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Friday, March 04, 2005

Sportsmanship vs Letter Of The Law

Paul Stoddart's Minardi team have found themselves in a fix. This story on reports that the team have been barred from participating in today's practice session.

According to Max Mosley, three teams have protested against Minardi's inclusion in the Grand Prix, as the Minardis do not comply with the new 2005 technical regulations. There is no information as to which teams lodged the protest but Ferrari is of course one of them. ITV-F1 reports that apparently, Red Bull were also planning to protest but Stoddart has managed to persuade team chief Christian Horner to withdraw Red Bull's objections. In exchange, should a Minardi finish ahead of a Red Bull, Minardi would give up its position and points, thereby promoting Red Bull.

Max Mosley goes further in saying that Minardi had ample time to comply with the technical regulations, since they were finalised in September. Well, that maybe true but I doubt if Minardi had the money. All of the teams have had to abandon their 2005 designs because of delays in confirming the 2005 regulations. Even though the top teams have the resources to redeploy and redesign, nevertheless, they too have felt the pinch. All of which cost them an enormous amount of money. Money, the Minardi team simply do not have. Just to digress a little, this is one of the biggest bone of contention of the GPWC. That, the rules are changed arbitrarily, with little consultation and within very little notice. This instability carries with it enormous costs. All this from Max Mosley, who claims he wants to reduce costs.

Returning to the subject at hand, Paul Stoddart claims that this is Ferrari's retribution for his past actions. He is quoted as saying: "I think everyone knows it is payback for me being the spokesman for the other teams against the deal that Ferrari made with Bernie and the FIA. If anybody thinks that’s not the case, then they haven’t been following Formula 1 very closely over the winter." If you read the ITV-F1 report, you'd find allegations that Ferrari and the FIA are giving the Australian the run around and they look very determined to stop him from entering his cars.

Strictly speaking though and according to the letter of the law, Minardi should be prohibited from racing. After all, their cars simply do not comply with the regulations. It could set a very dangerous precedent here if they were allowed to race under these special conditions. After all, the law must applied evenly to all teams. And by and large all teams have responded and made their cars legal. That Minardi do not have the resources to ensure legality are none of anyone's concern except themselves.

The counterpoint is that well, you have teams like Ferrari who do break rules anyway. Like the bargeboard incident of the Malaysian Grand Prix circa 1999. Also recently, they have openly broken testing agreements in order to develop their F2005. So, one might argue, how come they can get away with it?

Also, one might argue that from the perspective of sportsmanship, the little team from Faenza, with limited resources to give any trouble to the top teams should be allowed to race. After all, what harm can they do? Their cars at least comply with the 2005 safety regulations. Ferrari et al will be lapping them after a handful of laps. Surely, some leniency can be shown and at least allow their participation for the sake of the sport.

Its a very difficult issue. Max Mosley calls Paul Stoddart naive and accuses McLaren and Williams of using the Australian to their purpose. After they are done with him, Max says, they will turn on him in a flash. Well, I think Max is in open warfare with McLaren, Williams and the GPWC, and he's just making quips.

Well, in the end I'd argue for sportsmanship. Which is something that Max and Ferrari have no understanding of, argues (quite rightly) the folks at Formula 1 blog. Having said that, at this time of writing, Paul Stoddart indicates that Ferrari might relent.

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