Ferrari, FIA against Minardi

Paul Stoddart conceded on Friday morning that his Minardi team may not be able to take part in the season-opening Australian Grand prix without a near-miraculous change of heart by Ferrari and the FIA. But the Australian vowed to continue applying pressure on his peers to allow his team to race this weekend.

Descending the stairs following a meeting with FIA officials, Stoddart said that his prospects were "bad, really bad" and that he was being "completely messed about by political games."

He said his proposed meeting with Jean Todt, the Ferrari chief whose signature is required to permit the Minardi team to run their cars this weekend at Albert Park in their 2004 bodywork, had been unproductive.

"Jean Todt told me he will not be signing a piece of paper from me at all, but that he would do so if it came officially from Charlie Whiting (of the FIA). We are just a victim of political games," he said.

As Stoddart considered his position, it was revealed by Max Mosley, the FIA president that "at least three teams would object to him running outside the regulations (which it is our job to enforce)."

Commenting in a press release issued by the FIA on Friday morning, Mosley said: "Paul has known about the new bodywork regulations since 6 September 2004, in fact, his team voted for them that day in common with all the other teams.

"We understand that he has the latest bodywork in Melbourne even if he has not yet tested it fully. We also understand that at least three teams would object to him running outside the regulations (which it is also our job to enforce).

"If he decides not to run, we think it unlikely that the Melbourne organisers will seek compensation from him."

Stoddart himself was livid, but controlled when he spoke to reporters. "I am being messed about, completely messed about," he said. "Why people do this kind of things, I just don't know. I got to Jean Todt after midnight when he arrived here and really it is all political games now."

He said he now expected to go "through the political games" before resolving the issue of whether to fit his cars with their new untested 2005 bodywork or to continue to fight the issue.

"I'm going to try and play the stupid game and hope we can try and get another document with signatures," the Australian said. "We've got to try and get the signatures. We don't want people to say 'if you'd ask me we would have signed'. We'll play the stupid game and let the politics ruin the racing as it's doing. You'll see Minardi cars not going out of the garage."

Minardi's drivers Chrstijan Albers, of Holland, and Austrian Patrick Freisacher would have been expected to be amongst the first on the track in the opening session but both remained in the garage as the team worked through their problems.
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