FIA to bar Minardi from Australian GP

UPDATE Paul Stoddart says he will take motorsport's governing body to court if it bars his Formula One team from the Australian Grand Prix. Stoddart told Melbourne radio station SEN on Monday: "If that was to happen we would race under protest. Were a protest not to be entertained at the track, it certainly would in the Victorian Supreme Court."

"We've taken some pretty solid legal advice and, if necessary, we will be asking for injunctive relief to race under protest for a case that we know we would win ultimately," Stoddart said.

"Have no fear, Minardi will be there and they will be competing in the 2005 Australian Grand Prix. For were they (the FIA) to do it (ban Minardi), I suspect that nobody would be competing in the 2005 Grand Prix."

02/13/05 While it's all typical F1 posturing and political wrangling to grab the media spotlight, Minardi could be barred by the FIA from taking part in the first F1 race of the year Melbourne, Australia. F1 is great at making a mountain out of a molehill and this is yet another example to cause a controversy as the Australian Grand Prix is considered the Minardi team's "home" GP, given Paul Stoddart is Australian.

Stoddart wants to race his 2004 car adapted to '05 safety standards – but not to this year's technical regulations at the first three races on the 2005 calendar . To do that all other nine F1 teams must agree. Minardi has obtained the green light to race last year's PS04B from eight of the remaining nine F1 teams, but Ferrari has yet to give its OK to Stoddart. Ferrari's non-acceptance would cause Minardi's cars to fail technical inspection in the Melbourne pitlane.

The PS04B would be technically illegal as it would not comply to 2005 rules. Minardi claims it has preferred to focus its efforts on an all-new '05 challenger, and thus could not spend the money necessary to adapt the '04 car.

“All of the teams with the exception of Ferrari have supported us. We believe the cars will be running to legal regulations. If Ferrari and the FIA wish to make an issue of this then it is up to them," Stoddart complained to Autosport.

FIA president Max Mosley stated: "If there was no prior agreement and Minardi presented to us the 2004 car, that would be illegal under the current regulations. So the Scrutineers would not put a sticker on it and it would never go out of the pit lane."

Stoddart responded: “We say the cars do comply and if the Scrutineers say no then we would protest, and I would be surprised if we were not allowed to race under protest."

Stoddart has expressed his displeasure with Max Mosley and has threatened to run against him in the FIA elections for President later this year. Mosley would probably like nothing better than to show him who is boss by barring his cars from the first three races, which is likely to cause his team to lose its sponsorship. In the end, it will be all worked out and the world will have witnessed yet another F1 media ploy to grab headlines where in reality yet another issue was blown well out of proportion. What will be the "hot topic" next week? Mark C.

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