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Paul Stoddart: F1's R. P. McMurphy?

NEWS STORY
29/03/2006

This week the F1 'circus' arrives in Melbourne.

Everyone loves the circus, the colours, the noise, the anticipation, the thrills, the laughs.

For one man however, it won't be quite the same. Sure, he'll walk through the paddock, much like he has in previous years, shaking hands, catching up on gossip. He'll talk to the media, giving his views on the runners and riders, who's hot, who's not.

Yet, when the serious work begins, he will no longer slip into his costume and take his place in the circus ring, he will retreat to the shadows and watch the event like the rest of us, a spectator rather than a participant.

However, the news that Paul Stoddart has lodged an entry for the 2008 Formula One World Championship means that in the not too distant future, one of the sport's few real characters - love him or loathe him - could be making a return.

Ahead of this weekend's big race, Pitpass editor, Chris Balfe, talked to the former Minardi boss.

Balfe began by asking the Australian about Reuters' revelation that he has submitted an entry for 2008. "What you've heard is correct," says Stoddart, "I put in the entry last week for European Minardi F1 Team Limited, and I've had the official acknowledgement from the FIA.

"It doesn't mean that I'm going to get it as the FIA has made it clear that they are going to choose who gets an entry and who doesn't," he continues, "however, I think we've got all the correct ticks in the right boxes, so we' ll wait and see.

"If you look at it rationally, I've got ten years in the paddock," he adds, "and five of them with Minardi, therefore I've been through the mill and earned my stripes. At the same time, we are probably the only people, other than the existing teams, that have the necessary facilities and current cars. This means that we would be able to go testing as soon as required with a car that would comply to the 2006 regulations, and could run as a test mule for the car to be run in 2008.

"Max has said that he wants to encourage the independent teams," he continues, "well we're certainly that. He also says that he wants teams to run on a budget of no more than one-hundred million, well to be perfectly honest, if the budget for all the teams was one-hundred million, we'd be positively dangerous.

"It's early days," he adds, "we'll see".

Asked what he sees as the possible obstacles to returning to F1, other than Max Mosley, with whom he didn't enjoy the happiest of relationships, particularly in late 2004, and for much of 2005, he replies: "I think that's the only obstacle.

"My reputation for speaking out and telling it like it is, has got me into hot water," he admits. "However, if you look at it realistically, we have the most 'street cred' for getting the job done. It will be interesting to see if that street cred counts for anything or not."

Asked if it is only F1 that he is 'fixed on', whether he has considered any other type of racing, the response is instant, without any hesitation: "No, it's Formula One, that's the only thing that interests me.

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