FIA threatens to withdraw Australian events

Minardi's legal action against the race stewards' decision not to let the Italian team take part in Friday's practice session in Melbourne resulted in the FIA threatening to not hold any more World Championship events in Australia. Minardi gained...

Minardi's legal action against the race stewards' decision not to let the Italian team take part in Friday's practice session in Melbourne resulted in the FIA threatening to not hold any more World Championship events in Australia. Minardi gained an interim injunction from the Supreme Court of Victoria to be allowed to participate in qualifying after the stewards deemed the cars did not confirm to the 2005 regulations.

Once the ruling was made, Minardi then withdrew its legal case and claimed that it had made its point. The team spent Friday night converting its cars to this year's aero regulations. However, it seems that the threat of F1 being withdrawn from Australia in the future was the major influence in Minardi's about-face.

The FIA released a statement on March 5th which made it clear that it was not at all happy with the legal proceedings. Formula One's governing body said it did not have a chance to present its side of the case and was concerned that Australian law allowed the Judge to overrule FIA officials.

"Yesterday, a Judge in Melbourne issued an injunction ordering that two cars be allowed to run in Saturday's practice sessions notwithstanding that they did not comply with the regulations for the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. The team concerned subsequently announced that it had withdrawn the proceedings and presented cars which complied," the statement read.

"The Stewards of the Australian Grand Prix and the FIA were given no notice of these proceedings and were given no opportunity to be present when the Judge heard the case. A hearing which the FIA could attend was scheduled for 1415 hrs after the sessions had taken place."

"Apparently the Judge thought it right to interfere with the running of a major sporting event, overrule the duly appointed international officials and compel the governing body to allow cars to participate in breach of the international regulations, all this without first hearing both sides of the case."

"If Australian laws and procedures do indeed allow a Judge to act in this way, it will be for the World Motor Sport Council to decide if a World Championship motor sport event of any kind can ever again be held in Australia."

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart said the FIA's statement was an "an ill- judged, ill-timed document" and he thinks it was intended to discredit himself, his team, and the Australian GP. He claimed that the FIA threatened to cancel the GP unless he withdrew the legal action. "I agreed in the interests of the Australian Grand Prix to comply with their request to withdraw," he said.

The Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) released its own statement acknowledging the FIA's, and said it "shares the concerns expressed in regard to the way a competitor sought to involve the Supreme Court of Victoria in issuing an ex parte injunction without notice to the FIA and CAMS."

"CAMS needs to ascertain the details presented to the judge. The motor sport judicial process adequately provides for the determination of sporting matters and the Victorian Supreme Court has confirmed on multiple occasions that all sporting judicial processes should be exhausted prior to seeking legal avenues."

Despite all this wordy to-ing and fro-ing, the sport is not above the law and the FIA threatening to remove its championships from Australia is a risk. The Australian legal system is very similar to that of other countries and given the same situation as in Melbourne, other courts would probably have come to the same decision.

The issue is to be discussed in a World Motor Sport Council meeting on March 30th.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Paul Stoddart
Teams Minardi