Stoddart urges teams not to lose focus

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has urged his fellow team bosses not to lose sight of their recent unified efforts to help improve the sport and cut costs, despite the shockwaves sent through grand prix racing by Ferrari's surprise decision to commit to Formula 1 until the end of 2012

Stoddart urges teams not to lose focus

Ferrari's unilateral decision to sign-up to F1's future has delivered a massive blow to the manufacturers' hopes of leading a breakaway GPWC championship from the start of 2008, and fuelled suspicions that the reigning world champion team does receive special treatment from the sport's bosses.

But amid claims that Ferrari was given a $100 million (£54 million) sweetener to sign up to F1 and all but kill off the GPWC, there are fears that rival outfits may now be offered less than equal terms to stay in F1 - and that their bargaining position has been weakened because the GPWC has lost potentially its biggest draw.

On the back of recent efforts among the non-Ferrari teams to put together a package of cost-cuts and testing restrictions, Stoddart believes it is absolutely vital that the general feeling of unity is now not lost despite the latest bombshell and that the outfits do not split apart in their plans for the future.

Speaking exclusively to autosport.com, Stoddart said: "Hats off to Bernie. In kind of a way, whether it is right or wrong, it is good because at least we are moving forwards.

"But I think we really need to not lose focus of what the other nine teams have been doing, which is to keep the pact together. It would be easy with an announcement like this to get distracted from all the gut-breaking work we have done for the last month or two, and I would not like to see that happen. I will be fighting really hard to make sure we don't."

Autosport.com understands that Ecclestone will present teams with details of the financial package that he is willing to offer them at a meeting in London next Tuesday (January 25). Ecclestone has openly said he is keen for a deal to be hammered out before the start of the 2005 season

"We want to have this all over with before the teams set off for the first race. Absolutely," Ecclestone told The Times on Thursday. "This is not a case of seeing the GPWC off. What they were promising was nonsense.

"It was all about people looking for jobs, a nice little earner for certain people, with the manufacturers giving them money to set up. Now the teams will be able to go to their sponsors and tell them we have a stable future and everything is fine."

And although it appears at face value that the teams are now backed into a corner, with one leading source telling autosport.com that Ecclestone's offer will be a simple 'take it or leave it' with no room for negotiation, Stoddart is optimistic that even the smaller independent outfits may not be complete losers.

"If the GPWC really get annoyed, they could say, 'If the nine other teams sign up to this then let's forget Ferrari, they can go and play with themselves. We will offer the other teams a deal like they have never seen before.'

"This could then result in the worst thing possible for the sport, which could be an IRL-CART type split situation, or it could force Bernie to offer the teams a good deal to make sure it is not viable to go the other way. Either way, the winners will be the smaller teams."

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