2005 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix

This is my fourth post in a row about Formula 1, but I’m not apologising for that.

Well, that was … comical, embarassing, farcical, suicidal. There are any number of words you could use, but none of them refer to the racing because there wasn’t any. It’s difficult to know what to say.

We knew it wouldn’t be good. It was hilarious how ITV’s commentator James Allen tried to do his usual crescendo at the start, with only six cars on the grid. It was comical to see so few cars battle it out for turn one — but nobody was laughing after that, as the race was effectively over, bar a toy split-second scrap at the pits between the Ferraris.

The United States Grand Prix is so important for Formula 1. For starters, it’s in the United States ferchrissake. The big market that Formula 1 has always been chasing. And don’t forget that races in North and South America reach so many more people anyway because it’s on prime time television in Europe.

It’s difficult to imagine how many people will have been disappointed in so many ways. The broadcasters will obviously be fuming — how many viewers will they have lost? ITV paid extra so that they could bring the viewers more of the US Grand Prix this year aswell. All of ITV’s sponsors and advertisers will be furious, as will the sponsors who pay top dollar for their logos to appear on cars and trackside.

But of course there are the fans themselves. The official Formula 1 website was down for most of the grand prix, and several other websites are down right now, no doubt due to thousands firing off emails with their two cents. Not to forget those who actually paid to watch an F1 race. People around the world will have seen the pictures of fans — some of whom had travelled thousands of miles — sticking their thumbs down, exiting the racetrack and chanting for a refund. It’s difficult to see how they can get a refund. Technically, a race did go ahead — just a very bad one.

It was very difficult to see a solution to the problem though. None of them were perfect. Of course the Michelin runners could have gone slowly, but that would have been more dangerous (with cars going at vastly different speeds on the track), and would have ended in the same result anyway — effectively a one-(prancing) horse race. The sensible compromise, in my eyes, was to build the chicane which Michelin thought would have solved the problem. That would be unfair for those who didn’t have a problem. But it is not unusual for a track to be changed in such a way. In the interests of safety, common sense, good racing, the fans and the future of Formula 1, there was nothing wrong with just building a chicane. Instead, petty politics once again prevailed, and Formula 1 found itself in a farcial situation in the USA once again.

It might well be the death of Formula 1 in the USA. The motor racing fans who visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway today certainly won’t be too enthusiastic from now on. I think Formula 1 should just cut its losses and get out of there. F1 isn’t really compatible with the US. Indeed, America is out of phase with the rest of the world in almost every sport you can think of.

It might be a generalisation, but the majority of American motor racing fans, it is probably fair to say, are often people who just want to see the biggest crash. Formula 1, on the other hand is for geeks. Formula 1 tries to avoid crashes as much as possible, to the extent that seven tenths of the drivers pulled out of today’s grand prix for safety reasons. Americans can stick to their ovals. It’s their loss.

By the same token, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not a Formula 1 circuit. Bernie Ecclestone and Tony George met one day, saw the biggest form of motorsport and the self-styled “motor racing capital of the world” and put two and two together. But a four doesn’t just pop up by magic. Formula 1 isn’t Tony George’s priority. He makes enough business out of the Indianapolis 500 and other American motorsport. Indianapolis is not a Formula 1 circuit. It is an oval with a bloody stupid, ill-conceived, slow, twisty section laid over the top.

When the new surface at Indianapolis was laid it wasn’t with Formula 1 cars in mind — it was to help IndyCars go faster. Now people are saying that the Michelins were exploding because of the abrasive and rough new surface, combined with the banking that you just don’t get in F1. Some people say that the only reason Bridgestone got away with it was because their parent company Firestone have already run cars there — so Bridgestone had insider information that Michelin didn’t have access to.

It’s not the first time Formula 1 has faced a situation like this. Since the tyre rules started getting tinkered problems have just been waiting to happen. I remember the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix almost didn’t start because nobody had the right tyres for the heavy rain conditions. That should have been the wake-up call. Instead, F1’s politicians just sat on it and hoped it would just go away. Well it didn’t.

I’m beginning to think that GPWC is the way to go. Everywhere you turn Ferrari just seem to get in the way of progress — all in their own self-interest. Now is the time for Formula 1 to take a good, long, hard look at itself. Well, that time was a very long time ago actually, but nobody ever got off their arse to do anything about it. Well, they did, but the FIArrari axis of evil wouldn’t budge. Either all the Formula 1 teams and the FIA can sit down and have a serious think about how they can take things forward, or they can watch Formula 1 die on its feet.

The Formula 1 season — up until today — has been absolutely fantastic. But every now and again it makes a massive cock-up — and this is the biggest one yet — and it’s because of rotten elements deep within the political labyrinth. There are a lot of agendas around in Formula 1 these days. Superficially, today’s goings-on were about safety. But an awful lot of it is down to politics aswell. All of the GPWC teams are also Michelin teams. Minardi say they only raced because Jordan did. This shows just how petty things are.

If F1 were to end I wouldn’t be unhappy. There will always be a pinaccle of grand prix motor racing. There’ll always be a way for the Schumachers, the Alonsos and the Räikkönens of this world to entertain us. Whether it’s called Formula 1, GPWC, or anything else is entirely irrelevant. A fresh start would be a breath of fresh air.

Update: A wee mention for Tiago Monteiro. He did get lapped, but he finished on the podium. It is a hollow podium finish, but Jordan always luck into their good results these days. He was trying to celebrate on the podium, but they other drivers didn’t feel it appropriate. Tiago Monteiro has a great record now though — he was the only driver ever to finish his first eight races; now he’s the first ever to finish his first nine!

Update: Having a look at what other blogs are saying, with the help of Technorati.

A Big Stick and a Small Carrot:

I’ve never seen anything quite so ridiculous. F1 has just self destructed in the US. The fans at the circuit are demanding a refund. Quite right too.

Evolusion:

So the answer, to me anyway is unbelievably clear, come 2007 the 8 [non-FIArrari and Jordan] teams must go it alone. It’s better for them: they get control of the rules, they get control of the money and they get to go racing for the fans. It’s better for the fans: we get racing with more than 6 cars, we get racing with rules written by humans, by the people that know the sport, by people who are themselves racing fans, not by lawyers, not by businessmen.

Adi’s weblog:

It’s kind of sad if this is the future of Formula 1. I hope that Mr. Bernie Ecclestone will think about his long debated mistakes and the next season Formula 1 will have much normal rules.

Brian A. Jenkins:

Where this all breaks down into stupidity is with those running the sport. Why they cannot be flexible in the face of hazardous conditions and allow Michelin to replace the “unsafe” tires with “safe” tires that they believe will last the entire race is beyond me.

If F1 is to generate a fan base in the USA that goes beyond what there is now, those who run F1 should definitely consider flexibility in the face of 70-90% refusal to race.

Out of 10 teams 7 use Michelin, and 2 others (using Bridgestone) are also backing them and threatening not to drive. Ferrari is the only team to not stand with them all.

…The FIA is FOOLISH to allow this to happen in what they say is “the largest economic market” in the world for F1 racing…

From this point on, I’m going to devote my attention to the best racing spectacle I’ve ever seen – World Rally Championship!

leyton.org:

Obviously safety must come first, but there’s a consensus that it could all be solved by placing a chicane on the circuit, which most teams agree with. But politics gets in the way, and the people that lose out are the 120,000 fans at the circuit (Who don’t even know of the machinations occurring, and are likely to go ballistic when most cars peel off), and the millions of people around the world tuning in to perhaps the biggest sporting none-event in memory (Think the Grand National cancellation but with a global audience).

Update: canspice.org:

The FIA really shit the bed this time with their rigid adherence to rules and regulations. Michelin had no choice but to recommend the teams not race; had they not they would have been held liable had any accident involving their tires occurred…

The FIA really should have allowed the modification of the track to slow the cars before Turn 13. Instead they suggested that the Michelin teams slow down going around that corner and come in to change tires every ten laps. These suggestions clearly show that the FIA had their heads full up their asses and that they don’t understand racing in the slightest. They didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot, they done blown their whole leg off.

And the FIA has severely crippled their chances of ever getting Formula One to catch on in any sort of way in the United States. Everything was looking promising — the attendance at Indy this year was the highest ever. Scott Speed was the first American since Michael Andretti to drive an F1 car during a weekend.

People are angry all right.

3 comments

  1. 2005 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix

    [Source: doctorvee] quoted: Well, that was ”¦ comical, embarassing, farcical, suicidal. There are any number of words you could use, but none of them refer to the racing because there wasn’t any.

  2. Oh…this fiasco is poetic and should be forever referred to as “F1 meets the Indianapolis Motor Speedway”. Or perhaps “Bernie meets Tony?” Your choice. As a long time AMERICAN fan (no, we do not watch for the accidents…) of open wheel, open cockpit motor racing, all forms, this situation has exposed the unseemly and ugly underbelly of it ALL, in one fell swoop!

    The ultimate beauty of this is that there is no solution to this, expect another handful of bandaids (plasters) to be put on by FIA. Yes, F1 is dead in the USA for now, that is for sure, but it was never much alive here anyway, so no real loss to F1 or America. F1 won’t be missed in America because F1 has always been a European creation that has never really wanted to be here. This latest attempt at “broadening” appeal and market share was only about the money anyway. I say go to China or somewhere else where the graft and corruption is higher and the thugs who run it can pocket more.

    As a racer myself and someone who LOVES racing and has for over 35 years, I am so gleeful and grateful that the arrogance, beligerence, greed, and incompetence of all involved were so publically demonstrated last Sunday. Everybody deserved what they got, except the fans, but the masses always get short shrift, so hey, what is new under the sun?

    Thank you, God!

    John in Chapel Hill, North Carolina USA