The drivers on the subject of speed limits and chicanes

Drivers, Australian GP 2005

Drivers, Australian GP 2005 

 © The Cahier Archive

As part of the F1 team's submissions to the World Council today in Paris, there was a statement from 19 drivers, supporting the teams.

"We make this statement in order to assist the World Motor Sport Council," the drivers wrote. "We wish in particular to respond to the suggestion that we could have raced with a speed limit (which was never defined) somehow imposed through Turn 13 on cars with Michelin tyres, or that we should have raced but the cars with Michelin tyres should have slowed down voluntarily through this turn.

"The suggestion would have been an unprecedented restriction in an F1 race and would have been completely contrary to the competitive essence of Formula 1 or any motor race that we have ever participated in. It would have been unworkable, unpoliceable and above all, unsafe.

"Not all the cars would have been subject to the same speed restriction. At least six cars would have been going through Turn 13 as fast as possible ie over 320kph. The other cars - if they all complied - would have had to slow suddenly going into the turn, travel at a much lower speed through the turn and then accelerated back to racing speed.

"This would have meant a huge speed differential between cars at the approach of Turn 13, during Turn 13 and exiting Turn 13. Having cars travelling at dramatically different speeds at the same point on the race track would have been completely chaotic and highly dangerous.

"This is one good racing line through Turn 13. All of us would have tried to take that line. If a car subject to the restriction had to slow down approaching Turn 13 on the racing line, a car behind it not subject the restriction would have had to take avoiding action and try to overtake on the turn off the racing line. This would have put both drivers at considerable risk.

"Given the competitive nature of a race, the speed restriction would have become a focal point for overtaking. For instance two cars both subject to the speed restriction racing each other going into or coming out of Turn 13 would inevitably have each tried to gain advantage by braking later or accelerating earlier. With other cars racing through the turn at high speeds this too would have been chaotic and very unsafe.

"Given the nature of a race there would also have been a clear incentive for drivers to maintain speeds above the restricted speeds, particularly if they were close in the race. This would have risked damaging the Michelin tyres which would have created yet further risks.

"The teams would have been unable to fit a speed limiter which would have operated round Turn 13 in the time available. It would have been left to the drivers to attempt to accomplish the speed restriction by themselves whilst still trying to race each other. Quite apart from the safety issues explained above, none of us think that it would have been possible for as driver to do this.

"Unlike in the pitlane (which has an obvious and clearly marked entrance and exit) there was no physical marker on the race track for where any speed limit should begin or end at Turn 13. In a pitlane, we race to and from well-defined lines and we are aware precisely when to brake and when to accelerate so as to maintain race speed before and after the pit. In Turn 13, we would and could not have known when and where to brake and when and where to accelerate to achieve the speed restriction through the turn. Each driver would have had to make a judgment which would have been different on each lap depending on what was happening in the race. It would have been quite impossible for any of us to know each time whether or not we had maintained the speed restriction.

"We also believe that it would have been impossible for the stewards or anyone else to tell at Turn 13 precisely when any car had slowed, and whether it complied with the speed limit throughout the restricted area.

"For these reasons, we have no doubt that a speed restriction imposed at Turn 13 would have been impossible to comply with and impossible to police.

"On the morning of the Grand Prix, all of the drivers attended a Drivers' briefing with representatives of the teams. We were told of the Michelin tyre problem. Even though we all wanted to race, we accepted that the Michelin teams could not go against the safety advice from Michelin and take the risk of serious and potentially fatal accidents.

"We were also told of the proposal for a chicane at Turn 13. Chicanes have been successfully introduced in races in the past. We believe that a chicane would have been a perfectly workable solution in Indianapolis. Accordingly, none of us objected to a chicane at the meeting.

"Many of us were consulted by our teams about the FIA proposal for a speed restriction. Those who were consulted explained to their teams that a speed restriction would not work because it would be dangerous and impractical (for the reasons set out above). The teams in turn explained this to the FIA officials.

"All of us wanted to have a proper race at Indianapolis, which is one of motor racing's most sacred venues, and to showcase Formula 1 to the American public. We are all extremely disappointed that we were unable to do this."

The letter was signed by Christijan Albers, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Pedro de la Rosa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Patrick Friesacher, Nick Heidfeld, Christian Klien, Felipe Massa, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Takuma Sato, Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve, Mark Webber, Alexander Wurz and Ricardo Zonta.

It is worth noting that after the US Grand Prix Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Tiago Monteiro were all asked if they would have raced if their tyre manufacturer said that the tyres could not make it more than 10 laps.

"No, there is no point," said Schumacher.

"No, you can't take the risk and probably anyway your team owners wouldn't let you race anyway," said Monteiro. "It's a big responsibility."

"There was only one solution," said Barrichello. "If the problem was on 13, just come into the pits every lap."

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