Phoenix Plan to Fight for Formula One Place
|By Alan Baldwin||Friday, March 15th 2002, 08:45 GMT|
The Phoenix team insisted on Friday that they had bought rights to compete in this year's Formula One championship and would contest a decision to block their entry.
"We are sorry that we have been blocked from participating in the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix," said Phoenix Finance managing director Charles Nickerson in a statement circulated at the Sepang track. "Phoenix intends to redress this situation and to take up its rightful position on the starting grid as soon as possible."
A legal argument is raging over whether or not Nickerson, who bought the assets of the failed Prost team last month, also purchased the rights to compete in the Championship. The International Automobile Federation (FIA) is adamant that they do not, saying in a statement on Tuesday that Phoenix would not be allowed to race in Malaysia.
"The FIA has...informed Phoenix and Mr Nickerson that they are not entered in the 2002 FIA Formula One world championship and that it cannot allow them to participate in Malaysia even on a provisional basis," it said.
FIA spokesman Francesco Longanesi added this week that "Phoenix will not be allowed to compete in the championship at any time this season."
FIA sources repeated on Friday, after the Phoenix statement, that nothing had changed in their opinion. But Nickerson suggested the FIA had been given "flawed" legal advice. "I have read the communique from the FIA which is blocking Phoenix from participating in the Malaysian Grand Prix and it seems that the legal advice which they have received is seriously flawed," he said.
"Either the FIA's advisors have misunderstood the judgement of the French court or were not in possession of all the information when they gave their advice."
Despite the uncertainty, Phoenix brought two of last year's Prost cars to Sepang - although they did not get beyond Kuala Lumpur international airport - with the intention of racing them. Engineering assistance and logistical support is being provided by Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), the firm run by Arrows boss Walkinshaw who is also a friend of Nickerson.
However no tyre supplier has been announced for the team, with both Michelin and Bridgestone saying on Friday they had received no request for assistance. There is also no available garage space at Sepang and admittance to the paddock is closely guarded.
The Phoenix statement included a copy of a letter, dated February 28 and apparently signed by Prost liquidator Cosme Rogeau, which Nickerson said confirmed the entry right.
"We also wish to confirm that we have transferred all rights enjoyed by Prost Grand Prix SA in its entry in the 2002 FIA Formula One world championship to Phoenix Finance Limited," the letter said.
It was addressed to International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley.