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Canada GP: FIA Friday Press Conference - Part One

NEWS STORY
14/06/2003

Press conference begins with only Paul Stoddart present.

Q: You've issued this press release regarding the so-called 'fighting fund' and withdrawing your agreement to rules. It reveals a certain amount of frustration obviously. Can you tell us the background to it?
Paul Stoddart: Sadly, as you can see by the absence of any other team principals, it looks as if I have been left to tell it as it is. Let me just say at the start of this, this is not something I either want to do, that I relish doing and I think is wholly wrong for Formula One, but unfortunately, certain team principals make statements, make commitments, indeed contracts that are not followed through. I withdrew my support to the changes for next year and I have to say that I didn't agree with them in the first place, they were changes that I conceded as an overall package of assistance to Formula One, for larger bodywork, larger advertising space for those teams lucky enough to have sponsors, or needs for more space for sponsors. When it was clear that the so-called fighting fund that was so committed to back on January 15, was not going to occur, I felt that, in Minardi's interests, I had no choice but to withdraw my consent to the changes to the rules. That meant it was no longer unanimous which of course meant that no vote was taken by the World Council. As I said at the beginning of this, it's not something I'm proud of, but there's a lot of background to this. I'm quite disappointed that I am on my own today because much has been discussed privately which is where it all should have been discussed over the past five months, basically. We're now at the halfway mark of the season; just when is Jordan and Minardi to receive their funds from the so-called fighting fund if not now? It's a bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. So I find myself on my own here today and perhaps I might take this opportunity to give a bit of background to the much-publicised fighting fund.

On January 15, in the morning meeting at Heathrow, it was a unanimous agreement made to the creation of a fund that would allow ten teams to remain in the Formula One championship for 2003. It seems we have a few arrivals

(Messrs Dennis, Jordan, Richards and Williams arrive)

PS: As I was saying, certain commitments were made on January 15 that were supported in the morning meeting, at least, unanimously, by all the team principals present. Those commitments were much publicised and indeed recorded even in a letter from Ron and Frank to Max Mosley, the well-publicised letter which everybody is aware of. Over the past few months, it's become clear that there are different objectives between certain team principals that wish to have the so-called fighting fund extrapolated to many other areas of issues within Formula One that each individual person would like to see resolved. That period has not been terribly easy for Minardi. We make no secret that we have struggled and we make no secret that is our fault that we have struggled but what I believe passionately in is that there is a need for ten teams in Formula One and it's time that people honoured their commitments and not tried to hijack those commitments to satisfy other agendas and basically let it keep going and going and going until a point where nothing is done. And that's what brought it to today.

Q: So you genuinely agree that you had a verbal agreement?
PS: Let me just read you one passage from Ron and Frank's letter to Max Mosley. "Furthermore, in a meeting on the morning of the 15th of January 2003, the team principals and Bernie Ecclestone unanimously agreed, provided there is real stability, to reallocate television income within the sport to ensure that all the current participants would be able to remain in the sport throughout the 2003 season, this included substantial sums to which McLaren and WilliamsF1 has an entitlement." They're Frank and Ron's words, not mine.

Q: Now if you have a problem, if you don't get this money, what is the future of the team?
PS: Minardi will, as I've said, continue to survive and continue to compete and complete in the rest of the season but in what state? Today we were 11th and 13th, we had equalised conditions, a bit of rain and the same tyres as everybody else. I would like to think that we can continue. We're the fourth oldest team in Formula One, behind only Ferrari, McLaren, Williams. It's not for me, I don't care, but I believe passionately that the team deserves to survive, the sport needs to have ten teams, because to not have ten teams would bring in all kinds of horrible problems. Just take a classic example - and Eddie can speak for himself - but were Eddie, or rather Jordan and Minardi cease to exist after this race. Just paint a scenario here: what would happen is that there would be a ballot from the FIA to put four third cars out and just say, because it could happen, that those cars were a McLaren with Wurz, Gene in a Williams, Badoer in a Ferrari and say McNish in a Renault. Four of the top cars. And just say that they were first, second and third at the next Grand Prix, and perhaps it will be the Chancellor that's presenting the trophy. He would standing to an empty podium, because that car cannot go on a podium, those drivers cannot take part in any points-scoring and more importantly, they are not reallocated to any other competitor. What sort of a message would that send out of the state of Formula One? I don't believe it is in crisis. We did not need to have this come to this today or this situation come to this today, but the day we start running third cars and send the message out that we can't even find ten teams to compete and that we can't honour our promises to keep ten teams competing, then you've got a crisis.

Q: Can I go to Eddie, because he's a recipient, or a potential recipient of the so-called fighting fund, what is his position in this?
Eddie Jordan: Er, well, first of all, I'm somewhat surprised with the format in the way this press conference is happened. It's not in its usual nature, is it? It's just about this one subject or are there other subjects to discuss?

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