Stoddart vows to stay

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart is still seeking a dispensation to run his 2004 specification cars when the FIA's new aerodynamic, engine and tyre regulations come into force next year, but admits that he is facing opposition

Stoddart vows to stay

"We've had a lot of support - more than half of the teams have said yes," he explained in Suzuka, "but there are a few teams that don't seem particularly interested in making it happen. I'm not going to name and shame them, even though it's an incredible temptation to do so..."

Stoddart went on to explain the mechanism through which such a dispensation could be achieved.

"First of all, it has to come from the team bosses and let's just clear up what I'm actually asking for. It's not dispensation against the costs -- that's not an issue here, but as I speak we haven't had any technical regulations. So we, like most other teams, have taken a gamble on designing a car around an engine that we had a signed contract for next year. Suddenly with the news of Cosworth and Jaguar, everything was thrown into turmoil.

"We have to face the reality that there is just a chance that there may not be an engine available for the independent teams next year. And certainly not the engine that we thought we'd have. And that is a case of Force Majeure. It's not an issue of money, it's an issue of unavailability."

Stoddart said that the dispensation is part of contingency plans to make sure Minardi is on the grid next year. He admits that he is in a position to do his own engine programme if forced to, but that it would make the team even slower. He has therefore asked rivals to allow Minardi to run to the '04 regulations for one year only.

"Let's face it," he says, "all of these regulations are because the FIA wants to slow the cars by 3s. We are already slower by 3s, so there is no safety issue. It is just a common sense approach to try to keep some independent teams in F1. We are a dying species. If we do get the teams behind it, we will then need to ask the FIA for the dispensation. So it's not guaranteed."

For Stoddart's problem to be solved, Cosworth would need to be bought and to agree to supply an engine to the 2005 two-race engine regulations.

"I do think Cosworth has a future," Stoddart said, "But it's been a bit like Minardi - it's had more lives than a cat. I think it will survive but will the new owners, whoever thy may be, want to subsidise a commercially affordable F1 engine for 2005? We don't know the answer and it would be irresponsible to continue on the basis that it'll be all right on the night. It needs sorting out now."

Elaborating on his position with Cosworth, he said: "At this moment, in their crisis, they don't have any executive decision-making power, so I have to look at the worst case -- what could I do if there was no engines and no assistance and no will for anyone else to support us? I will be in Melbourne one way or another, with my own engine, which nobody can take aware. I will not be forced out of this sport by politics.

"However,' he added, "we will be incredibly uncompetitive. Minardi has prided itself in all these years that when cars come round to lap us there's never an issue and we make sure we get out of the way. But I don't think it's very wise to have a Minardi lapped six or eight times in a race. It's crazy."

In a cross-section of opinion at Suzuka, BAR boss David Richards said that he regards it as an FIA matter and that if the governing body doesn't have a problem with letting Minardi run it's 04 car, then neither does he. Peter Sauber, however, while sympathising with Stoddart's position, pointed out that there were other teams between Minardi and the front of the grid.

"What compensation do they get to be closer to Ferrari?" he asked.

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