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The 7 - Sports that aren't Baseball, Football, Basketball, or Hockey - U.S. Grand Prix: An Absolute Disaster Register and log in to post!
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orangeman
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#1 Posted on 19.6.05 1801.42
Reposted on: 19.6.12 1804.43
Where to begin?

The field of cars that ran today's Grand Prix at Indianapolis was only 6 instead of the full 20. Why? A bit of a long story.

At the practice session on Friday, Ralf Schumacher's Toyota suffered a tire failure in the last turn of the circuit, which is part of the banked oval, leading back into the start/finish straight. Michelin, who makes the tires used by Toyota and 6 other teams were worried about the safety of the tires, finding the amount of force put on them going through that turn at full throttle was too high.

Michelin studied data about the crash, and supposedly the remains of the failed tire itself, at their HQ in France. On Sunday morning they advised all 7 teams using their tires that they couldn't pinpoint the specific problem and therefore the tires would not be considered safe to race on at Indy. Michelin offered to fly in new tires for everyone to use, ones they felt would be safe.

The FIA, governing body of the series, said you can't do that. Part of it is that this year's F1 rules say you must qualify and run the entire race on the same set of tires. You cannot replace them unless it presents a serious safety problem for the driver during the race. Michelin and the teams using their tires argued that's exactly what this is, a safety problem. FIA countered that teams must run the tires already supplied and having bad tires to start with is not the same as having a problem come up during the race.

Unable to use new tires, Michelin said we can approve the current tires for racing if the speed going into the banked turn is reduced by adding a chicane (2 sharp turns in opposite directions right next to each other, meant to be a slow speed section). All the Michelin teams said they would agree to race under this idea. The management of the speedway said they would accommodate the request and make the needed changes.

FIA again snuffed things out by saying if the course layout was changed, they would un-sanction the race, meaning there would be no points scored in the driver's or manufacturer's championship. Supposedly the teams were okay with this, thinking it was better to have a safe race that wouldn't really count, even going so far as to concede the top starting positions to the 6 cars running Bridgestone tires, from the Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi teams.

Ultimately, no new tires were allowed and no modifications were made to the course. At this point, the managers of the teams running Michelin (Toyota, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Williams, Renault, Red Bull, Sauber & BAR-Honda) made a joint decision that none of their cars would participate in the race. In a weird scene though, all 20 cars lined up on the grid and followed the pace car around the track for the formation lap. When the pack of cars came around into the last section of the track, all 14 cars with Michelin tires came into the pits and were pulled into their garages. The race started and ended with 6 cars, Michael Schumacher winning in his Ferrari.

Some fans left, a surprising number stayed. Those who did stay booed loudly. Some threw bottles and other stuff onto the track, which is about the stupidest thing you can do. The management of the speedway refused to take part in the trophy presentation in victory lane. Police were dispersed around the track to try and prevent anything or anyone from getting out of hand since there were still a lot of pissed off fans around.

I heard several appropriate words used to describe the day. Sham, farce, mockery, debacle, black eye, etc. All were appropriate in one way or another. It's really sad because this year's series was a lot more competitive than last year's and so this race itself looked like it could be really good. Instead we get what amounted to a 90 minute victory lap for Ferrari (the Jordan and Minardi teams are not competitive) and an enormous amount of ill will sent towards everyone involved. The driver's aren't to blame, the track is not to blame, the team management was looking out for driver safety. Michelin was concerned with safety as well, though it's been wondered by many why this problem was such a sudden development when there has been nothing like it the past 5 years at Indy. The FIA was unwilling to budge on anything, which ended up being the real killer because it seemed a compromise had been found with the idea of the chicane.

All in all, a disastrous day and an embarrassment to fans.
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Merc
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#2 Posted on 20.6.05 0310.34
Reposted on: 20.6.12 0313.49
Silly question time:

If the problem was that the tire couldn't stand the corner load at full speed, why not just take the bend at lower speed?

Sure, you give away time to the Ferraris, but if everyone else is at similar speeds, you have an almost fair dinkum race.
Do the drivers need a chicane to think, "Hang on, I'm not supposed to be going flat out her"?
dMp
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#3 Posted on 20.6.05 0742.27
Reposted on: 20.6.12 0742.28
I think that it's pretty hard indeed to remind yourself to slow down in the heat of the moment.
If you are speeding towards the corner, side by side, I assume one or two drivers will forget to break earlier..

These guys push the limits of themselves, their cars and their tires for the entire length of the race. Somehow I think they need to be protected against themselves ;)
Corajudo
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#4 Posted on 20.6.05 1021.09
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1021.20
...it's been wondered by many why this problem was such a sudden development when there has been nothing like it the past 5 years at Indy.

The problem is that the tire regulations have changed dramatically since last year. Teams can only bring two types of tires to the race. And, they cannot change tires during the race, unless there is a tire failure (in which case they can't refuel at the same time as they change tires). It's unbelievable that even the harder compound would have been unsafe for the race, but that's only part of the problem. It's even more unbelievable that the teams and the FIA couldn't have worked out some type of agreement in the 48 hours between when Michelin said the tires weren't safe and when the race began.

All indications are that Ferrari were dead set against any changes/compromises that would have allowed the other teams to race. They received the points, but there is no honor in winning like that. Between Ferrari, Michelin, and the FIA, there is more than enough blame to go around. I wish that Minardi and Jordan would have had the stones to not race either so that it would have been the two Ferraris and no one else.

As one of the few F1 fans in the U.S. (who gets up at all hours to watch the races live), one my goals is to go to a F1 race someday. I can only imagine how pissed I would be if this had happened after I had paid for airfare, hotel, rental car, tickets, etc. Not to mention the personal capital it would cost in terms of getting permission from my wife.
bash91
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#5 Posted on 20.6.05 1034.44
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1036.13
For me, the crux of the matter is found in Corajudo's statement "it's unbelievable." I just can't buy Michelin's line that "these tires weren't safe, but we've got others that will be if you'll just let us break the rules." To me, something just smells really fishy in that line.

I'm not particularly happy with Ferrari's decisions, but I certainly can understand their arguments given the timing of the whole situation. Plus, adding a new course feature was certainly unfair to the teams that had properly prepared for the race.

Most of all, I'm really glad I didn't take up the offer I had to go to Indy for the race because I would certainly have been booing my head off at the start of the race and would have been looking for a refund.

Tim
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#6 Posted on 20.6.05 1052.32
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1053.39
I like F1 and all, but I found myself oddly fascinated with this situation, so I watched "Wind Tunnel" last night and Peter Windsor made an EXCELLENT point. ALL of the Michelin teams had the chance to do a tire test a few months back to determine the race compound, and only TWO teams sent drivers, both of them sending the testing driver. So they ALL had a chance to have input on this MONTHS ago, and they all blew it, then tried to pass the blame around to everyone else.
Corajudo
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#7 Posted on 20.6.05 1325.05
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1325.21
Excellent point by Peter Windsor, and I can't believe that the Michelin teams did not take advantage of the previous tire test. However, Firestone provides tires for the IRL, so Bridgestone has access to testing data for the new surface. And, given the Indy 500 was just a few weeks ago, that's a nice heads up. I realize the cars are dissimilar, but they would certainly know how the tires would react at speed on the new surface, giving Bridgestone a big advantage.

Also, in a Brazilian GP a couple of years ago, the Michelin teams agreed to delay the start so that Bridgestone could put different, safer tires on their respective cars. So, there is a precedent for bending the rules in the interest of driver safety and to provide the best show for the fans.

Lastly, I had read that Flavio Briattore (head of the Renault team) offered to run the race with the chicane, with the understanding that the Michelin team positions would not yield points. I can see potential issues with this, but it's not an altogether unreasonable idea. Moreoever, it would have been better than the traveshamockery that happened.

EDIT: Here's a link where Frank Williams said that the teams would race with the chicane and allow Ferrari to receive the points (so maybe I mis-remembered about Briattore, but I could see Flavio making the same comments): http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/racing/06/20/bc.sport.motor.racing.desperate/

His perspective is especially interesting because he (and his team) were dragged into the Italian court system for protracted proceedings after Senna died in a Williams car at Imola in 1994. He also cites a couple of other instances where last minute changes were made (for safety).

(edited by Corajudo on 20.6.05 1719)
orangeman
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#8 Posted on 20.6.05 1752.09
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1753.04
The team principal at Minardi, Stoddard (I can't recall his first name), has said both Minardi and Jordan were sympathetic to the situation of the Michelin teams, unlike Ferrari. He also said Minardi was prepared to park their cars after the formation lap even though they weren't on Michelins, but that when Jordan decided to race instead of withdraw Minardi had no choice but to race. Stoddard said something to the effect of Jordan being the only team in the series that Minardi competes with so they had to race if Jordan raced. I can halfway buy that argument, but it's dodgy. I haven't heard Jordan's side of it.

As for racing the track as is on Michelins but slowing down in the disputed section, one of the engineers that was interviewed on Speed's coverage said basically the same thing as dMp, that when in a race situation it is not instinctual to artificially slow down in a high speed area. One of the Speed commentators, I think it was Matchett or Daly, said that drivers are trained and paid to race and protect position on the track, which couldn't be fully done under those circumstances. Plus, if a Michelin car was slowing down in that area and a Ferrari was behind them accelerating at full speed it could be a very serious safety hazzard with someone being off pace in a dangerous location.
JayJayDean
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#9 Posted on 20.6.05 1802.48
Reposted on: 20.6.12 1804.23
Excerpted from here

Two Michelin tires failed in Friday practice sessions -- one causing a wreck that prevented Ralf Schumacher from competing -- prompting Michelin to rule its tires were unsafe for the Indianapolis track.

But FIA said it had "clear rules" that everyone had to keep.

"These cannot be negotiated each time a competitor brings the wrong equipment to a race," FIA said in a statement.


If I were running F1 and I had gotten wind of the planned boycott, I'd have told every Michelin team they were facing a HUGE fine and being stripped of all their points so far in 2005 if they went through with it. I don't think the idea that they could've run through the corner at 90% or whatever is too far-fetched. After all, F1 is one series where they run in the wet, and if the drivers manage to keep from going flat-out due to reflex in that circumstance, surely they could've yesterday.
Corajudo
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#10 Posted on 20.6.05 2153.34
Reposted on: 20.6.12 2155.02
After all, F1 is one series where they run in the wet, and if the drivers manage to keep from going flat-out due to reflex in that circumstance, surely they could've yesterday.

In the rain, the drivers are still pushing the cars to the limit and making them go as fast as possible, given the conditions. It's just that the speed the cars are capable of achieving while maintaining traction is much lower. It has nothing to do with the driver giving 90% and holding back.

The problem with the FIA and their 'clear rules' is that they bend or change the rules all the time. Witness the examples above. Also, last year's Michelin tire was entirely within the regulations, but it expanded at racing temperature (they just managed to engineer it in such a way that they could increase the surface area at racing speeds while producing a tire within the technical guidelines). But, the FIA changed the regulations and forced Michelin to change everything about the tire in the middle of the season.

I hate to sound like a Michelin apologist. There is absolutely no excuse for being so completely unprepared for the race. But, the FIA and Ferrari are hardly wide-eyed innocents. There are many examples from the recent past of changing the rules to suit the situation. Like Frank Williams suggested, put in the chicane (or allow the other, safe Michelin tire), race and then exclude the Michelin teams from the final standings so that the Bridgestone teams receive all the points (hell, fine the Michelin teams too for all I care). The fans get their show, Bridgestone gets the points and Michelin gets punished.
Merc
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#11 Posted on 21.6.05 0332.43
Reposted on: 21.6.12 0337.07
    Originally posted by orangeman
    The team principal at Minardi, Stoddard (I can't recall his first name), ...

    Plus, if a Michelin car was slowing down in that area and a Ferrari was behind them accelerating at full speed it could be a very serious safety hazzard with someone being off pace in a dangerous location.


Paul Stoddart press release (minardi.it)

I didn't think of the quick car closing on the slower car, but surely it's very similar to passing a Jordan any other time?
dMr
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#12 Posted on 22.6.05 0714.38
Reposted on: 22.6.12 0714.45
    Originally posted by Merc
    I didn't think of the quick car closing on the slower car, but surely it's very similar to passing a Jordan any other time?


I heard this argument from former drivers and they were basically agreeing it wouldn't be safe to have some runners going at 60% or whatever round that bend. The difference between this and the Jordan analogy is that it would require a very sudden reduction in speed from the Michelin runners relative to the Bridgestones. If say, a Ferrari was running just behind a Mclaren, the McLaren would have the right to defend the racing line, but at the same time would have to brake suddenly (relative to the Ferrari) leading to the potential for rear endings. Ignoring the inherent dangers of any such crash, if they catch each other wheel to wheel you run the risk of a wheel flying off into the crowd, which (without meaning to sound cynical) is something they really couldn't afford to have happen in a country as letigous as the US.
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