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Ferrari, the FIA and the 'rebels' - the other side of the story

FEATURE BY CHRIS BALFE
08/02/2005

When FIA president, Max Mosley, released a whole raft of documents relating to the ongoing cost cutting saga, Pitpass described it as a masterstroke.

Reading through the various documents it appeared that Mr Mosley had a point, and that the media, not for the first time, was working itself into a frenzy for nothing. Some regarded the decision by the nine rebel teams not to attend the 28 January meeting with Mosley as churlish, and laughed when the former barrister claimed that more had been achieved in their absence than had they been present.

The minutes of the meeting, attended by Mosley, Charlie Whiting and Richard Woods of the FIA and Ferrari's Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, make fascinating reading. Although there remained a few areas where the Italian outfit was clearly at odds with its nine rivals, it was clear that there was hope that a satisfactory outcome might be reached, and that Formula One might avoid further acrimony and the ensuing negative publicity.

Though the Italian team was adamant with regards testing restrictions, there was clearly a softening in its attitude towards other issues of contention, in particular the thorny subject of the single tyre.

A masterstroke indeed.

However, Pitpass editor Chris Balfe is too long in the tooth not to realise that there are two sides to every story. Though it was refreshing to see the FIA make these documents - and so any of them - public, there was this question nagging away at him, why? Formula One and its governance is steeped in secrecy, almost to the point of paranoia, so why the sudden openness?

Much was made of a 45-page missive sent by Minardi boss Paul Stoddart to Mosley, who subsequently made the document public, in all its glory. Try as he might, editor Balfe found himself unable to get more than just a few pages into it before his eyes began to glaze over.

Consequently, he sat down with Stoddart, the so-called shop steward - a term he dislikes intensely - for the nine teams at odds with the FIA and Ferrari, and asked the Australian to explain what it is that at a time we should be looking forward to a new season, and hopefully a new beginning, is threatening to tear Formula One apart.

This is not a situation that can be explained away with a few bullet points. It is a complex, highly intriguing tale. According to Stoddart, who let us remember is representing nine Formula One teams, including his own, it would 'appear' that some parties are not being quite as open as they would have us believe, while others are only having a change of heart now that certain objectives have been achieved, and deadlines passed.

What follows is a conversation whereby Stoddart, with the backing of eight other Formula One team principals attempts to give their side of the story. It is worth sticking it out to the very end, even if you do find your eyelids getting heavy.

"Basically, I want to tell you our side of the story," Stoddart begins.

"I started to read the 45-page document this week, but it wasn't long before my eyes began to glaze over," I confess. "I think this is probably why Max had it posted in the first place."

"It's a document which, if you do take the time to read it, however, tells you that the 2005 (Formula One) regulations aren't legal," says Stoddart, "the fax votes aren't legal and, in fact, just about everything Max has done falls into that category since he changed from being a genuine supporter of the concept of trying to push F1 towards saving money. In Monaco last year, he changed, and changed completely.

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