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JUNE 24, 2005

The fans respond, Part 9

We asked F1 fans for their opinions about what happened at Indianapolis. Here is what they think:

I was really disappointed at what happened at the US Grand Prix. I've spent at least $200 on food and beverages and invited 12 friends to come round to watch the race at one in the morning here in Indonesia and see what we got. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. How can you disappoint millions of people around the world?

Weddy Djoeanda, Indonesia

Though I was Raikkonen fan, I feel that the FIA is correct in this case. The Michelin teams brought improper equipment to the race. They did not bring suitable back-up tires. The track has been around since 1909 so there is no excuse for this. Michelin claims that they proposed many options but the opposite is true. The FIA offered many options but Michelin and teams would accept only one: the chicane or nothing. They offered a one-solution ultimatum that resulted in no compromise. F1 drivers are some of the best in the world. If anyone could adjust speed in a particular corner, they could certainly do it. I will never buy another Michelin tire and I will begin to support Ferrari from here on.

William DeHart, California, USA

First, let me say I am a fan of Red Bull and DC and was disheartened to see the cars pull off. That said, let me just say that Michelin is entirely at fault here. They screwed their teams, F1, US and worldwide fans. They have known Indy was on the schedule since last year and they show up without a tire that can make the distance? That is incompetence at the highest level. They dropped the ball and wanted the other teams to take penalties because they failed to plan? Bridgestone knew Indy was on the schedule, they had the layout of the circuit, they built a tire to get around the whole race. Michelin could not manage this simple feat? Shame on them. If they can't plan for a race of this importance on the grandest stage of motor racing at arguably the most famous track in the world, kind of makes me wonder how much thought is going into those Michelin road tires on the everyday automobile. Michelin has soured me on their product, on their teams and on F1. My motoring dollars will be going to other series now. Hope Michelin is made to pay dearly for this trangression.

Sean Jones, Trinidad and Tobago

If anybody wanted evidence that the FIA and Ferrari are in cahoots together, then Sunday's US Grand is the proof. So Michelin made an almighty cockup, they aren't the first and they won't be the last - they are only human beings after all. But they did put their hands up on Friday and said they had got it wrong and they were not happy. All credit to Michelin for that - it's considerable more than the FIA have done recently. Maybe if Michelin had been able to send their letter confirming the problem to the teams on Friday, there would have been more time to find a solution or compromise that may have produced an "interesting" race. However, it was not to be despite nine teams, Michelin and no doubt, a host of others trying their hardest to find a solution. Even the Ringmaster was sidelined in the end, even he lost against the Max Mosley and the FIA. Ferrari were beginning to rub there hands at the prospect of some cheap points. The arrogance of Ferrari beggars believe - how can one team consider that they are above the sport? They may well have had "right" on their side (according to the FIA) but the spectacular charade they and the FIA manage to produce on Sunday only reinforces the fact that F1 and the FIA needs to be reborn, to start again with a clean sheet of paper - and if that means the GPWC, so be it. The chicane was the probably the best solution. Easy to implement and would have levelled the playing field for everyone. But no, it wasn't to be - nine teams agreed, one didn't and if anyone believes that Jean Todt did not know about the chicane proposal, you only had to look at the smirk on his face on TV five minutes before the start of the race to know that between Ferrari and the FIA, Michelin had unwittingly (as subsequent events will prove) handed the GWPC teams and manufacturers on a plate for the FIA to do what they want with. I bet Max Mosley couldn't believe his luck. No wonder that the FIA were so intransigent on Sunday and the best they offered was slow down to a safe speed at Turn 13 or go through the pit lane. How ludicrously stupid those proposals were - you have twenty racers out there - how many of the Michelin driver's would have lifted off. Not one I suspect. Everyone on ITV heard DC on the car to pits radio during the parade lap saying that if it was up to him he wanted to go racing! The FIA could have and should have found a solution - there have been precedents in the past for situations that have necessitated flexibility to allow racing to go on. If nine teams choose to race with a chicane and one does not, then, as far as I am concern, that one can go home. The nine pay Ferrari enough just for the "privilege" of competing with them in F1. Not very democratic is it? I'm glad that I didn't write this on Sunday night or Monday. I was seething at the FIA, Mosley, Ferrari and Todt.

F1 is the pinnacle of motor racing and, within acceptable criteria, should be allowed to push technology to its limits. It should be governed fairly and transparently, but it is people that make it a sport - it's everyone that's involved but, above all, it's the fans, because without the fans there is no F1 or any other sport for that matter. We all lost something on Sunday - it will take a long time to get it back. My apologies to the people of the USA. I'm sure all true F1 fans feel the same irrespective of who you support. Whether F1 will ever be able to race in the US again I don't know, but I sincerely hope that Tony George, Indianapolis and the people of Indiana can find a way back for F1. One last thing. I must give credit to Bridgestone. Through all of this, Bridgestone, as far as I am aware, have not gloated nor said nor printed anything derisory about Michelin. In fact, I would not have been surprised if they had offered help to Michelin on Sunday. I might be wrong, but it does seem that there is a lot of mutual respect between the tyre manufacturer's in F1.

Charles Gardner, Tadcaster, England

You wrote: "What logic is there in damaging a sport just so one can control the wreck that is left behind?" To answer your question, which was probably rhetorical anyway, the logic is that the wrecker expects to win a gold mine, not a wreck. And, of course, to have the biggest codpiece on the racecourse. It's ironic and sadly fitting that a race at Indianapolis should be the catalyst for such an explosion in F1. Indianapolis is managed by Tony George, who profoundly damaged open-wheel racing in the US in his attempt to control the wreck. His contract with F1 was helpful in winning supporters to his side, but it could turn out to be an albatross.

Mike Bradley, Oakland, California

There is one sure-fire way of F1 regaining a strong foothold in the USA (in 2006). Put a popular and talented American driver in a car with the potential to win races. Danica Patrick in a BAR? I'll wager a lot more than 100,000 would show up to see that. The networks will sit up and take notice, too. Now, if the 2006 F1 schedule could be jigged so she could also race a one-off valedictory turn for Honda at the Indy 500 a week before.

Jay Kinsella, UK

Any partnership is only as good as the goodwill between the parties involved. At the moment there is little of this anywhere in sight. There can be a satisfactory resolution but only, it is feared, if there is a broad commitment to building bridges. The rights and wrongs, in the end, are not what matters. Max and the FIA do not have a show with only three, two or maybe even just one team. The Michelin teams and perhaps another ally or two do not have a championship or any current contracts with suitable circuits without the FIA, the banks and Bernie to run their own series. Getting the show on the road again will require a deal of forgiveness and that is a quality not commonly apparent in F1. At best the chance of another full field Grand Prix being held in the next few weeks is iffy.

John Hamilton, Taranna, Tasmania

I read with some interest - but with growing bemusement - the FIA's "question and answer" response to criticism over the US Grand Prix fiasco. Putting aside the inane, childish and overly-simplistic analogies with downhill skiing, 100 metre sprinting and Olympic rowing, Mosley's constructive input was limited to three options for the Michelin Teams: run speed-limited through Turn 13; pitting every 10 laps for new tyres; or to run every lap through the pits (thereby avoiding the high-speed Turn 13). There was also the sop of changing to a different specification tyre but to then suffer undefined penalties. Mosley's entire platform - and his weapon of choice when forcing through the rule changes which have proven to be wholly negative and costly - is safety. Therefore I'd challenge Mosley to explain how have 14 car running at reduced speed through Turn 13 would be regarded as safe by the six Bridgestone runners? I'd further challenge Mosley to explain how it could be construed as more safe to have 14 cars pit for tyre changes, involving eights sets of tyres per car and the Michelin runners pitting at total of 112 times - so far this year we've seen a number of instances of cars having grip and traction problems after pitting, with the subsequent cooling and loss of pressure. And lastly, how could it be regarded as safe to have the Bridgestone runners pitting for their normal 12 stops, but to then have to integrate with the Michelin runners entering and exiting the pits a total of 1022 times! Even the most basic understanding of Formula 1 tells us that the most dangerous times are starting, and entering and exiting the pits. To suggest that instead of a usual 40 stops for the race that there should be 124 or 1034 - in the interests of "safety" - goes beyond the pale. The possibilities for an accident involving cars, pit crews, and pit marshals would be enormous. The really interesting - or disturbing - point is whether Mosley really believes this thrash that he talks; or is he just willing to say anything in his personal ego battle; with F1 being the battleground and the punters being the cannon fodder. Whichever is true, it's obvious that he has no place calling the shots in our commercial sport.

Robert Turner, Australia

A while ago I took the trouble to fill in the FIA's online survey on how to improve F1. As I plodded through the questions I waited in vain to find the one which allowed me to give the right answer. I'm no aerodynamicist, nor even an engineer, but it strikes me that tyres these days are not so much the things that hold the car on the road but more the last item in the chain which prevents it burying itself in the ground. Get rid of the ludicrous quest to extract the last ounce of available downforce and you don't get drivers complaining about the little gust of wind on one particular section of a circuit that wrecked their qualifying lap; you don't get drivers unable to pass the car in front because of the messed up air flow; you don't get the potentially catastrophic results of sudden wing failures that we've seen; and you don't get tyres that explode as a result of the immense loading transmitted through them on fast corners like that at Indianapolis. Of course, it was all Michelin's fault. But they had the most to lose and were big enough to hold their hands up. It could have been some kind of ploy to re-introduce qualifying tyres through the back door as the FIA seems to think, but it might just have been a mistake. I suppose the FIA, in all their infallibility, can't possibly comprehend this. And for heaven's sake, don't do anything to upset Ferrari. (Prancing horse? Sacred cow?) Besides, if Mr Mosley had had his way over BAR's creative interpretation of one of his badly written regulations, there would have been only 12 non-starters last weekend so it wouldn't have been nearly so bad. I assume that after June 29th he's hoping this year's needlessly interesting World Championship can be sorted out between six cars for the rest of the season. I had to read three or four times one section of the FIA statement your website published to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Is Mr Mosley seriously suggesting that 14 cars should have driven through the pits on every lap? Even with the speed limit this could have made for some spectacular entertainment and gives me an idea for spicing up races in the future: let's have a flock of sheep wandering around the tracks and give extra points to drivers who manage to miss them. I can remember missing only one grand prix in the 30 years or so they have been regularly broadcast on British TV. I've long since given up on the real thing where I'm expected to part with vast quantities of cash to sit half a mile away from the cars. It would be fatuous to hanker for the days when it never occurred to anyone to question whether this was a sport or not and you knew where the car came from because of the colour of the paint, but I'm now seriously wondering if I don't have better things to do with my Sunday afternoons. The manufacturers and sponsors must realise that whether this is a sport, business or a complete con, their interests lie in attracting an audience which wants to keep coming back for more. And if Mr Mosley wants to hang on to his nice leather chair in Paris, he'd better get his head round that too.

Martin Burnham, Bristol, England

I've been an F1 fan for many years, I've rarely missed a televised race. I've always defended F1, and supported it in the face of criticism from those 'who could not appreciate it's intricacies, especially technical.' Many other fans have responded already and covered many of the finer points. For me, I realised I was missing something when I watched a MotoGp race a few years ago. I saw real racing for the first time in years. I've recently being watching ALMS, which is also more 'racy' than F1. The US GP finally convinced me that these big-boys with $500m budgets are playing in a sand box. They live in their own little world of greed and power. The recent/ongoing FIA F1 survey is flawed, as it doesn't offer enough suggestions to fans, and of course, the resultant statistics can be made to say anything. Cynical, yes, but sports cars and motorcycle racing are where it's at. Hopefully by the time 2008 rolls round, the children would have graduated form the play ground.

Doug Marshall, Iraq

Once upon a time, in big circus one of the animal trainers by accident mixed up the horses' food bowl with the lion's food bowl. The horse food made the lion very sick. The lion's stomach wasn't used to hay. That night, the lion got so sick he could barely stand on his paws. "Well" said the circus owner, "a sick lion can hardly be called entertainment".

"We'd better get a stand in". And thus it was decided that one of the big burly clowns should put on a lions suit and stand in for the sick lion. So it happened. Clown Pepe put on a lions suit, walked into the ring, made a few frighteningly realistic roars, put the lion trainer's head in his mouth and to the cheers of the audience, walked back to his caravan. The circus owner was a happy man, he'd made sure the show could go on despite his main performer not being up to scratch. Of course in the audience, there were a few people who had noticed the lion's roar that night seemed less deep than what one would expect, the lion's walk wasn't as gracious as that seen on telly and the animal trainer's head didn't seem to quite fit in the lion's mouth. Over time the people started to realise that the lion musn't have been a lion. The lion must have been some big man with a deep voice in a lion's suit. The next year when the same circus came to town, the people stayed home. They didn't want to see clowns dressed up as animals, they wanted to see real lions, hear real roars and feel real excitement as the trainer's head disappears in the lion's mouth. Of course we could turn F1 into simple circus style entertainment. Some of the teams at the US GrandPrix were unable to perform that weekend. To keep the show going we could find a solution that would make everything look just like the real thing. A chicane in Turn 13 would let the show go on, just like the real US GP. Just like the real US GP because, in the US GP, Turn 13 is a very fast banked corner. It is an integral part of the GP. Just like a real lion is an integral part of the Circus act. Part of F1 racing is the challenge of producing equipment that can take the abuse of two hours driving flat out. Two hours of reaching speeds up to 340km/h, two hours of incredable acceleration, two hours of taking banked corners flat out. Take one of those elements out of the equation because the equipment is inferior, and you're not looking at F1 or sport anymore. You're looking at entertainment. Pure circus style entertainment. Change the rules to suit the competitor's inability and you're on the slippery slope. Pretty soon we'll decide the cars shouldn't be allowed to travel too fast through any of the turns because it causes too much wear on the tires. The morale of the story is that those tire manufacturers that can't take the heat should get out of the kitchen.

Pieter Wijtzes, Melbourne, Australia

I have followed F1 racing for 35 years. What I saw on Sunday made me sick. It is no longer a contest of auto racing but a show of politics. I will no longer follow the sport.

Alan Roche

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