If I remember correctly, The Great American
Disaster was the name of a restaurant, but the disaster I am referring
to is the complete farce that was dished up to the US public as an F1
motor race last weekend. It was a wonderful example of how cynical the
teams have become, how avaricious, how stupid, how cowardly and how
they would attempt to make everyone else, especially the FIA and even
Ferrari, into the scapegoats. No wonder they were having meetings
while the “race” was going on, so they could put out a joint
statement at the end. I was disgusted.
Here are the true facts. First off, the tyre rules.
Teams are supposed to bring two different types of tyre to meetings,
and then pick one, on which they qualify and race. Indianapolis is
known to be hard on tyres, the left rear in particular, so one would
imagine that the tyre companies would have a harder tyre as the
Now here is the lead-up. In practice, the two
Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta blew the sidewalls of the
left hand rear tyres. Toyota is one of the seven teams supplied by
Michelin. The tyre company examined the failures, said they couldn’t
guarantee the other Michelin teams would not have the same problem and
admitted that they had not brought a harder sidewall tyre. They
estimated that the tyres they had brought to America would be good for
10 laps. Their initial suggestion was that Michelin fly in suitable
tyres from France overnight. However, here is the nub of the problem -
the regulations plainly state that substitution of tyres is in
violation of the rules, and anyone caught running the “wrong”
tyres would be penalized.
To attempt not to be penalized, the next course of
action that the seven Michelin shod teams and Michelin came up with,
was for the FIA to reduce the speeds the cars would do through the
high-speed Turn 13 right-hander, and they suggested a chicane be built
on the morning of the race day! They then decided they would hold a
gun at the organizers heads and say that if the chicane was not built,
the Michelin tyred cars would not race.
Now what must also be remembered, is that the three
Bridgestone tyred teams (Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi) were having no
problems with their choice of (Bridgestone) tyres; however, Jordan and
Minardi decided to go with the majority and said they wanted a chicane
as well, or they wouldn’t race either. This only left Ferrari, but
their take on it was that it was a problem between Michelin, Michelin
teams and the FIA, which is correct.
Michelin sent their letters of demand to the FIA
Race Director (Charlie Whiting) who replied as follows:
“We are very surprised that this difficulty has
arisen. As you know, each team is allowed to bring two different types
of tyre to an event so as to ensure that a back-up (usually of lower
performance) is available should problems occur. It is hard to
understand why you have not supplied your teams with such a tyre given
your years of experience at Indianapolis.
“That the teams you supply are not in possession
of such a tyre will also be a matter for the FIA to consider in due
course under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
“No doubt you will inform your teams what is the
maximum safe speed for their cars in Turn 13. We will remind them of
the need to follow your advice for safety reasons. We will also ask
them to ensure their cars do not obstruct other competitors.
“Some of the teams have raised with us the
possibility of running a tyre which was not used in qualifying. We
have told them this would be a breach of the rules to be considered by
the stewards. We believe the penalty would not be exclusion but would
have to be heavy enough to ensure that no team was tempted to use
qualifying tyres in the future.
“Another possibility would be for the relevant
teams repeatedly to change the affected tyre during the race (we
understand you have told your teams the left rear is safe for a
maximum of ten laps at full speed). If the technical delegate and the
stewards were satisfied that each change was made because the tyre
would otherwise fail (thus for genuine safety reasons) and that the
relevant team were not gaining an advantage, there would be no
penalty. If this meant using tyres additional to a teams’
allocation, the stewards would consider all the circumstances in
deciding what penalty, if any, to apply.
“Finally, it has been suggested that a chicane
should be laid out in Turn 13. I am sure you will appreciate that this
is out of the question. To change the course in order to help some of
the teams with a performance problem caused by their failure to bring
suitable equipment to the race would be a breach of the rules and
grossly unfair to those teams which have come to Indianapolis with the
FIA Formula One Race Director”
So in other words, the FIA said that Michelin knew
the rules and they should stick by them. If their drivers need slow
down for Turn 13, then this is under their control (the pedal is the
one on the far right and the drivers are paid millions to know this!).
The Sunday was race day, and the seven Michelin
teams formed up on the grid with the three Bridgestone ones, as if
they were prepared to race, then did the warm-up, and giving the
American public a total slap in the face with a wet haddock, the
Michelin teams drove back into the pits and got out of their cars.
What a farce! If they were not going to race, why did they line up in
the first place?
In another display of gutlessness, Minardi’s Paul
Stoddart, the spokesman for nine of the teams (not for Ferrari),
fronted his team on to the grid for the race, along with Jordan. This
he said was because Jordan backed out of the ‘solidarity’ deal and
had decided to race! The fact that picking up points meant millions of
dollars to Minardi had nothing to do with it, I’m sure.
The team bosses have now shown their hands. They
could not care about race fans. They didn’t like playing to the
rules and took their footballs and went home. Pathetic! And don’t be
suckered in that it was for the “safety of the drivers”. That was
just a smokescreen. Driver safety was covered by either lifting off
and driving slower through Turn 13, or coming in for new left hand
rear tyres every 10 laps.
Mind you, what I would have done is agreed that
they could have a chicane down on the right side of the track, through
which all the Michelin runners would have to go, but the Bridgestone
teams could avoid it and go through Turn 13 flat out.