Stoddart fears Minardi will miss Oz GP
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has admitted that his team will definitely not be competing in this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix unless there is a sudden change of heart by rivals Ferrari to permit him to run his 2004 cars in the event.

Stoddart needs the approval of his nine rival team bosses to try and get a waiver so he can compete in Australia with last year's cars, but Ferrari is so far the only team that is refusing to support the move. Without its support, Stoddart has no chance of getting his cars through Thursday's scrutineering.

Speaking at the Albert Park circuit, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said: "As of now, Wednesday afternoon, the situation is that Minardi will not be competing in Sunday's race because (Jean) Todt has refused to agree to our request.

"I spoke to him at 3.00am, and he said he won't agree to it, stating that it is an FIA matter. But it's not, and he knows that. The FIA needs to satisfy itself that cars are safe, and the nine teams need to agree that we can compete outside the technical regulations. They are totally separate issues with separate procedures."

A FIA spokesman agreed this was the situation. He said: "Two things are required: 1) all cars have to be scrutineered and passed for compliance by the FIA, and 2) all competitors need to agree to allow cars not complying with the technical regulations take the start. The sequence is unimportant, subject to both points being complied with before the cars go out on the track.”

Stoddart confirmed that all teams apart from Ferrari have agreed to Minardi's request. "That is eight teams for and one against. I personally can't think of a bigger PR disaster than banning the underdog from what is effectively our home race," said Melbourne-born Stoddart. "He (Todt) told me he will not be in Melbourne until Friday morning, and that he is not interested in our problem.

"He won't delegate the matter either. The sad thing is that this is not a sporting matter, but a political one."

Stoddart's reference to political issues is because he has become a spokesman for a cost cutting initiative formulated by nine teams during the Brazilian Grand Prix in October last year - and which has so far not garnered the support of Ferrari. And although Stoddart has recently claimed his decision to run 2004 cars is because he believes the 2005 regulations to be illegal, he also admits that his team simply has not had time to get its cars ready.

Minardi, whose engine supplier Cosworth was sold to a private consortium by Ford in November last year, claims that the company recommitted itself too late for the team to ready its 2005 car before the San Marino Grand Prix in April.

"We received notice that Ford was withdrawing from Formula One and putting its operations up for sale in September last year, and so we put off building our new car," explained Stoddart. "As a small team we can't afford the risk of investing money unless we are sure of our situation.

"Because of Cosworth and regulations which were signed off late, we cannot be ready before Imola. The lead-time on our bell housings alone is 16 weeks. That's four months."

Although there had been pre-event talk of Stoddart taking legal action to try and race under appeal, he now suggests that this option will not be taken before the event.

"Our advice indicates that we have a case, but it would mean disrupting the tenth anniversary of the Grand Prix I love above all others. I refuse to do that. But I am not ruling out later legal action."
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