MARCH 2, 2005
Refusing to sign to allow Minardi to race in Melbourne would be an act of monumental stupidity for Ferrari boss Jean Todt. The little Frenchman is no doubt enjoying his current position of power which means that he can cast out Minardi because the teams must agree unanimously to allow a team to run with year-old cars. All the others have agreed to let Minardi run with 2004 cars, but Todt will not. There are, no doubt, ways that Todt could justify such an action but it is very clear that the primary motivation behind such a move would be one of revenge, to make life difficult for Paul Stoddart, the man who has made Jean Todt's life difficult in recent months. Stoddart is not a fool and if he could have avoided putting himself in this position he would have done so but obviously that was not an option and so he finds himself exposed. Squashing Minardi might give Todt a little satisfaction but what good will it do the sport? Stoddart, for all his faults, is someone who cares about the sport sufficiently to be willing to fight and increasingly the other team bosses agree with him.
The rules were decided too late in the day and Minardi's engine supplier Cosworth had an uncertain future until the final week of November. Stoddart has a decent claim to force majeure. He says he did not have the money to waste to build interim cars and was waiting for a definitive set of rules. That is not asking too much. The rules which were imposed on the teams on the grounds of safety have proved to have done nothing at all to slow the cars down the three seconds that the FIA said they would. So Stoddart's 2004 cars are no closer to the field. It is all just a political game.
Perhaps if Ferrari continues to be difficult Max Mosley might win some Brownie Points in F1 circles by accepting that Minardi should be allowed to race, even if the cars are built for 2004 regulations. That would be better than the alternative which would be Minardi botching up cars to meet the 2005 rules and then sending out two young drivers with little F1 experience and telling them to drive cars which have no available data. It would be better than kicking off the World Championship of 2005 in the Counrt of Appeal.
Formula 1 does not need this kind of publicity. Minardi is a small, unsuccessful but highly-popular team, and to kick it out of the event would be pure stupidity on the part of those who have the power to allow Minardi to take part. Minardi is a threat to no-one on the race track but refusing to let the cars race is an act which will simply add to the political fighting in F1 at a time when anyone with brains can see it is necessary to start finding solutions, rather than digging trenches and getting ready for a war.
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