JUNE 15, 2003
An elegant solution for Formula 1
The leading players in Formula 1 have come up with an elegant solution to the problems of the F1 "fighting fund" after a rather messy press conference on Friday. The solution came on Saturday morning when Bernie Ecclestone offered to by a shareholding in Paul Stoddart's Minardi team. It is not clear exactly what the details but Stoddart will remain in control of the team for the foreseeable future. It is believed that the deal concluded will provide Minardi with around $5m in income for the rest of the year. At the same time we understand that Jordan Grand Prix, which was also struggling to survive has been guaranteed money by the other F1 teams, thus overcoming problems which existed between Stoddart and some of the other team owners.
"Having Bernie as a shareholder in the team came completely out of the blue," said Stoddart. "And I hope that now I can get on with making this team what I always wanted it to be but did not have the money to make happen. After September 11 2001 there was just no money out there and it has been very frustrating for me and for the team but now we have stability I hope we can go back to building up the team. At the end of the day I am here to race cars and not to be a politician. I don't apologize for what I did yesterday because it had to be done. Formula 1 is a fantastic sport and I want to do it properly and now I hope that I can. Having Bernie as a shareholder puts me in a very powerful position. I think what he has done is to ensure that there are 10 healthy teams in Formula 1 and I am now looking forward to trying to build the team up. I am clearly excited by this. Minardi now has a chance. It is too early to discuss any specifics but I am quite content but I do not expect Bernie to take an active role in the day-to-day running of the sport."
Ecclestone said "It is time to get on with the sport and go racing."
It remains to be seen whether or not Stoddart remains in charge of Minardi in the long term but the move makes a great deal of sense for Ecclestone in a number of ways. It is not clear how long he has been considering such a move but it may be that he has been watching Stoddart for some time and was waiting to see if the Australian would stand up for himself on Friday against the other teams. Ecclestone has been known to see whether potential team owners have what it takes and it may be that the Friday press conference was a test. At the same time being involved in a team cannot hurt Ecclestone as it presents the automobile manufacturers will a new problem as Bernie can now have an influence over all decisions relating to the Concorde Agreement. Minardi is a team signatory to the agreement and must agree if short-term changes are to be adopted. It will also give Ecclestone a rather better insight into how the GPWC operates.
We understand that Jordan's financial problems will be taken care of by the teams and that in all probability this will mean that an engine deal will be sorted out next year with Mercedes-Benz. Minardi is expected to stay with Cosworth engines.
Stoddart says that he will continue to block some of the regulations that were in pipeline for the future because he does not believe they are a good idea for the sport. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
"A lot has been said about what Max Mosley did with the regulations in January," Stoddart said. "In the end he was proved to be right. And when it comes to Bernie, when the chips were down he was there for me. The big teams and the automobile manufacturers were not. It is a good day for Formula 1, a good day for Minardi but the people I am really happiest for are the guys in the team. It has not been easy for them and this effectively guarantees their future."
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