Formula One farce

I know we have a few racing fans here. Normally I wouldn’t take time out to post during a race, but the FIA and Michelin have turned the USGP (happening in Indianapolis as I post) into a complete farce.

If you haven’t heard, after a few accidents caused by tire blowouts in testing this weekend, Michelin has ruled that its tires (on the majority of cars in the field) cannot be used for the race, for safety reasons. The problem was caused by the high speeds in the last turn of the course. The teams proposed that a chicane be put in that turn to lower the speeds, but the FIA (the ruling body of Formula One) refused.

All this played out within the 12 hours before the race started at 2 pm EDT today.

So the grid formed up, and after the first parade lap all but six cars drove into their garages. The six Bridgestone-equipped cars – two cars each from Ferrari, Minardi, and Jordan – are running. It’s probably the most bizarre race in F1 history.

The 150,000 fans at Indianapolis (who probably paid at least $100 for their tickets) are understandably incensed. I’m sure there are lawyers drafting class action lawsuits against Michelin and FIA at this moment.

What a black eye for F1 in the US, and especially now that Scott Speed has been doing so well and promising to bring more American attention to the most high-tech and popular form of motorsport in the world.

I’ve had it on mute most of the time… Why didn’t they build a chicane?

The official reason is that FIA wouldn’t consider changing the course (to a layout that no one had ever run in practice or testing) just to enable one set of teams to run because of problems with their equipment. If the course had been changed, the FIA would have withdrawn its sanction for the race, so it wouldn’t have been a championship race, i.e. points wouldn’t have counted towards the season’s competition.

As a life-long F1 fan, I’ve got to say that was the most embarrassing sporting spectacle I’ve ever witnessed. What a ludicrous cock-up. And an avoidable cock-up to boot. So much for F1 breaking the US market. The fans I saw interviewed were pissed, and pretty admirably avoided swearing for the interviews. They ought to get their money back, but I bet they won’t. Way to commit commercial suicide in the largest untapped market left for the sport, guys.

Full marks to Martin Brundle, however, for a) sticking it to bizarro gnome/arse hybrid, Bernie Ecclestone, before the race, and for commenting, 5 laps before the end, “if Schumi does a victory jump on the podium I am personally going to get up there and punch him.”

My sporting day was salvaged, of course, by England beating Australia in the ODI to extend the Aussies’ 100% beaten record this tour. Woo!

I stopped following the charade of F1 some years ago, and it seems with good reason.

And although the fans may already be on the phone to their lawyers, few sports are better prepared for legal arguments than Formula 1.

The sad thing is that this has been one of the most open, exciting seasons I can remember in years; there was no need for this complete failure, and I have no doubt that at the core of it is this stupid power struggle over the future control of the sport. No coincidence, surely, that all of the potential breakaway manufacturers were among those ruled out of this race.

Oh, and while I’m at it: no sympathy for self-promoting idjit Paul Stoddart with his persistent attempts to blame Ferrari. Didn’t see you blowing the horn of righteousness when Schumacher had to withdraw from a GP recently for tyre safety reasons, mate - no accomodation was forthcoming from the Michelin teams then, so I see no reason why Ferrari should be expected to act differently. Michelin stuffed up, and the teams using Michelin should have been prepared to accept a disadvantage as a result.

According to statements released by the Michelin teams, they were willing to forego all championship points if a chicane was put in, and even give the Bridgestone runners the top places on the grid. I think this was certainly doable. Ferrarri would have had a 1-2 finish anyway. I think Bernie and Max are bent on ruining the sport.

I have to say, I think the blame falls squarely on Michelin for this one. They’ve had five races on this track to make a tire that will hold up to the terrible 9% banking of Turn 13. To screw it up and then issue their statement a few hours before the race is unforgiveable.

I don’t think the chicane idea was viable. Why change the course at the last minute for the benefit of the users of one manufacturer’s tires? If the situation had been reversed and Bridgestone had said its tires weren’t safe, would the rest of the teams have agreed to a chicane? I don’t think so.

Do you guys blaming Max and Bernie think the chicane would have been the best solution? I agree that perhaps for the sake of the fans in the stands it would have been better than nothing. But it would have been a bad precedent for the series.

My answer is that Michelin shouldn’t have issued its letter. It seems to have been a CYA move dictated by lawyers, and once they did it, the teams no longer had any choice. I’m all for safety, but I think the Michelin cars should have gone out and taken their chances.

Compare Ralf’s crash two years ago with the one he had in practice this year at the same point in the track. The SAFER barrier made this year’s incident a walk-away instead of the life-threatening situation it was in 2003. So although it might have been risky, probably not that much riskier than most races. And the good Michelin racers would have taken the turn a little slower to save their tires (and themselves). This would have helped the Ferrari guys, who would probably still have won, but most of the field could have held off the Minardis and Jordans.

Fortunately even he had the good grace (or good sense) to appear very embarrassed by the whole thing. In fact he put that trophy down so quickly I started to wonder whether someone had coated it in holy water. :wink:

You can’t begrudge Tiago Monteiro his minor moment of glory on the podium either. After all, it’s not likely he’ll get chance to do that again, not unless he can blag his way into a much better team anyway.

I have to say I mostly agree with Commasense, although Max and Bernie do need to look closely at their roles in this, and the rules they messed around with this season that helped bring it about.

Absolutely, but once Michelin had messed up, it was up to the organisers to make the best of the situation, and they adamantly refused to do so.

The point is to put up a good show. Bridgestone, with only one top team, doesn’t count for much. That’s just how it is I’m afraid. With the Michelin teams pulling out, nothing good came out of it. Six cars on the track just doesn’t cut it. If the chicane was a compromise, then it should have been put in and the points awarded to Ferrarri.

Everything happens and should happen for the sake of the fans. If it wasn’t for us, it would just be a bunch of overgrown kids going round in big toy cars. Their job is to put on a show, and it must be done at every race.

My answer is that Michelin shouldn’t have issued its letter. It seems to have been a CYA move dictated by lawyers, and once they did it, the teams no longer had any choice. I’m all for safety, but I think the Michelin cars should have gone out and taken their chances.

This is people’s lives we are talking about. Teams can’t rationalize this by saying that Ralf was OK, so our drivers will be fine too. It’s not necessary any other car that has the same problem will follow the same trajectory. It’s even not necessary for the tyre to fail at that exact same spot. The reason could be the pressure built up at turn 13, but the tyre might fail at some other point in the track. When there is no information to go on, the teams (and Michelin) did the only thing they could.

I want to point out that I’m putting the blame squarely on Michelins shoulders for not doinhg their job, but I’m also of the opinion that once they knew what the situation was the administrators had a duty to find a solution. And I don’t think telling the drivers to go slow on turn 13 was the best solution. I doubt even the drivers themselves have too much control over their instincts once they get into a race car. Any professional racers here who could do some psychoanalysis? :smiley:

Damn, the one time I don’t preview and I mess up the coding :mad:

The only people in F1 who *didn’t * do anything wrong are the Bridgestone teams. What, they should have pulled out too, in solidarity? Ferrari is the possible exception, as the only team (reportedly) unwilling to agree to a chicane. Perhaps that would have been a safety problem as well, with the drivers getting only 3 laps at formation-lap speed to familiarize themselves with it, but the other 9 teams were willing anyway - and that’s the only way this thing could have been salvaged.

Most other pro sports organizations, NASCAR especially, know the fans are the reason the sport exists, and the source of all the funding that makes anything possible. But whose interests played no part in this travesty? Yep. That arrogance has a lot to do with F1’s difficulties in breaking into the US market, and this has set it back for perhaps another decade.

I have no idea why Max Mosley wouldn’t permit the chicane, unless the persistent rumors about his favoring Ferrari are truer than anyone knew. For that matter I have no idea why F1 needs to bother with the FIA at all. Anyone got an explanation?

Give Schumacher and Barrichello credit for appearing genuinely embarrassed after the race.

Probably already discussed earlier, but if not for the new rules the Michelin guys would have been able to pit for fresh tires. Would have probably made for more pits vs Bridgestone teams, and Bridgestone (Ferrari) would have more than likely still won. At least the fans could see a race.

I blame Bernie and the F1 powers that be for this rule, changing tires during a race is at least one way to make sure every team can run on whatever brand of tires they wish. If safety is a concern, get fresh tires. If your tire manufacturer is not up to snuff on a particular track, you may have to pit more often. Forcing teams to go the distance on one set of tires is the real problem IMHO.

Is the “last turn” where they go up on the banking of the regular course? If so, though I stopped following F1 decades ago because all my favorite drivers were dead so I can understand the safety concerns, as an American, even one who doesn’t pay any attention to USAC/Championship/Indy Car/whatever the hell they call it these days but who has had to put up with many, many years of Eurocentric snark about how F1 is “real” racing I’m taking some pleasure in Michelin’s inability to build a F1 tire that can handle a turn that has been in existence nearly as long as Michelin.

Saw part of the Canadian GP last week and noticed that, while Monaco has a real casino at its Casino Turn, the Canadians are satisfied with a big sign that says “Casino” at theirs.

Yes, it’s Turn 1 of the 2.5 mile oval when they run the 500.

Well, jeeze! Then it’s just pathetic!

I still can’t believe none of this is Tony George’s fault. It just seems cosmically wrong, somehow.

Casino Montreal is actually *inside * the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, just a bit north of the start line and pits. Except when the course is being prepared for a race weekend, it’s part of the access road from Centre-Ville.

But all you could see on TV was a white sign with big block letters saying “CASINO,” like those pre-WWII wargames in which the men were supposed to believe a car was a tank because it bore a sign that said it was a tank.

The problem was spotted by Michelin who then reported that they could provide tyres suitable if they were allowed.

What should have happened is that they should have been allowed to do so, and the teams run the first few laps and then change tyres.

All those teams changing could then have been penalised by having time deducted or whatever.

Bridgestone runners would still have had a massive advantage, one pit stop less, no penalties and their cars would have been much better set up, the Michelin runners almost certainly would have had their speed and handling compromised due to their lack of testing time with the replacement tyres.

The reason it didn’t happen is that the FIA forbids this, that the tyres with which you turn up at the track are the ones you must use, rather than wait for a replacement and potential advantage.

In this case the Michelin runners would have had penalties, no advantages and several disadvantages, but, there woud have been a race, the Michelin runners would have been racing each other.

The FIA had the option to invoke extroadinary safety rules, it has done so several times in the past, from completely scrapping the Belgium Grand Prix because the track surface was breaking up through to individual team and individual driver bans.

Quite why they did not do so is just another illustration of obduracy.

Fixed thinking, they built themselves a wall over which they were incapable of seeing.