Stoddart fearful for F1 future

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart joined the press corps in Thursday afternoon's press conference at Shanghai, so keen was he to hear the opinions of Jaguar team boss Tony Purnell and Eddie Jordan on Ford's decision to quit F1 and where it leaves F1 in general and the privateer teams in particular. Afterwards, he spoke exclusively to's Tony Dodgins

Stoddart fearful for F1 future

A: The solution, which was almost touched on here today, is a fairer distribution of the wealth in Formula 1. There's a tremendous amount of money that flows around it, but it just doesn't flow to the right people. We've talked for years and years about a new Concorde Agreement and we've done nothing. We've talked about fairer distribution of the TV money, and we've done nothing, ditto the rich getting richer and the poor going out of business. Now we've seen one of the not so poor go out of business and it ought to be a wake up call because, if it's not, I think the sport is in trouble, never mind the small teams.

A: I'm paying my entry fee on November 15 and Minardi will be on the grid in Melbourne next year. I've no qualms about saying that whatsoever. We did our own engine in 2001 and we've already made plans to do it again in 2005. I have no issue with engines whatsoever.

A: If we don't have a better offer, we already have a contract with Cosworth Racing for 2005, but Eddie (Jordan) does not. We'd signed ours before this happened. So, in our position, we expect it to be honoured and in the event that it is not, I'm sure that I will receive enough assistance to enable me to do what I did in 2001, which was to run our own engine. It will be a derivative of the Cosworth.

A: It's fair to say that F1 needs to look at itself when you have people like Luca saying that he's not sure if Ferrari is going to be around. And then you have Ford pulling out the very next week. What more does it take? Do we have to kill this business totally before someone will wake up to the fact that there is a crisis and do something about the f***ing problems.

A: But who's left. Is there four manufacturers? Is Ferrari still there, in GPWC? I'm not so sure.

A: Let's take it a little further. I think Eddie's had six serious buyers, and I've had 23 buyers look at Minardi in four years, or investors or whatever you want to call them, I've a 10 million Euro bounced cheque sitting in my office from one of them, and if Tony Purnell thinks - and this is not a shot at Tony - if anyone thinks that they are going to conclude a deal for Jaguar in the next four to six weeks before they have to put the entry in, then good luck! I hope for the sake of F1 that they are successful, but I am extremely doubtful.

A: Tony has said that it has to be a serious buyer. Well, a serious buyer needs to know that they will have a Concorde Agreement and some stability. What company is going to make a two-year investment in F1 when Bernie said yesterday that Ford was never serious? He said that they went stand-by instead of going first class. Well, if stand-by was 160 million, what the hell do you have to do to be competitive? Toyota haven't managed it yet and they've spent nearly two billion dollars combined, so where does it end? This sport has got to have a real serious look at itself. The problem is not that there is not enough money, but the way we are managing it is very bad.

A: It needs that and to control its costs. The one key to unlocking all the problems is getting Bernie to agree to a new Concorde Agreement. It would be inconceivable to think that you are going to wait until 31/12/07 to negotiate the new agreement. Remember the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that we were supposed to have agreed, with it backdated to January 1.

A: I'm sure the banks would welcome sitting down and negotiating a new Concorde Agreement. It's one of their stated aims.

A: He might do. But equally Bernie is the one person in this world who can solve all these problems. He needs no help from anyone to solve all the problems in F1. He's capable of doing it. If Bernie called a team principals' meeting tomorrow, put the banks in the same room and said we're not going home until we've done a new Concorde Agreement, it would be done.

A: That is venturing into the unknown. I would think that it is in everyone's interests to have a new Concorde Agreement sooner rather than later. Let's take Jaguar because it's today's story. Ford has pulled out and made it clear they are not there next year. There are 1000 employees between Ford and Jaguar. Those 1000 employees, as loyal as they may be, I'm sure want to know what their future is. If you are going to find a buyer by November 15, when you have to put next year's entry in, that buyer is going to want some security around what they are actually doing. Tony (Purnell) said that they need a blue chip multi-national company or a billionaire. Well, they need a billionaire because a blue chip multi-national won't come into it with two years on an agreement and with all the political infighting we've seen, together with the promoter of the sport turning around and saying we'll only have seven teams next year and drubbing the efforts of one of the world's biggest manufacturers. Steerage class? It's ridiculous.

A: Dietrich Mateschitz has had two goes at it already, why would he do it now? I heard that it fell down because Ford wouldn't give the level of commitment that he wanted from an engine point of view. So, where is anyone going to find an engine other than Cosworth, for next year? ( thinks Toyota may be a possibility). Answer, they're not. And, it's not next year, it's November 15. Because if that entry isn't in by then, it's all over. Mine will be in and I'm sure Jordan's will be. Then we've got to find engines. It's a little easier for me because I can do it and I'm so pissed off over this that I will actually turn up to Melbourne if I have to carry the f***ing engines on my back!

Jaguar is in a tricky predicament. It's not whether the people interested are good businesses or bad businesses, but that there isn't enough time for them to make the decision. You'd have to have someone who has gone down the road, done the due diligence and is ready to put the deposit on the table, because it's too late otherwise and that's the real problem. Eddie was economical with the truth. He did actually get some notice that it was happening. Seven minutes notice! In which to tell his sponsors and everyone else. Great...

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