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Ferrari Refuse to Allow Minardi to Race Old Car

Minardi may not be permitted to compete in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix after Ferrari boss Jean Todt refused to agree to a request by the team to compete in the opening three races in a 2004-model car.

Minardi may not be permitted to compete in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix after Ferrari boss Jean Todt refused to agree to a request by the team to compete in the opening three races in a 2004-model car.

Speaking exclusively to Atlas F1 at the Albert Park circuit, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said: "As of now, Wednesday afternoon, the situation is that Minardi will not be competing in Sunday's race because (Jean) Todt has refused to agree to our request.

"I spoke to him at 3.00am, and he said he won't agree to it, stating that it is an FIA matter. But it's not, and he knows that. The FIA needs to satisfy themselves that cars are safe, and the nine teams need to agree that we can compete outside the technical regulations. They are totally separate issues with separate procedures."

A FIA spokesman agreed this was the situation.

"Two things are required: 1) all cars have to be scrutineered and passed for compliance by the FIA, and 2) all competitors need to agree to allow cars not complying with the technical regulations take the start. The sequence is unimportant subject to both points being complied with before the cars go out on the track," he said.

Minardi, whose engine supplier Cosworth was sold to a private consortium by Ford in November last year, recommitted themselves too late for Minardi to ready their 2005 car before the San Marino round in April according to Stoddart.

"We received notice that Ford was withdrawing from Formula One and putting its operations up for sale in September last year, and so we put off building our new car," explained Stoddart. "As a small team we can't afford the risk of investing money unless we are sure of our situation.

"Because of Cosworth and regulations which were signed off late, we cannot be ready before Imola. The lead time on our bellhousings alone is 16 weeks. That's four months."

Stoddart maintains that all teams bar Ferrari have agreed to Minardi's request.

"That is eight teams for and one against. I personally can't think of a bigger PR disaster than banning the underdog from what is effectively our home race," said Melbourne-born Stoddart. "He (Todt) told me he will not be in Melbourne until Friday morning, and that he is not interested in our problem.

"He won't delegate the matter either. The sad thing is that this is not a sporting matter, but a political one."

Stoddart is spokesman for a cost cutting initiative formulated by nine teams during the Brazilian Grand Prix in October last year. Ferrari are the odd team out. The Italian team are alone in having signed an extension of the Concorde Agreement, the document which governs the sport, and receives preferential financial terms from Formula One's commercial rights holder.

Stoddart has taken legal advice, but ruled out court action in Australia.

"Our advice indicates that we have a case, but it would mean disrupting the tenth anniversary of the Grand Prix I love above all others. I refuse to do that. But I am not ruling out later legal action."

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