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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 11:46 GMT
Ecclestone rejects rules claims
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Michael Schumacher leads the field at the start of the Australian Grand Prix
The two Ferraris qualified at the front as usual in Melbourne
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed claims that the sport's new rules led to the dramatic first race of the Grand Prix season.

Ecclestone said the impact of the new rules was not yet clear - but that they were not responsible for the incidents that injected life into the Australian Grand Prix.

"There were more incidents in Melbourne than in all the races last year put together," Ecclestone told the BBC Sport website in an exclusive interview.

"But I don't think [Michael] Schumacher knocking bits off his car, [Juan Pablo] Montoya spinning when he was in the lead, [Kimi] Raikkonen speeding in the pit lane, or the safety cars were to do with the rules.

"Watching the race, the grid looked like last year, with two Ferraris at the front."

And Ecclestone said the presence of a Sauber and a Toyota in fourth and fifth places on the grid was not necessarily to do with new rules that force teams to run their race fuel loads in qualifying.

Bernie Ecclestone (right) disagrees with fellow boss Max Mosley's assessment of the effect of the F1 changes
Ecclestone disagrees with Mosley's view on the new rules' impact

"We don't know what the performance of the Toyota is yet - I think they will be quick this year. Sauber may be as well.

"Let's wait and see [on the new rules]."

Ecclestone's remarks are a direct contradiction of the views of his fellow F1 boss Max Mosley, the president of the sport's governing body, who imposed the rules.

Mosley has claimed the rules were responsible for the excitement because they caused the topsy-turvy grid at the Australian Grand Prix.




AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

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