MONDAY 20TH JUNE 2005
A strongly worded statement from Formula One's governing body the FIA has slammed the seven Michelin teams for refusing to compete in the United States Grand Prix.
All the teams bar Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi elected to withdraw from the race on safety grounds after Michelin said it could not guarantee that there would be no repeat of the tyre failure which resulted in Ralf Schumacher going into the wall at turn 13 during free practice on Friday in an accident which mirrored the incident twelve months again that left the German driver nursing spinal injuries.
That left American fans angry at the sight of just six cars taking to the grid for the start of the race and had put question marks over the long-term future of the sport in the United States, with many fans questioned both during and after the race insisting that they would not be returning to the event in the future.
Ahead of the race, the Michelin teams had suggested the use of a chicane to slow the cars down and reduce the load on the tyres through the high speed banked corner that brings the cars back onto the Indianapolis oval but the FIA refused to allow a chicane to be introduced - claiming that it was both unfair on the Bridgestone teams to be penalised when they had done nothing wrong and would also lead to separate safety issues with the cars set up to run on a circuit which would have had totally different characteristics if a chicane had been put in place.
The governing body also attacked the teams for not bringing a back-up tyre which would have allowed them to take part in the race, albeit at lower race speeds and said it had offered to slow the Michelin cars in the final turn in order to reduce the risk of a tyre failure, with the FIA monitoring speeds and penalising anyone deemed to be using excessive speed. This was dismissed by the teams unless the Bridgestone runners were faced with the same penalty which was where the suggestion of a chicane was raised to try and ensure what the Michelin team felt was a 'level playing field' for the weekend.
However the FIA was quick to point out that it was not going to change rules or make alterations just because some teams didn't have the correct equipment with which to race.
The FIA statement in full reads as follows:
"Formula One is a sporting contest. It must operate to clear rules. These cannot be negotiated each time a competitor brings the wrong equipment to a race.
"At Indianapolis we were told by Michelin that their tyres would be unsafe unless their cars were slowed in the main corner. We understood and among other suggestions offered to help them by monitoring speeds and penalising any excess. However, the Michelin teams refused to agree unless the Bridgestone runners were slowed by the same amount. They suggested a chicane.
"The Michelin teams seemed unable to understand that this would have been grossly unfair as well as contrary to the rules. The Bridgestone teams had suitable tyres. They did not need to slow down. The Michelin teams' lack of speed through turn 13 would have been a direct result of inferior equipment, as often happens in Formula One. It must also be remembered that the FIA wrote to all of the teams and both tyre manufacturers on June 1, 2005, to emphasise that 'tyres should be built to be reliable under all circumstances.'
"A chicane would have forced all cars, including those with tyres optimised for high-speed, to run on a circuit whose characteristics had changed fundamentally - from ultra-high speed (because of turn 13) to very slow and twisting. It would also have involved changing the circuit without following any of the modern safety procedures, possibly with implications for the cars and their brakes. It is not difficult to imagine the reaction of an American court had there been an accident (whatever its cause) with the FIA having to admit it had failed to follow its own rules and safety procedures.
"The reason for this debacle is clear. Each team is allowed to bring two types of tyre: one an on-the-limit potential race winner, the other a back-up which, although slower, is absolutely reliable. Apparently, none of the Michelin teams brought a back-up to Indianapolis. They subsequently announced they were flying in new tyres from France but then claimed that these too were unsafe.
"What about the American fans? What about Formula One fans world-wide? Rather than boycott the race the Michelin teams should have agreed to run at reduced speed in turn 13. The rules would have been kept, they would have earned Championship points and the fans would have had a race. As it is, by refusing to run unless the FIA broke the rules and handicapped the Bridgestone runners, they have damaged themselves and the sport.
"It should also be made clear that Formula One Management and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as commercial entities, can have no role in the enforcement of the rules."
In a separate statement the FIA confirmed that Renault, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, Red Bull, Sauber and BAR have been summoned to a meeting of the FIA Motor Sport Council to discuss the situation which developed at Indianapolis [see separate story].
The Michelin teams pull into the pits while six cars line up for the start of the United States Grand Prix