Interview: Minardi Should Go, Says Ecclestone

Formula One is a big business with no place for enthusiasts like Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

Interview: Minardi Should Go, Says Ecclestone

Formula One is a big business with no place for enthusiasts like Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

The Formula One supremo told Reuters at the Canadian Grand Prix that he had tried to persuade the Australian businessman, whose team are struggling to survive, to call it a day at the end of 2002.

"Frankly, I was trying to push them (Minardi) not to race this year," said Ecclestone, a day after Stoddart appeared in a stormy news conference to air his grievances and call for financial assistance.

"He (Stoddart) shouldn't be in Formula One, that's the truth. You see the sort of money he's talking about and you see the sort of money, the budgets that are needed, $300-400 million and he's saying he needs 10 million to finish the season."

Ecclestone said the loss of Minardi, if they were to follow Arrows and Prost into oblivion, would not be a major blow.

"I don't mind if there are or there aren't (10 teams)," he said. "If we lost Ferrari or McLaren it wouldn't be so good but if you lose somebody that's that far down the grid, it really doesn't make that much difference.

"It's not good to lose anybody and it's better that if they don't make it that they go cleanly, that in a gentlemanly way they stop like lots of teams have stopped," said Ecclestone. "I did say in Austria last year that he (Stoddart) should piss off and I said at the end of the year he should.

"But it's easier for me to say than for him to do. The guy's an enthusiast and he loves his racing. But we're a big professional business," added Ecclestone. "Can we afford enthusiasts? the answer's no."

Fourth Oldest

Formula One has 10 teams and the smaller, entrepreneurial ones are struggling to survive. Minardi are the fourth oldest team and have been part of the sport since 1985. Stoddart, who rescued Minardi from imminent failure in 2001, wants the big manufacturer-backed teams to pay into a "fighting fund" to keep operations like his on the road.

An agreement was reached in January for that to happen, with strings attached, but nothing has materialised and the chain-smoking Australian businessman lost patience with his co-principals on Friday. Ecclestone observed the news conference, at which McLaren boss Ron Dennis made clear that there was no 'soup kitchen' offering free handouts in Formula One, and Stoddart accused teams of wanting to put Minardi out of business.

"Bit of a joke wasn't it really. Like a lot of children. Silly," said Ecclestone of what team boss Eddie Jordan called 'drama TV'. "It was unnecessary. What they were talking about wasn't accurate either because I don't think they understand.

"The bottom line was that Stoddart believed that these people had got together and agreed to give him some money to help him stay in business. That's true. It was agreed, subject to a lot of things and the subjects didn't happen so there was no deal," said Ecclestone.

Asked about the position of International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley, who has said the small private teams are vital to Formula One's future because manufacturers come and go, Ecclestone replied:

"Let him pay for it. I don't have a problem with that."

The Formula One supremo, who has run the sport and banged squabbling heads together for decades, said he would still do his best to restore order to the paddock.

"We'll try. I've been doing this firefighting for an awful long time, this is another fire that's flared up that we've got to put out," he said.

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