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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 July 2005, 05:49 GMT 06:49 UK
Rebel leader
By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Silverstone

Paul Stoddart is an unlikely shop steward.

An Australian multi-millionaire who made his fortune in aviation, the Minardi team owner has found himself the spokesman for one side of arguably the bitterest split in Formula One history.

Stoddart is the man who puts into words the intense dislike the majority of F1's participants have for the rule of Max Mosley, the president of the sport's governing body, the FIA.

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart
Minardi boss Stoddart wants to bring peace to Formula One

Traditionally, F1 team bosses like to do their dirty washing in private.

And as owner of the poorest and least successful team in the sport, Stoddart is hardly the man who would be expected to be its chief spokesman.

But Stoddart personifies the characteristics of the archetypal Australian sportsman.

He is tough and feisty. He gets straight to the point. He won't stand for any nonsense. If he feels he is being messed around, he does something about it.

When Stoddart bought Minardi in 2001, he had no idea his life in F1 would end up like this. It was "categorically not" why he got involved, he says.

He bought the struggling Italian team because he loved F1 and wanted to be part of it.

But he has found himself inexorably sucked into the sport's ever-present politics.

"I saw F1 as a business first and a sport second," Stoddart says. "It is still a business, but it is a very damaged one at the moment.

If I was a championship contender, would I be so outspoken? Absolutely not
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart

"I've been so boisterous because I firmly believe in the passion I have for F1.

"I want to see it survive and thrive in the way that it has done in the past, way into the future, well beyond Max Mosley, well beyond Paul Stoddart's involvement in Minardi.

"What I'm doing is simply for the good of the sport."

When Stoddart speaks about politics in F1, he represents five car manufacturers - Renault, Mercedes, BMW, Honda and Toyota - and seven of the other teams

On the other side of the political fight that is threatening the very future of the sport are Mosley and Ferrari.

Red Bull and Jordan have yet to definitively pledge for one side or the other, but, according to Stoddart, one of them is on side "most of the time" and the other "occasionally".

The aim of this rebel alliance is to oust Mosley as FIA president. While they feel he has done a lot of good things for motorsport, they say he has outstayed his welcome, become dictatorial and unpredictable.

FIA president Max Mosley
Stoddart accused Mosley of casting a shadow over the future of F1

Stoddart says he has ended up as spokesman because he has the least to lose.

"At one point I was the only team boss who was totally the owner of his team and could pretty much say things that other people for one reason and another can't say publicly," he says.

"A lot of the teams for sponsorship reasons, and because F1 is not their mainstream business, do not want to be involved in the politics any more than they have to be.

"Or they do not wish to be publicly critical of the FIA and particularly its president, because if you do that draconian things can and do occur.

"If I was a championship contender, would I be so outspoken? Absolutely not, because I'd be fearful that the rules are so grey that at any time they can find something wrong with the car.

"History has shown that those sort of things happened in the past. So you'd be wise to just shut up and get on with it."

Stoddart is hardly immune from this fear - he has his own team, even if it is last in the championship.

But he says the issue is too important to keep quiet.

"I have said many times that this possibly will be my demise," he says. "But if that is the price you have to pay for a proper and forward-looking F1 that is one series and not the two series it is clearly heading for at the moment, then fair enough, someone's got to do it."

Mosley rejects all of Stoddart's accusations, insisting that the FIA is both independent and fair, and has only the good of the sport at heart.

But his problem is that most of the teams in F1 do not trust him any more.

Is there anything wrong with asking for stability in your sport and business? We want fair and independent governance
Minardi boss, Paul Stoddart

There is, says Stoddart, "total instability".

"It's a billion-dollar business and 90% of the players are saying: 'What we want is stable technical and sporting regulations.'

"Is there anything wrong with asking for stability in your sport and business? We want fair and independent governance. Isn't that what the western world is built on?"

He dismisses the notion that the manufacturer-led group simply wants more money out of F1.

"When the manufacturer group was born, it was over wanting a fairer and more equitable distribution of wealth," he admits.

"That is still there, but Bernie (Ecclestone, F1's commercial boss) has made a much improved offer, and it is secondary to having to get proper governance. Once we get that, the issue of money will be self-solving."

He says Mosley has become "a dictator" and that the allegation is proved by his intervention in last month's US Grand Prix fiasco and his row with the F1 drivers last week.

And it is too late for an accommodation.

"We've tried so hard to work with Max, and if you ever wanted a clear demonstration that it will never work, you got it at Indianapolis," Stoddart says.

"If Mosley stays in F1, there will be two series in 2008. The net result would be disaster for F1. There will be no unification of F1 as we know it today under Mosley. It's not possible, the damage is too great."

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