Friesacher faces license wait

New Formula 1 signing Patrick Friesacher is set to face an anxious wait to see whether he will be able to take part in the season opening Australian Grand Prix, with the FIA unsure about whether to proceed with his application for a Super Licence following recent criticisms of its 'fax vote' procedures by Minardi boss Paul Stoddart

Friesacher faces license wait

Friesacher was announced as Minardi's second driver on Tuesday, after favourite for the drive Nicolas Kiesa failed to raise the necessary finance in time, and it was thought that his application for the mandatory Super Licence would be straightforward.

The Austrian has qualified because of his results in the International Formula 3000 Championship over the last two years. The requirements are for a driver to have finished in the top three in at least five races over the past two seasons - with Friesacher having achieved that feat six times.

However, the late confirmation of Friesacher's plans means that his application for a Super Licence, which has been lodged by Minardi, will need to be granted by a fax vote of the Formula 1 Commission.

Such a state of affairs is usually straightforward and there would be no doubts about Friesacher's position. However, Stoddart's recent criticisms of the decision making process in F1, and in particular the fax vote of the F1 Commission prior to last year's Brazilian Grand Prix that decided many of the rules changes put in place for this year, has led to some questions being asked within the FIA about the correct way to proceed now.

High level sources have told autosport.com that the FIA, which faces being taken to arbitration over last year's fax vote, has now requested for Stoddart to let it know what course of action he intends to take on this matter.

Should the FIA find itself unable to proceed with a fax vote then Friesacher will almost certainly be forced to travel to the Australian Grand Prix unsure about whether he will be able to compete or not. The only chance of him being granted the licence would then be for the FIA to call an F1 Commission meeting, which could only take place in early March.

"An application has been received and under normal circumstances we would hold a fax vote of the Formula 1 Commission to confirm approval," said an FIA spokesman. "Unfortunately, Mr Stoddart and his lawyers have called the legality of fax voting into question.

"We cannot now proceed until we receive a clarification of what Mr Stoddart himself has described as his 'very rushed' legal opinion."

Stoddart himself was unavailable for comment.

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