Q & A with Paul Stoddart

Paul Stoddart: "I probably knew more or less from Friday that something was going to happen but it didn't get signed until yesterday afternoon. When a few people came up to me and said they thought it had been signed I always like to give a straight answer so I was a bit embarrassed but I needed to tell the staff before we made anything public

Q & A with Paul Stoddart

"All I have to say is I have said for five years now that I would sell the team if anyone ever came along who I thought could do a better job with the team and certainly could fund it better than me and could give security to the staff and the Faenza facility. An awful lot of people have approached me over the years and it is only Red Bull that got all the way to a conclusion.

"I am going to miss this paddock very, very badly and I think Minardi is a better team. When I came in five years ago it was facing almost certain doom and over those five years although we haven't had the on-track success that we had hoped for we have managed to produce what I hope will be a new World Champion driver in Fernando Alonso, I have had the pleasure to work with an awful lot of good drivers, Mark Webber gave me probably the happiest day of my life in March 2002 with probably what will be the most famous two points in Formula One history, and so many other good people, so many good friends and so many good memories.

"But I leave Minardi certainly on a better footing than it was when I came into it and let's hope one day it can get that elusive podium that I never managed to get."

Q: How long were the negotiations?

Stoddart: "A very short time, certainly no more than three weeks from beginning to end."

Q: You have had so many interested parties, what was different about Red Bull?

Stoddart: "I think probably of the 41 people that have tried to buy the team, people like Red Bull, obviously, their track record speaks for them and I took their negotiations seriously. Probably there were one or two people who approached me over those five years that were also serious but perhaps didn't have the reputation of Red Bull.

"I think the fact that swayed me the most was that with very few exceptions when you go to Red Bull today you see the same faces that were there (at Jaguar) last year. By far the most important thing was making sure the team would remain a team, and that weighed very heavily on my decision."

Q: Will Ozjet remain with the new owners as a backer?

Stoddart: "I don't know. Obviously I have not let go of the Formula One two-seater programme and that will keep me very busy and will be very involved with Ozjet."

Q: Is it Red Bull's intention to continue with the V10 Cosworth that you were planning to use, and will that upset the other teams having a more competitive outfit using a limited V10?

Stoddart: "That is an interesting question. It is most definitely based on that and the V10 engine deal with Cosworth was signed many months ago. I see nothing that is going to stop that from happening. Yes, a well-funded team will make a difference but I think we will have to wait and see. Bear in mind that the equivalency rule is just that and I am sure the final equivalency is going to be set so that there is not too big an advantage.

"But I think that is one of the saddest things. For the first time ever I really, really looked forward to running that V10 engine next year, particularly in this chassis, and we were most definitely looking as if we were going to be incredibly competitive with it."

Q: What is the situation with the new owners and tyres for next year?

Stoddart: "I obviously cannot talk about contracts but many contracts were in place and I think it is reasonably public knowledge that our tyre contract comes to an end at the end of this year."

Q: Do you think there will be opposition to Red Bull owning two teams, the voting opportunities that gives and so on?

Stoddart: "I think that the other team principals, and I have spoken to most of them, have been incredibly supportive. I think Bernie's position really is that they view the job that Red Bull have done this year as exceptional and the fact that they own two teams probably won't be an issue because I know having, spoken extensively about this, that they intend to run them as completely separate entities and nothing would make them happier to find them ultra-competitive against each other, so I don't think it will be a big change."

Q: What are you going to do now, personally?

Stoddart: "I don't know yet. I don't think I am finished in this paddock, I just think I will miss it too much. Obviously the team will have a new team principal, whether I stay on in any form as a consultant is yet to be decided, I suspect probably not, but I will immediately put a lot of effort into launching this new airline in Australia over the winter and I think in a way that will help me because I wouldn't have wanted to leave here without having something else to do. It would have gone crazy.

"But I feel that Formula One, the whole paddock, I have many friends, and so many people have said so many kind things that I think you will see a bit more of me yet somehow."

Q: Were you tempted to wait until 2008 and the new Concorde agreement to see what would change?

Stoddart: "I was, but also you have got to accept the fact that if you look at the Minardi and the Jordan teams clearly if there were another two manufacturer-backed teams particularly sharing chassis and television payments were only going to be for between one and ten you could find many of the teams outside the top ten would be in trouble. Having fought some pretty solid battles in 01, 02 and 03, I thought the opportunity to secure the team was probably worth taking."

Q: You had a spat with Max, how much was that an influence, did it encourage you to sell early?

Stoddart: "I said earlier this year that if he stayed I wouldn't. I think what is important is that Formula One goes forward and we don't destroy the sport that we all love. My position with Max is that we shook hands in Monza last week for the first time all year and I would like to think there are no bitter memories. I maybe don't agree with some of the things he has done and I am sure he doesn't agree with some of the things I have done but I don't leave with any bad feelings."

Q: Was your opinion on Indianapolis a factor in this?

Stoddart: "Certainly Indianapolis was very, very sad. I felt it was the darkest day in Formula One for a long time and it really has weighed on my mind that I think we did the wrong thing that day, the wrong thing for the sport and the American people. But Formula One moves on and that is what is so special about it, you know. Tomorrow we just go on. And hopefully Indianapolis was a bit of a watershed.

"Although it was horrendous what happened for the fans and so on, I think we have seen negotiations that I dare say would not have taken place in the first half of this year. If in the end Formula One ends up being a better place because of Melbourne, my problems with Max, Indianapolis and a few other things then maybe it was all worth it."

Q: Where do you see the position of Formula One now?

Stoddart: "I think really since Silverstone we have been moving hopefully towards a global settlement in Formula One and the one thing that I really, really hope that I might have had some input in is the stability of Formula One and the fact that it goes forward as one series and we don't have the threat of a breakaway in 2008.

"I certainly sense that there is peace in our times and unless someone is absolutely silly and throws a hand grenade in now I really do feel we are going to move forward with a stable Formula One. That is most important, it is more important than any of the teams, the team principles and so on. The sport must go on."

Q: Is this the end for privateer team owners like yourself?

Stoddart: "Yeah, I think small private teams are probably phasing themselves out. We saw Jordan go last year, we saw Peter Sauber go this year, now me, it is pretty hard to imagine that a truly independent private team that has perhaps come up through other formulae is going to break into Formula One again.

"I know that people talk about budgets being reduced to 70 or 80 million but personally I think that will be a struggle. I know what it has been like to run a Formula One team, I suppose I can say it now, from as low as 23 million dollars in one of the seasons that I had through to 40 million dollars, and the pain you take from that, the problems that are never seen and are kept out the way, I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I don't see any more privateer teams coming in, sadly."

Q: They say that to make a small fortune in Formula One you have to start with a big one. Does your experience bear that out?

Stoddart: "Ha, ha! It's pretty accurate. I mean yes and no. Formula One is without doubt the most exciting sport, in my mind, in the world, it is also a global brand and that brand is very powerful to anyone that is associated with it. So, while initially I learned in the early years that it is true, if you want to make 10 million dollars in Formula One then start with 100 million, it is a very true statement.

"But throughout those five years, many of you may remember what I did on June 13 [2003] in Canada, which was for me a very tough day. Pretty much after that I made a decision that I was going to run the team to break-even or maybe even make a small profit and since then I have done that, so I suppose you learn after a while that if you are going to come last it is better to be last and profitable than last and broke."

Stoddart Mourns End of an Era
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