Stoddart: No 'Abramovich Route' to Top in F1

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has warned prospective Formula One team Midland F1 that there is no "Abramovich route" to the top in the glamour sport.

Stoddart: No 'Abramovich Route' to Top in F1

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has warned prospective Formula One team Midland F1 that there is no "Abramovich route" to the top in the glamour sport.

The Russian-backed Midland Group announced on Friday that it was setting up a team to compete in Formula One from the start of the 2006 season.

Midland's Russian-born chairman Alex Shnaider said he was prepared to spend heavily, but Stoddart said Midland F1 would not be able to buy success like business tycoon Roman Abramovich has at English premier league football club Chelsea.

Billionaire Abramovich has spent more than $450 million on players since he arrived at Chelsea in July last year. The team are second in the league.

"There are no Abramovich fixes in Formula One," Stoddart, whose Minardi team face an uncertain future after Ford's decision to sell engine maker Cosworth, told Reuters.

"It's not like football," added the Australian entrepreneur. "When you buy a football team your assets are your players and if you buy players, which you can do very quickly, you can be very successful overnight.

"Formula One doesn't work like that. Formula One has a history of teams coming in, spending sometimes up to one billion dollars and still being last in the first year."

Relative newcomers BAR and Toyota have both spent vast sums of money since joining Formula One and have still to win a race.

"I quote BAR," said Stoddart. "BAR came in in 1999, they spent $250 million in their first year and came last. Toyota came in two years ago and reportedly spent over a billion dollars in their first year and they came last.

"It takes time. Ferrari have been in the sport for over 50 years and they went 21 years without a world title. There are no shortcuts in Formula One."

Under Threat

While Minardi say they will survive, Jordan and Ford-owned Jaguar are also facing an uncertain future.

"I wish (Midland F1) a lot of luck because this is not an easy business, particularly at this delicate stage where we have no guarantee of the future," said Stoddart, who has courted Russian sponsors himself in recent years.

Abramovich visited the Minardi garages at last year's European Grand Prix and was a guest of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone in Monaco this year.

The Minardi cars have carried the branding of Russian energy giant Gazprom while Moscow-based Sergei Zlobin became the first Russian to test a Formula One car with the team in 2002. He has also tested this year.

"We need 12 teams but I would be very interested to see if it actually happens," said Stoddart of the Midland announcement.

Stoddart also cautioned that sponsorship deals can quickly turn sour in Formula One.

"I think I hold the track record for number of due diligences done," he said. "I am up to 23 - including a 10 million euro bounced cheque that sits on my office wall for one of the fly-by-nighters that didn't have the money to go through with it."

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