News and views on motorsports

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Indy Comments

Clearly, the Formula 1 world right now and its fans are polarized into two camps. Following the debacle that was the US Grand Prix, there are those who say that it was entirely Michelin's fault and no one elses. And then there those like our friends at the Formula 1 blog who like me, think the blame lies on the FIA.

Yes, clearly Michelin brought shame upon themselves and the sport by not supplying the correct tyre to their teams. But as I and many others have tried to argue those who run the sport also had a duty to see that the fans get to see a motor race. Personally, I was shocked and lost for words when I saw those six cars on the grid. Surely, I thought, something would have been done to see a full grid.

Frank Williams in this article claimed that the Michelin teams were "desperate to race, to put on a show." And as he quite rightly points out that the North American market is an important one commercially not just for Williams Grand Prix Engineering but for sponsors like HP as well. Of course, BMW themselves sell more cars in America than in any other part of the world. I simply cannot imagine them deliberately committing commercial and public relations suicide.

Of all people, Sir Frank would know the personal horror of losing a driver to a fatal accident. And I'm sure this was a chief concern in his mind. The team bosses may be called piranhas but surely they cannot be so inhumane as to put a driver's life at risk.

The FIA may have their own position regarding this, but surely if one had some sense, they could also see the teams' point of view. The FIA makes the case again and again that Michelin failed to bring a backup. But then, neither did Bridgestone in the Brazilian Grand Prix 2003. But Mr Whiting did declare a delayed start under safety car due to unsafe conditions.

The FIA made Indianapolis a performance issue. The team bosses argued it was safety issue. But if that is so, then in Brazil of 2003, Michelin clearly had a tyre that performed well in the conditions when Bridgestone did not. It was turned on its head by the FIA into a safety issue. Which none of the Michelin teams objected to. Even though starting in torrential rain would have been advantageous to them because they had a proper wet tyre.

But see, at least in Brazil, a race did happen. Some sort of solution was found and the Brazilian fans did get to see a race. No solution was found in Indianapolis. And the job of ensuring that fans get to see the race belongs to the FIA. As even Jean Todt would admit the decision lies in their hands. They failed. And they won't even admit it, whilst to me, culpable though they are, at least Michelin and the teams did.

Meanwhile, the lawsuits have begun. A certain Mr Larry Bowers of Colorado filing in a class action lawsuit suing for the cost of tickets and other incurred expenses. I'm sure in a litiguous society there will be more. Which is nice to see in my view. At least there is some recourse for the fans in the States. Had it happened in Malaysia, I'm sure the powers that be at Sepang would have simply laughed away the complaint and hid behind their politician masters. But let's not get started on Sepang else we'd be here forever.

More importantly, the FIA have recently summoned the Michelin Seven to appear before them to face some serious charges. Furthermore, in this article on speculates that the exclusion of the seven teams from the world championship is a possibility.

Apparently, Michelin are asked to provide details of all previous tyre failures and an "independent" (uhuh) panel of technical experts will determine whether the Michelin tyres are inherently unsafe. If found to be so, Michelin faces exclusion. And, argues GrandPrix, since the seven teams design their cars specifically to run on Michelin tyres, they would face exclusion by default. That is trully nutters!

The issue at hand may be tyres but I'm sure the GPWC aligned teams out of the seven will bring up the larger issue of the sport's governance. In the recent FIA proposals for new rules in 2008, clearly, the FIA's position is that technical directors are no longer seen fit to draft the rules up on their own. The FIA feels that costs need to be reduced and therefore the FIA must step in. Or at least Max feels so. But it is for this reason, this meddling into the rules arbitrarily resulting in a tumultous and sudden changes is the reason why costs keep climbing. Rule stability is needed for cost stability if not reduction and most importantly for a competitive championship.

I'm digressing but there are many, many people, team bosses and fans alike, not too mention the Steeles at Formula 1 blog who feel that the current FIA president should simply step down.

I think he wouldn't go quietly into the night. But as a long time fan of Grand Prix racing I think the current rules are rubbish. Both the two race engine rule and the stupid one tyre per race rule are absolutely horrible and artificial and I believe was Max's idea. He points out that these rules have made this year's championship exciting as a result. I argue that even if last year's tyre rules were followed, Michelin, Renault and McLaren would have kicked Ferrari arses in to touch anyway. These tyre rules are dangerous, clearly upsets the team bosses and rather than reduce costs have actually increased them.

Max Mosley meddles in areas he shouldn't meddle in but where he clearly has a responsibility to do so (like at Indianapolis), he doesn't do the right thing. Max is incompetent and he should bloody well leave. And he has gone a long way to damage the credibility of the FIA itself.

Otherwise, I think the GPWC should go ahead as planned and perhaps if teams are excluded from the world championship, then perhaps thats a good thing. Two weekends ago, we were treated to a four car battle for the lead of the Canadian Grand Prix. Two Renaults vs two McLarens. Formula 1 was fun again. And it didn't need a Ferrari to be in the mix of things. Just a good decent fight for the lead. It was great anyway even with Ferrari languishing in the mid field, proving that no single team is larger than the championship. Despite what Luca di Motezemolo believes.

As far as I'm concerned, one way or another let the fighting stop as soon as possible. If there is no way for everyone to compromise, then let there be a split. Because, lets be clear. Had the FIA been on good terms with the teams, then I believe there would have been a race last Sunday. The fact that the debacle was allowed to continue is a sign of underlying discontent and infighting spilling on to the track.

The fans paid for it. So lets hope the fighting ends between the factions. If each has to go their own way, then so be it. At least, the racing will continue. Let the fans decide which championship they wish to watch. But give us something to watch instead of this utter madness.

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