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Mixed emotions for Stoddart

NEWS STORY
18/09/2008

Former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart has admitted to having mixed emotions following Sebastian Vettel's win at Monza last weekend.

While the Australian lauds the success of the young German driver, he admits to fearing for the future of the independent teams such as Williams and Force India.

Stoddart bough the struggling Minardi outfit at the end of 2000, and over the next five years enjoyed a rollercoaster ride in F1, both on and off track. In late 2005, having seen the writing on the wall as far as the independent teals are concerned, he decided to sell up, with Red Bull taking control of his Faenza-based team.

Under Stoddart, the obvious highlight was Mark Webber's famous fifth place in Melbourne in 2002, however, would anyone have thought that the Italian team might one day win a race, according to the Australian, yes.

"This has been coming for a while, this isn't just a one-off," he told Reuters. "Nobody can say that Toro Rosso won that Grand Prix because of the rain or because everybody else fell off.

BMW-Sauber won a race this year because many of the other runners had fallen off," he continued. "Minardi/Toro Rosso won the race with them all still there."

Stoddart revealed that he watched Sunday's race on TV in Britain, his heart constantly in his mouth. "I'm glad I wasn't there," he said, "I'd probably have had a heart attack. But it was so good for them. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people."

Reflecting on a weekend when Vettel and the team scored their first pole position and first win, Stoddart continued: "Am I surprised? Well, they've got the budget now that I never had. Giancarlo (Minardi) was one of the first ones I texted and that was pretty emotional. You know how hard we fought for just points and now with a better budget and a damn good car they can fight for a victory. That is something that dreams are made of."

However, the Australian admits that the win will kill off any hope of 'customer cars', while he also fears for the future of the remaining independents, particularly Williams.

"I feel for Frank," said Stoddart. "There are very few that have given more to the sport and he now finds himself struggling against manufacturers with massive budgets and billionaire teams with his old designer.

"If I were Frank or Force India, I wouldn't be in a hurry to entertain any discussion on customer cars," he continued, "which leaves Red Bull and Toro Rosso in a very difficult position."

Stoddart was one of the unsuccessful bidders for the so-called twelfth entry, which eventually saw David Richard's win a place on the grid for Prodrive. However, unable to secure an engine and chassis deal the Prodrive F1 team was virtually stillborn.

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