JULY 5, 2003
Team bosses gather as storm clouds grow
The Formula 1 team bosses will meet tomorrow morning at Magny-Cours to try to come up with a solution to the problem of the "fighting fund" with Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart saying that he is going to run cars without any driver aids at Silverstone. This opens the way for a post-race protest from the team against all the other cars in the field, which could result in all the cars other than the two Minardis being disqualified.
This is obviously not in the best interests of the sport but Stoddart says that he feels he has to do it because he is left with no choice. He says that the teams agreed in January to help Minardi and Jordan but they have not done so and both teams are teetering closer and closer towards going out of business. Stoddart, who says he has documentary evidence to back up all of his claims, has so far simply caused a little embarrassment for McLaren boss Ron Dennis in Canada but despite that nothing has happened about the fighting fund.
The dispute has become more and more of an issue between the two men and appears to us at least to be a battle of egos. Ron Dennis says that he has been completely honest throughout and Stoddart seems to believe otherwise.
The most likely outcome at the moment is that by the end of the year Minardi and Jordan will be out of business and the eight remaining teams will agree to run three cars each next year. This would work because the cars could all count towards the Constructors' title and thus there would be no cars getting in the way and taking points from the opposition. The problem with this however is that it would reduce the opportunities for the mid-grid teams to score points because with the top three teams running a total of nine cars there would little chance of anything for anyone else and that would lead to further teams falling out in the longer term.
The problem is that the big F1 teams are not in the sport to ensure that it survives but rather to win and increase their own worth. If they are allowed to continue along this path the sport will eventually die because there will be only three players left. It is a pattern that has been repeated over and over in the history of the sport when manufacturers are left to their own devices.
The only way that this drift to disaster can be stopped is if the rules are changed to reduce costs and thus reduce the advantage of those with the most money. Under the current structure the teams can in effect block anything they do not like, which is why the FIA has had to resort to such tactics as the January 15 reinterpretation of the rules. The whole issue must also be seen as part of bigger picture because the future of the sport is currently in play with the various groups trying to find a long-term commercial solution for the sport. This is not likely to happen for some time, despite various remarks suggesting otherwise by some of the team principals, because there is no real spirit of compromise to be found between those involved.
As things stand it is hard to see how these problems can be solved without one party or the other being forced to back down. Stoddart says that he is not going to back down and if he goes out of business he will tell the whole story. The FIA says it will apply the rules as they are written and the teams say that Stoddart is damaging the sport.
The truth is that if this battle does come into the open everyone is going to get hurt but it seems that some of those involved do not have the wit or the wisdom to realize it.
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