MONTREAL: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dipped into his own pocket and bought a stake, believed to be US$4mil, in the struggling Minardi team.
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart had appealed for a hand-out on Friday after finding out that the fighting fund he had been promised by his rival team bosses had collapsed.
Ecclestone said that he would provide Minardi with an undisclosed amount, while Stoddart said the sport's boss had purchased a stake in the back-of-the-grid team.
“We need to shut up all this rubbish and get on with the sport,” Ecclestone said.
“We need to go racing. We are racers. We are not financers.”
Sources suggested that the deal was worth US$4mil to the Minardi outfit, but Stoddart would not confirm what stake Ecclestone has bought.
Stoddart, who had a war of words with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis in a press conference, confirmed: “I have a new business partner, Mr. Bernard Charles Ecclestone.
“He is putting the money in out of his own pocket. It is enough money to put a smile on my face and I hope we can prove it was a wise investment.
“Yesterday was the last thing I wanted to do. Bernie brought the idea up and we discussed it this morning. It was all done very quick. I think he is a guy who doesn't want to see a crisis while he is at the helm.
“Common sense prevailed and I am very proud to say that someone does care about the integrity of Formula One. I am quite saddened that it is no thanks to some of my peers.
“That doesn't matter, I can live with it and I am quite happy.”
Stoddart had expected to receive aid totalling US$8mil from his rival teams after a proposal was made in January but they refused to provide it to him because they incurred extra costs after the Formula One rules changed this year.
But he added: “It is probably fair to say that the fighting fund is dead. It is the best result for Formula One and I would have to say Minardi is in good shape.”
Several of the sport's team principals met to discuss the matter in the Montreal paddock on Saturday afternoon and Stoddart's fellow cash-strapped rival Eddie Jordan confirmed the news.
“Bernie is going to help Minardi for now and he is doing it personally,” said Jordan.
“None of the teams have had to put their hand in their pockets. Bernie thinks it is right for the good of the sport to keep 10 teams there and he is doing everything at no loss to any team.”
McLaren chief Dennis, who had instigated the ‘fighting fund’ in January, said he was happy the episode had drawn to a close.
“I think the money is coming from the right place,” Dennis said while BAR-Honda David Richards praised Ecclestone for his decision to help Minardi stay in Formula One.
“Bernie has resolved this problem himself,” Richards said.
Ecclestone is also expected to hand Jordan some financial assistance and Richards added: “I think you will find that Eddie is also happy.”
But Jordan said he had not benefited financially. – AFP
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