Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Formula One Fiasco

The Formula One U.S. Grand Prix race in Indy was thrown into chaos today with seven of the ten teams -- all running Michelin tyres -- deciding to withdraw due to safety concerns about the tyres. It turned out that the Michelins were ill-equipped to deal with a banked turn on the speedway, and a couple of cars experienced blow-outs in practice sessions. While Michelin had a different tyre compound that would've solved the problem, F-1 regulations prohibited teams from switching compounds during the race weekend.

The seven Michelin teams then demanded that either (a) the regulations be removed and the teams be permitted to switch to different tyres, or (b) a chicane be installed on the banked turn to lower speeds and make the circuit safe again. When the FIA rejected both these options, the teams chose to withdraw and released this statement explaining why they had no other option.

The statement conveniently and hypocritically ignores one perfectly viable option that they had, which was even pointed out to them by the FIA: they could just have instructed their drivers to slow down on the banked turn! The chicane wasn't needed to slow down their drivers and make the circuit safer. It was only needed to slow down their competitors racing on Bridgestone tyres. All in all, it was a disastrous weekend for F-1 and its future in the United States remains in peril.


Blogger Prasanna said...

I've gotten comments talking about how selfish behavior would have led to all the Michelin drivers speeding up on the corners to unsafe speeds. I don't buy this. Michelin offered a safety guarantee so long as the corner was taken at a specified maximum speed. All the teams simply had to instruct their drivers to not exceed that speed. A driver is not going to violate team instructions and endanger his own life in racing for position. The world of F-1 racing is not anarchic enough for selfish behavior to become a problem in this case.

6/21/2005 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Cpr said...

There were actually some 3 options provided by the FIA, 1: Slow down, 2: Change tires frequently and 3: Face a penalty and switch to the new ones flown in from France.
I have to admit that while Option 1 seems possible, it's a little simplistic. Apparently they had to be well off the pace and F1 racing never looks kindly upon "random" braking or slowing down on the racing line (OT: the kinds used by certain drivers to deprive opponents of points even at a cost to themselves).
However, no one seems to pay any attention to Option 3. Since they weren't getting points anyway by quitting, this penalty if imposed correctly could not have made them worse off. If in fact the penalty was monetary, surely the teams should've jumped at it and been happy to pass over their bills to Michelin, the ultimate owner of the screw-up.
I think there was more to it than met the eye with ongoing FIA-team owners' power struggles.
All this aside, I don't know who came up with and ratified the current rules on changing / replacing tires.

6/22/2005 1:13 PM  

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