Paul Stoddart Q&A

Saturday was an extraordinary day, even by Formula 1 standards, for the European Minardi team. On-track in Montreal, Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson have been impressive, especially in the wet, but off the track the team has been making waves of an altogether different kind. Tony Dodgins spoke to team principal Paul Stoddart about the team's new deal with (of all people) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone

Paul Stoddart Q&A


I'm very proud to say that somebody does care about the integrity of Formula 1 and quite saddened that it's no thanks to some of my peers. That doesn't matter, I can live with it and I'm more than happy. He's said he's putting the money in out of his own pocket, I'm not going to say the amount but it's sufficient to say that Minardi is in good shape. I think it's probably fair to say that the fighting fund is dead. Not a penny of this money is coming from other teams, so Bernie has made an investment in my team. I hope we can prove that it was a wise investment and I hope that in time Minardi will go on to bigger and better things.


It is an investment.


I'm not going into any details whatsoever. But it will end up that way. At the moment it is a handshake deal.


I can't go into any specific details. It's enough money to put a smile on my face and I think it's the best result for Formula 1. It guarantees the integrity of 10 teams and we have enough money to continue the good work we've done today. I think having Bernie as a partner is going to be a very exciting and rewarding time. I say that quite genuinely because I think the one thing is that it gets rid of all the uncertainty and I think F1 is the winner here. We want to put all this politics behind us now.


Well he didn't say that to me. Let's just say that I welcome my new shareholder with open arms.


You'll have to ask him. I think to be honest it is a passive investment and I'm just thankful that Bernie has supported the sport that he actually built up and at the end of the day I think despite a lot that has happened over the last few years, if you didn't have Max and Bernie you wouldn't have this sport...if it was left to some of these other individuals to run, it would be in absolute chaos.


Well, maybe, but if my new shareholder has one track record it's as an incredibly good sponsor getter! So this could be the turning point. You could see Minardi suddenly having the kind of budgets it has only dreamed about.


Not at all. It stands at the moment. There's been no help from certain team owners, so why should I change my stance. Why should I change what was part of a package of agreement that wasn't honoured by certain team principals? I don't think making cars look like the eighties (with bodywork changes to allow more sponsor space) is the way to go. It advantages those who have unlimited resources and wind tunnels and disadvantages those of us that don't.

What really brought this weekend up was the fact that I'd vetoed the 2004 changes and that was going to become public knowledge. That, combined with the need to tell it as it is, was what made this weekend happen. Now that it's out in the open, if they haven't put their part of the agreement back in place, why should I put my part back in place?


Not at all. I think it's a genuine guy who cares passionately that he doesn't want to see F1 in any crisis while he's at the helm and I don't blame him for that one little bit. I think many will recall I said yesterday that what I did in the conference I did with a heavy heart. People needed to look at the constructors championship because if there is less than 10 teams you have a serious issue with third cars and non point-scoring cars. So I think common sense and sanity has prevailed. Thank God for people like Bernie.


We discussed it this morning and he obviously briefed the other team owners.


I never wanted this to happen. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk into that press conference and do that. I knew it was coming, I couldn't understand the reasons why people let it get to that stage and I am now glad it's over. But having said that, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. It did not need to have this weekend happen in the way it did. It could have been done behind closed doors. Ron was right when he said there were different parts to it, the only difference is that the small teams - and I will defend Jordan even though he doesn't deserve it - had performed our part of the bargain, doing everything asked of us by the bigger teams, and the bigger teams steadfastly refused to honour their part of the commitment. Let's be specific, we are talking about Ron and Frank. I've got no issue with any other team principal.


Well, I would love to answer that but maybe we should let it rest. Let's just say that that kind of help with my sponsors I could well do without...


I think it speaks for itself really, doesn't it? We'll be here.


It was Bernie's suggestion.


Absolutely.


Yes, I have. General support. I think people at the press conference can answer this themselves. Who remained cool, calm and collected yesterday and who got agitated, fidgeted around in chairs, knocked his microphone over and couldn't answer questions. Yesterday speaks for itself.


Not at all. One thing Ron did say that was factually correct is that it (the proposed fighting fund agreement) was a package. My part of it was to compete, which I've done, and the other part was to agree to regulation changes that I didn't think were good. That's a package. Give and take. Their part was to provide a fighting fund. The upshot was that the small teams, or me at any rate, the only one with enough balls to stick up for himself, withdrew his support. I'm sorry it had to happen but it's over now and let's get back to the racing.


Well I suppose there could be. If the entire package that I agreed to was put in place, and Ron and Frank were to re-agree, than I would reconsider. Because I would feel honour-bound - good in this pitlane, eh? - to then honour my part of the agreement. I know two wrongs don't make a right, but I would have been a bit of a soft touch if I had allowed them to have everything and us to have nothing.

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