Minardi set for Oz showdown

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart looks set to be heading for a major showdown with the sport's governing body on his home turf at the Australian Grand Prix that could result in the controversial decision to see his cars barred from taking part in the event, autosport.com has learned. It is a situation that would cause massive uproar among his local media and fan base

Minardi set for Oz showdown

The Melbourne-born team owner has made no secret of the fact that he wants to use his 2004 car for the first three races of the year, as the final touches are put to his 2005 machine. He has been canvassing for the approval of fellow teams and FIA president Max Mosley since the end of last season to be allowed to race the cars.

But in the wake of Stoddart becoming a champion for the drive to cut costs and improve the sport, and effectively act as a spokesman for the non-Ferrari teams in their recent disputes with the FIA, he now almost certainly finds himself in a difficult political situation.

Speaking to autosport.com he said: "All of the teams with the exception of Ferrari have supported us. We believe the cars will be running to legal regulations. If Ferrari and the FIA wish to make an issue of this then it is up to them."

In fact, the argument now appears to revolve not around the difficulties Stoddart has found in getting his 2005 machines ready, because of the late confirmation of this year's technical rules, but actually over whether the new regulations introduced this year are legal.

This means Stoddart is convinced his 2004-spec cars, which have been modified to fall in line with improved safety standards, are actually fully legal because the 2005 regulations themselves are not.

That viewpoint is dismissed by Mosley himself, who has made it clear that unless Stoddart wins the support of every other team on the grid to be allowed to run the 2004 machines, then the PS04Bs will simply fail scrutineering and not be allowed to take part in the Australian Grand Prix.

Such unanimous support has not been forthcoming because although it is understood that eight teams have agreed for Stoddart's plan, Ferrari is believed to have not given its approval. A Ferrari spokesman would not comment about the team's feelings on the matter. He told autosport.com: "We do not have an official position on it."

Mosley himself has said that there is the possibility of the cars being allowed to run, but when asked whether he would sanction the use of the cars in Melbourne if Ferrari had not joined the other teams in supporting Stoddart's plans, he said: "It would not even get to that stage.

"If there was no prior agreement and he presented to us the 2004 car, that would be illegal under the current regulations. So the scrutineers would not put a sticker on it and it would never go out of the pit lane."

Mosley went to claim that Stoddart's view on the state of the 2005 regulations was incorrect in his opinion. He said: "He think the changes for 2005 are not in accordance with the Concorde Agreement, so he has to explain why he and his representatives have voted for every single one of them in every single instance of the FIA when they have been discussed. It is a little bit difficult to understand; they voted for them in the TWG, he also voted for them in the famous fax vote but changed his vote..."

Stoddart himself, however, has disputed Mosley's viewpoint about the 2005 regulations - insisting that he had not supported them and claiming that legally he is correct to present his 2004 cars for scrutineering in Melbourne.

He claims that if the matter reaches a head in Melbourne and his cars fail scrutineering, then he will attempt to race under protest. "We say the cars do comply and if the scrutineers say no then we would protest, and I would be surprised if we were not allowed to race under protest."

Mosley has not, however, completely ruled out the possibility of Minardi being given the green light to race - but only with the support of all its rival teams.

"If all the teams agree that somebody runs a car outside the regulations and we are satisfied there is no safety implication, then I could imagine that might be allowed," he said. "But that hasn't arisen yet.

"Of course, a lot of these regulations were for safety but against that, talking about the speeds involved, Minardi is probably less dramatic than some of the other teams."

Speaking about the impact of such a bombshell in Melbourne, where Stoddart is known to attract widespread support among the fans and media, Mosley was dismissive.

"It wouldn't bother me in the slightest, it really wouldn't," he said. "If everything is done as it should be done, then those are the rules. He would then have to go to a judge and say: 'would you interfere with the sport, over-rule the governing body and allow me to run with a car that complies to regulations that none of the cars present comply with'.

"Most people's reactions will be, 'what on earth does he think he is doing?' I think it just makes a lot of publicity for the race."

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