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Court keeps Minardi's hopes alive
Alan Baldwin in Melbourne | March 04, 2005 16:48 IST
A supreme court injunction kept alive Minardi's hopes of competing in the Australian Grand Prix as the Formula One season started under a cloud of controversy on Friday.
Race stewards, who act for the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), had earlier rejected the team's bid to compete with 2004 cars that do not conform to new aerodynamics regulations.
"We are in. We'll be running all day tomorrow and then we'll have to wait and see what happens," said Stoddart, whose struggling team are regular Grand Prix tail-enders.
The Australian, who comes from Melbourne, said the Victoria court had scheduled a second hearing at 1415 local (0315 GMT) to decide whether or not Minardi can race on Sunday.
A team spokesman said legal documents would be served on stewards at the Grand Prix ball later on Friday.
First qualifying starts at 1300 on Saturday, after two periods of practice, with the decisive second session now held on Sunday hours before the race.
Minardi drivers Christijan Albers of the Netherlands and Austrian Patrick Friesacher, both rookies, took no part in Friday's practice as Stoddart sought a resolution that would have allowed them to compete.
In a piece of theatre played out before the main grandstand, Stoddart waited for the stewards' verdict with a champagne bottle ready to be sprayed in jubilation. It remained corked.
"It is the view of the stewards that it is inappropriate and unacceptable to alter the technical regulations with which all other competitors comply in order to suit the individual needs and requirements of one competitor," the FIA said in a statement.
"It is the decision of the stewards that for Minardi...to participate further in the 2005 Australian Grand Prix, their cars must comply with all requirements of the 2005 FIA Formula One sporting and technical regulations."
Stoddart said before the injunction was granted that he believed Minardi had "an absolutely watertight case".
However the recourse to the civil courts for a sporting matter takes Formula One into uncharted territory and could have serious repercussions.
The Australian has been battling for days to secure permission for his cars to run, calling Ferrari boss Jean Todt after midnight on Thursday in an attempt to secure his approval.
While Stoddart celebrated his legal success, other team bosses clearly backed the stewards.
Ferrari's Jean Todt suggested Minardi were seeking a performance gain and publicity as much as anything while Red Bull's Christian Horner was delighted with the FIA stance.
"As far as I am concerned, the FIA are the regulators of Formula One and I don't see why the teams should be involved in saying whether someone should break the rules or not.
"The rules are the rules at the end of the day."
BAR's Nick Fry added: "I think they [the stewards] made a brave decision and good on them."
Jordan's Colin Kolles, whose team have most to lose by Minardi gaining a performance advantage as their closest rivals, opposed any concession to his rivals.
"I think that Jordan was in a worse situation than Minardi in December and January," he said. "We managed to bring the cars conforming to the 2005 regulations and so I think it should be possible for Minardi."
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