Stoddart: I'll Miss F1

Outspoken Minardi boss Paul Stoddart is not ruling out a Formula One comeback, even though Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix is his farewell

Stoddart: I'll Miss F1

"It's not an easy decision to make, I'm still regretting it," said the Australian as he prepared to leave the stage after selling his team to Red Bull energy drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz.

The chain-smoking aviation entrepreneur said five turbulent years at the helm of the sport's smallest, poorest and least successful competitors had not dampened his enthusiasm.

"There are far too many friends in this paddock and I'm going to miss it too much but for the team it was definitely the right decision," he said.

"I'd like to come back. I'm certainly not finished with Formula One," added Stoddart.

"They were probably the happiest five years of my life but also the hardest and, hopefully, with a bit of pressure off maybe it will give me time to reconsider what if anything might still be around."

Sunday is set to be the last appearance of the Minardi name, after 340 races and 21 years that have earned the team considerable respect and affection as true motor racing enthusiasts fighting against the odds.

It will also mark the end of an era, with three of the 'independent' teams disappearing -- Sauber are being sold to BMW and Jordan are to be renamed Midland.

With the exception of Williams, who are ending their partnership with BMW, the sport will be dominated next year by manufacturers and billionaires.

Russian-born Canadian businessman Alex Shnaider owns Midland while Austrian Mateschitz will have two Red Bull teams.

Stoddart, who has been a thorn in the flesh of FIA president Max Mosley over the past year, believes the sport is heading for a damaging split.

Five major carmakers, who will all have part- or fully-owned teams next year, are planning their own series from 2008 unless there are major changes to the way Formula One is run.

"With all the politics that you are now seeing developing over the last couple of weeks, you can sort of start to see some of the reasons why I wanted to do what I did," said Stoddart.

"If there are two championships, I would love to come back in the manufacturers' one."

Minardi, Italy's second team by a long way, are the fourth oldest in Formula One after Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

They have scored just 38 points in their existence with their last coming in the six-car U.S. Grand Prix fiasco at Indianapolis in June. Despite that, they will still end the season in last place.

The Faenza-based team, whose finest hour came in 1990 when Italian Pierluigi Martini lined up on the front row of the grid at the U.S. Grand Prix, have failed to score any points in two of the five years under Stoddart's ownership.

Yet there have still been emotional and memorable moments to savour, such as Australian Mark Webber's drive to fifth place on his debut in Melbourne in 2002.

"That was the happiest day of my life, not just in Formula One. Full stop. Proudest day of my life," said Stoddart.

"That whole 10-day period in Melbourne 2002 will go down in the history books as the most popular two points ever scored in Formula One."

Other highlights have been witnessing the triumph of Renault's 24-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who made his Formula One debut as a teenager with Minardi in 2001.

"Minardi have always been an example for a lot of people," said the new champion.

"It is not the power of money that gives them their fighting spirit, it is the power of the people. They were a good thing for F1. Now it is often all about business, but with Minardi, everything was just about motor racing."

At the start of 2001, the team were in a desperate position. There was no car, no sponsor and no engine. Yet they still made it to Melbourne for the season-opener.

"That was a pretty serious effort and I will always remember the tears of pride that the guys were crying when I came off the pit wall that day," said Stoddart.

"To see 20 or 30 grown men so emotional made me feel pretty proud that we'd achieved the impossible dream."

His only regret, he said, was the paddock politics.

"Formula One is one of the world's greatest sports, it is without doubt one of the most passionate sports and it doesn't need to be run and administered in the way that it is," he said.

"In life, whether it's in democracy, in government or in basic fundamental human rights or whatever, you expect fairness and equality. We don't have that.

"That is my one regret, that Formula One in my time could not have reformed itself into a fair and equitable sport with stable technical and sporting regulations."

China Preview Quotes: Michelin
Previous article

China Preview Quotes: Michelin

Next article

Preview: Teams' Title too Close to Call

Preview: Teams' Title too Close to Call
Load comments
Why newly-retired Raikkonen won't miss F1 Plus

Why newly-retired Raikkonen won't miss F1

After 349 grand prix starts, 46 fastest laps, 21 wins and one world championship, Kimi Raikkonen has finally called time on his F1 career. In an exclusive interview with Autosport on the eve of his final race, he explains his loathing of paddock politics and reflects on how motorsport has changed over the past two decades

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shakeup Plus

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shakeup

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. Autosport breaks down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Formula 1
Jan 21, 2022
Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems Plus

Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway. But instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Plus

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Plus

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. JAMES NEWBOLD hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwarts

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Plus

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Plus

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021 Plus

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as STUART CODLING finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022