannot resolve their engine issues.
Against the backdrop of tough financial times for other teams, Fernley fears that F1 could be heading for another winter of trouble if more is not done to help out those outfits that are struggling.
"The one thing we were most concerned about last year is beginning to unfold again," Fernley told Motorsport.com.
"We have got poor Lotus under huge financial pressures and hopefully that gets resolved.
"But it is really symptomatic of the agreements that we have that a team like Lotus and Force India and Williams, are not getting the funding coming through with the distribution of income.
"And yet at the other end [of the spectrum], where all the money is flowing, the thing we also fear is that at a whim, [Red Bull] will just decide to leave, and that is on the cards as well.
"It is the two ends of the scale that really worry me. And I think the backbone of F1, as we have always said, is the independent teams. Without them, you are going to struggle."
Red Bull threat
While Fernley admits that there is little that F1's bosses can to do prevent big teams like Red Bull pulling out on a whim, he is equally aware that efforts should be made to help secure smaller teams that are hurting financially.
"And that is the usual thing: it would be the same if Force India left. – within a couple of weeks, it will be Force India who?
"You have to accept that that is the way F1 is. It is a ruthless sport from that point of view. But we should not be losing teams that are forced out.
"If a team decides to leave for whatever of its own reasons, be it a board decision by a manufacturer because they are fed up and want to go and do something else, or an individual decision, like in this case by Red Bull because they cannot play at the level they want to play at – we cannot control that.
"What we can control is keeping the core business in place, which is the independent teams."
Fernley suggests that F1 should be pulling together to help the independent teams who will stick with the sport through good times and bad times, rather than bending backwards to keep manufacturers happy.
"If you want to compete in F1 rather than participate, there is a certain price at the moment that you have to work at," he said.
"We can either be a Manor, which is participating, or we can be a Lotus, Force India, Toro Rosso or Williams, which is competing. That bit in the middle has the value.
"There isn't the income in the world market of sponsorship that you can make up the differences and the fact that it is all going to one end of the field is what is causing the damage.
"So if [the prize money] was distributed in a better way, and we got rid of the silly Strategy Group process for governance, hopefully we could start to see some stability coming back in."
Force India and Sauber have lodged complaints with the European Union about the way that the prize money structure of governance of F1 may be in breach of competition law.