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MARCH 8, 2003

Minardi's rule gamble

The Minardi team is rarely off the back row of the Formula 1 grid and as a result decided to take an extraordinary gamble in Melbourne, taking advantage of a loophole that no-one else had considered. Minardi engineers concluded that the best thing for the team was to have the cars come in at the end of their qualifying laps and by doing so fail to set a time. This meant that the cars did not have to go into parc ferme but could start the race.The advantage of this is that the team can work on the cars overnight and can change the fuel load. The advanatge of this is if the weather is very different from the sunshine in qualifying.

"If we get a wet start tomorrow, and the chances of that happening are 30-35%, then it may work out in our favour," said team boss Paul Stoddart. "We have nothing to lose. We double-checked the regulations and we are confident that we were not breaching any rule but be sure we will not be doing this at every race."

The FIA says that Minardi can do this but the indications are that the loophole in the rules will be closed as quickly as possible.