MONDAY 20TH JUNE 2005
Tyre company Michelin has vowed to continue in Formula One, despite suspicions that the withdrawal of its seven teams from the United States Grand Prix could harm its involvement.
Interviewed as just six cars contested the Indianapolis race, F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone hinted that the situation, which escalated following Ralf Schumacher's crash in practice and culminated in 14 cars pitting at the end of the warm-up lap, could spell the end, both for Formula One in America and Michelin in Formula One.
"I really don't believe this will have an effect on Michelin's future in Formula One," Michelin's deputy director of competition Frederic Henry-Biabaud insisted to news agency Reuters after the race on Monday, "We are convinced that our decision was a professional and a responsible one, in line with our policy of 100 per cent safety. Of course, we deeply regret what happened and feel particularly sorry for the fans. We regret the consequences of this, but we certainly do not regret our decision."
The French company attempted to find a way around the spectre of its cars not taking part in the race, but efforts to both fly out a different specification of tyre and have a speed-reducing chicane built before the final corner both fell on deaf ears at the FIA.
"The investigations are not over yet," Henry-Biabaud said of examinations into why Michelin's tyres failed to last the course, "We are aware that there is a problem, but we have not yet precisely identified it. We believe that [building a chicane] was both realistic and feasible but, for their own reasons, the sport's officials ruled it out."
The sight of 14 cars leaving the race before it had even begun prompted furious reaction in the grandstands, where jeers and missiles flew with equal gusto. Henry-Biabaud, however, remains optimistic that his company's actions will be seen in a better light elsewhere.
"It is too early to say what consequences this will have, but our partners were very supportive and we are confident our decision will have been understood, especially in the United States, where safety is of paramount importance," he insisted.
F1 fans show their anger after the Michelin teams withdrew from the United States Grand Prix