June 19, 2005

USGP SNAFU: Michael Schumacher earned his fourth United States Grand Prix victory, leading 51 of 73 laps in his Ferrari on June 19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory came in a six-car starting field after seven of the 10 Formula One teams representing 14 cars elected not to race after Michelin, the tire supplier for the seven teams, advised against using its tire due to safety concerns.

Wow, I bet that was exciting.


posted by mr_crash_davis to auto racing at 06:35 PM - 47 comments

I've been a fan for 20 years of F1, and today was a farce. www.fia.com has some links to official communications between the FIA and Michelin. Michelin had tyre issues in turn 13, the banked oval corner leading onto the main straight. They felt their tyres weren't safe. They proposed the addition of a temporary chicane at turn 13. This was agreed by 9 of ten teams, including two of the three that run Bridgestone tyres. Ferrari said it was up to the FIA, knowing full well that in current F1, to make any changes require unanimous consent, so their inaction led to the situation. The FIA's "suggestions" were a joke. Given the race was in the lawsuit happy US, there is no way the teams could race. If they did, and a driver was killed, the legal ramifications would be devastating. After all, this is a sport that only just came out from under the cloud of investigation into Ayrton Senna's death 11 years go. This all came down to a game of poker. Michelin and the seven teams that run their tyres said that if the chicane wasn't allowed, and really, that was the only workable solution, they'd be forced to not race. The FIA called their bluff and said "no chicane" (despite a precedent being set in 1994 where chicanes were added to three circuits in the wake of Senna's death). Sadly for the FIA, the teams weren't bluffing. Jordan and Minardi also sided with the Michelin teams. However, Jordan broke their promise, forcing Minardi (the only other privateer team left in F1) to race, when they wanted to show solidarity with the Michelin teams. In short, a black day, but not unexpected. Anyone who has follwed F1 for any length of time knows what a joke the FIA are. Today, the world at large got to see it. Michelin didn't want to risk drivers lives. The FIA, who make many changes to the sport each year in the interests of "safety", showed they really don't care about anyone but themselves. Certainly not the fans.

posted by Drood at 07:20 PM on June 19, 2005

Michelin should be ashamed of themselves! They sent over tires that they knew would not hold up to the stresses of the Indy course. They tried to call the FIA's bluff, and failed. But Firestone seems to be able to make tires that hold up under the stess of a banked oval, so does Goodyear, and Bridgestone. Part of the problem is the incredibly stupid "no tire change" rule instituted this year. If F1 is supposed to be the planet's premiere racing formula, then let the teams run the tires they like and to the victor goes the spoils. Only the French could screw up something this simple.

posted by mcmiles21 at 07:48 PM on June 19, 2005

So did Ferrari not agree to the change in the expectation that they would then increase the chances of Schumacher winning and climbing back into contention for the championship?

posted by joehyuk at 07:57 PM on June 19, 2005

McMiles: You honestly think they'd have shipped tyres they knew wouldn't work? Don't be a twat. The new rules have caused all data from previous years to be invalid, therefore the new tyres could be only be created after simulation. Simulation which failed to take into account the piss poor resurfacing job done at Indy. Something which was exacerbated by the pattern cut into the surface to help the NASCAR guys get traction. Even the Bridgestone runners were having problems toward the end of the races. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that tyres designed for, say, the Indy 500, have any bearing in F1. Cars which have significantly more aerodynamic grip and therefore undergo stresses far greater than a low downforce oval racer. Michelin did not call the FIA's bluff. Michelin put forward a proposal when they felt their tyres were unsafe. The FIA figured as you did, but were wrong. This was a safety issue. And knock off the French bashing, it only makes your argument even less convincing. Joe: Welcome to F1. Ferrari have a history of this. What would you feel if you learnt that, say, every team in MLB had to pay the Yankees a stipend every season for their historical contribution to the sport. You'd probably think that was grossly unfair wouldn't you? Well that's what happens in F1. The other teams have to pay Ferrari a chunk of money for their "historical contribution" to the sport. Refuelling was reintroduced in F1 at Ferrari's behest, because their V12 they ran at the time was very thirsty. Two years ago, Ferrari and Bridgestone complained about the legality of Michelin tyres. Tyres which were completely legal under the rules of the sport. The FIA immediately "reworded" the rule, thereby changing it, something that's actually illegal under the Concorde Agreement in F1, and forced Michelin to remake their tyres for the Italian Grand Prix that year. Oh, and since we're talking about rules, the FIA said they wouldn't bend the rules today, choosing rather to fuck over the thousands of paying customers. However, during the race it was quite clearly heard on the radio that Ferrari were issuing team orders to Rubens Barrichello, telling him to not pass Michael, something which the FIA have ruled illegal, and have said they would "punish harshly". So it seems with the Michelin issue they were all "ruled out", choosing to not enforce their own rules when it suits them. The FIA are a bunch of horses asses. Anyone who thinks this debacle is anything other than their fault quite clearly doesn't understand the situation, nor has any real idea of the history of the sport. Long time fans (who don't blindly support Ferrari) have long held the belief that the FIA are a bunch of incompetent morons. Today the world at large got to see what we've known for years. Michelin screwed up, admitted it, then offered a solution, which was backed by TWO OF THE THREE TEAMS USING BRIDGESTONE TYRES! The FIA ignored it, choosing to come up with the ideas you can read on www.fia.com, all of which are nonsense.

posted by Drood at 09:49 PM on June 19, 2005

What Drood said. Really sad day for F1. On par with the FISA/FOCA wars of the early eighties, when some races were run with only half the field. Maybe even worse. And they couldn't have picked a worse place to put on such an atrocious show.

posted by qbert72 at 10:43 PM on June 19, 2005

If we're smart, those of us that were at the farce today should use this lawsuit happy US to our purposes and slap a big fat class action lawsuit on Michelin, the FIA, and the 7 teams that didn't race in a friendly Speedway Indiana court to get our money back. What I don't understand is how come some drivers and teams were saying they didn't have any problems with the tires themselves. Villenueve said they had no problems whatesoever, so why didn't Sauber race.... I can't believe the resurfacing and surface grinding was a factor, Ralf's problem came on his FIRST hot lap, there was no time for the surface to play a role. Has Michelin detailed the exact problem?

posted by Spirit62 at 11:25 PM on June 19, 2005

F1 insider slugfest!!!!

posted by holden at 11:43 PM on June 19, 2005

Spirit, none of the teams that ran Michelin tyres could race, because they had in their hand, clear written information that said that the tyres were unsafe. If they had crashed and injured their own drivers, a driver from another team, a track marshall or a member of the crowd, then they would have been directly liable for the decision to race when they were told it was unsafe to do so. Any attempt to sue the teams for following safety advice must be doomed to fail, even in the US. We heard, during the race, that the Michelin runners had offered to race, starting behind the Bridgestone runners and without garnering any points if the chicane had been put in, just so that the crowd weren't forced to sit through a Ferrari precession. However that idea was not met with agreement by all ten teams and so the plan could not be implemented.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:43 AM on June 20, 2005

so that the crowd weren't forced to sit through a Ferrari precession. However that idea was not met with agreement by all ten teams and so the plan could not be implemented. Guess which team is the only one to not have agreed with the chicane proposal? Hint: they made top points yesterday.

posted by qbert72 at 07:00 AM on June 20, 2005

Here is the complete exchange (4 letters) between Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier and race director Charlie Whiting: Part 1 Part 2 This is Whiting's last word: "As explained in our earlier letter, your teams have a choice of running more slowly in Turn 12/13, running a tyre not used in qualifying (which would attract a penalty) or repeatedly changing a tyre (subject to valid safety reasons). It is for them to decide. We have nothing to add." It's a sad situation where nobody is wrong in theory, but everybody is in practice.

posted by qbert72 at 07:31 AM on June 20, 2005

I tried to lay a bet on which of the ten teams didn't agree, but I couldn't find anyone who'd offer me odds. Paul Stoddart has made it very clear who was the odd team out and that team said the issue 'wasn't their problem.' It also wasn't the problem of the two other Bridgestone teams, yet both were prepared to work with the Michelin runners, even though it would have cost those two teams thousands and thousands of Euros in travel prize money, because each would have been ditching about their only serious chance for points this season. As it was, Jordan decided to race when it was obvious the odd team out were going to race and Minardi had to form up when Jordan said they were going.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:32 AM on June 20, 2005

the big issue, was not about fia not accomodating michelin. it is that michelin dropped the ball. bridgestone has been struggling all season to come up with a tire that will do the job all season. ferrari, jordan, and monarti all have suffered in the making of the new tire. bridgestone finally got it right and because michelin screwed up, yes i said screwed up, they wanted to be catered to. i understand the position that fia faced. unfortunately, the real losers in the whole deal was the fans. how many people took vacations and spent a lot of money just to be there and to see the race. unfortunately for them the race was not what it was supposed to be. yet, i have to say that i am greatly disappointed in many of the fans, those that threw debris on the track. not only did they put the lives of the racers in danger but they made all americans look bad to other nations for we all know that this was televised to many other nations. i also felt that michael schumacher and ruben barrinchello were not treated fairly when they were boo'd from many spectators. all they did was their job, yes their job, one that they both do very well. in closing i would like to say good job to all the drivers who competed yesterday. to michelin, buck up and get a grip. to fia, hopefully in the future things can go smoother. to the drivers that did not race, i am sorry you were put in the middle, and to all of the fans, don't be discouraged, there is always next year and by then hopefully we can all look back on this in a different light.

posted by ynot at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2005

Again, Michelin didn't want to be catered to. Michelin said their tyre was not safe around the Indianapolis track in its current configuration at race speeds. Michelin did not ask for a chicane, pancakes or a pony. They made a simple admission that they could not guarantee the safety of their tyres. You don't need to say Michelin screwed up, because they said it quite loudly themselves. The teams using Michelin said : "Every possibility for the race to go ahead in a safe manner was explored. The only practical solution was for a chicane to be installed prior to Turn 13." The Michelin runners offered to start behind Bridgestone. They offered to run without scoring points, regardless of where they finished. Nine of the ten teams, including two of the three Bridgestone teams agreed to a solution. One did not. With 90% support, to quote the teams again : "Unfortunately all proposals were rejected by the FIA." Michelin said their tyres were not safe at race speed. The Michelin runners came up with various solutions possible solutions. When none of these solutions were deemed acceptable, they ran the formation lap, thereby avoiding penalties for failing to appear at the Grand Prix and then retired, because when all other solutions were rejected, this was the only one left to them.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2005

ynot, i couldn't agree more. michelin has been having their way all season. this was a misstep. a solution could've been better tire design, considering the same corner caused them much trouble last year. Oops. We burned our notebook from last year. Sorry teach. Tire problems are common, but obviously this flaw is a left over from the last visit to Indy. (even if racing parameters have changed since last season, the trouble spot should've been high on the 'to-do' list, even if its only one race) Undoubtedly, I think this fiasco is pay back for americans bad mouthing 'little frenchie' all the time. Well, not really, but the US/France dynamic has to be addressed in some manner, however junvenile. And for those slamming the Stallion, do you really think either of the other bridgestone teams had any chance at placing, little lone winning? I don't. Besides, this transpired like a court case on a speedball. All parties exercised their rights to the fullest.

posted by garfield at 04:26 PM on June 20, 2005

I am a former head of sports tires development at Michelin. I am no longer affiliated with them. These are just my opinions - informed opinion, including based on discussions with former colleagues of mine over the past few days. In my experience, what happened is very illustrative of both Michelin's and the FIA/Ecclestone's idiosyncrasies. In addition, it is very much to be situated in the ongoing struggls of the "constructors" against Bernie's squad. Michelin first. Security in tire development is not just a facade, it is an absolute imperative there. There is no "just win" at Michelin. Whether right or wrong, and both for street tires and racing ones, Michelin relies on time proven (often more than 50 years) tests and procedures to clear a tire. There are no short cuts. There is an unambiguous and long lasting belief in doing the right technical thing - that eventually it will lead to the right market reaction. I am not claiming that it's right or wrong but it is sacro-sanct. As a guideline: speed failure on a tire is a result of hysteresis in the rubber, and rise in temperature due to heat dissipated, due to stationary waves in the sidewall and belt of the tire. It is a physical phenomenon that is well known and that Michelin knows to control (aircraft tires for example are routinely able to withstand full load at more than 250 mph). But there is a compromize between other characteristics and speed resistance, so not all tires can be built to handle 250 mph and still have the other performances required. In addition, the failure is exponential with respect to speed, load and camber, and depends on external parameters such as road roughness and outside temperature. In the case of an F1, the amount of aerodynamic load at 200+ mph is typically 5 to 10 times the body weight, and is also very dependent on speed. And a banking can double up that load. Not easy stuff to model and - in many cases - very difficult to know what the actual safety margin is. It is most often learned after a failure occurs. When I was with Michelin in the mid '90s, I had a much similar (albeit less newsworthy or publicized) incident. My team had developed tires for the Testarossa. We had obtained approval (after much work) from the Ferrari test drivers and were finalizing paperwork to be the OEM tire on the car. In comes Ferrari marketing, with a stated intent of publishing a top speed of 200+ mph for the US, and requiring that Michelin certify the tire on the car for that speed. Now, during the entire development, we had been informed of top speed in the vicinity of 180 mph. To attempt to compensate for the usual Ferrari's chronic handling weaknesses (I won't go into that here but suffice to say that in my opinion these cars are sold on brand, not real performance) we lowered the rear axle pressure to levels unheard of which, together with the huge (and moronic) negative camber, put the tires to torture. When Ferrari asked for us to certify the tires for 200+ mph, we tested the tires on a special machine (invented and built by Michelin) in a series of normalized tests. The tests came back with an ambiguous response - basically, we could not, with Michelin's time proven safety procedure, certify the tire with our well known safety margin, but we had no reason to fear the tires would fail for sure. I refused to sign and escalated the matter to my hierarchy. While all were disappointed and bothered, none - to the highest level in the company - questioned my decision or tried to influence it. It was handled as a technical matter, even after our competitors (who we'd beaten out on the track) had agreed to sign the same request and hence received the commercial contract. The story did not end there. I agreed with Ferrari to go for a full day of testing to Nardo (South of Italy) where FIAT has a banked circular track 12 kilometers long and to run actual high speed tire tests on the car there. Ferrari brought 2 Testarossa - each on a competitor's tire, incl. one competitor which was on the track at Indy on Sunday. We started with a run on the competitor. My recollection is not complete on the actual speeds for each run but it is close enough in terms of order of magnitude. We had barely reached 170 mph and after maybe half a lap at that speed the competitor's tire started losing its thread. The same competitor that had signed for 200+ mph... But the story was not over by any mean - we started the runs on our tires, and we soon realized both cars were maxing out in speed far, very far from 200 mph. The tires were fine, but the cars were begging for help. We removed all external mirrors and appendages, taped hood and doors, ran as light as we could, with the heat on full inside the car in spite of a typical South Italian day weather - to no avail: the cars were topping up below 180 mph. And then we blew the engine of the first car - below 180 mph - and then of the second car - at the same speed. Our tires were pristine still. We found a commercial solution that pleased everyone: I signed a certicate for the tires on the cars at the car's maximal speed as tested. We left it to Ferrari's marketing to determine what that would translate into from a PR point of view (they still went ahead and lied on the car's speed), but we were clear on the technical one. And don't ask don't tll on the car's woes. Who was right, who was wrong? Tough to say. It could be that Michelin's safety margins are too large for such a car - after all, it does not seem there is a class action out there either against Ferrari for not delivering on the 200 mph advertised, or one against the competitor's tires for failing at 170 mph (which could most definitely have been encountered by customers duplicating our test). All of this could hav been very academic - cars sold to parade in Beverly Hills at 35 mph... so I was probably, from a pragmatic point of view, wrong for not letting it go - and in all likelihood so were the Michelin engineers in Indy. But that is missing the point. I can personally attest that not one tire bearing the Michelin name leaves the plant without those huge safety margins in all domains related to safety - and as far as I know from many years of competitive testing that is very unique to Michelin. That often includes standing up to car manuacturers with messages they don't want to hear. And, statistically, that is the reason why they are by far the safest on the road. The well-publicized Ford Expedition debacle for Firestone/Bridgestone/Goodyear is an example, but there are many that the general public is not aware of. Whatever the negative image created around Michelin on Sunday, there is one thing people should remember: Michelin will never take a chance with safety. Historically, the competitors seem to have no problem with that. That said, if I was in charge of racing at Michelin, there would be heads rolling - not for the ex-post technical management, but for taking a chance on the tires brought to Indy. It is obvious and well known that Indy is one of the most demanding tracks for tie maximal speed performance due to both the speeds and the banking. Clearly Michelin had tires with better max speed than the ones they brought, tires they thought would be just fin (the Barcelona build apparently) - someone somewhere made a huge mistake, a beginners' mistake, that should be paid for. The other domain in which heads should roll is in political and PR management. They should be on top of this and come out like heroes for having the courage to stand for the right thing (who wants a car flying into the stands and killing 100 people like 50 yers ago at Le Mans?) and instead they look like bandits robbing 100,000 of a GP. That is a piss-poor job of handling the press and the political dimensions of F1. Talking of which, that is exactly what is going on here. Politics and big bucks. No surprise that the line is drawn with Ferrari, the FIA and Bernie on one side and the big commercial car makers in the other. Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Renault and BMW are more than tired to put up the big bucks and have no control, to pay ransom to Bernie and let him get all the financial return, to pay Ferrari (known cheaters btw but shhh). They have been trying to put up a "constructors' championship" for a couple of years now. Bernie is such a good politician, he has been able to exploit differences between them. Sunday he thought he could do the same - and lost, possibly for the first time - certainly in the most visible manner. This is not about tires or safety - that was just the visible pretext and excuse - this is war on control of F1, and the big constructors have just made a huge stride forward in their hope of defeating Bernie. Of course, the FIA is now going to have bilateral talks with each team and will try to break the union, but the teams may have now gotten a glimpse of their power and - unless they are too frightened by it - may not let themselves be bought off cheaply as was the case in the past. The other war going on, also linked to the previous one, and driven by Ferrari and the FIA, is for a single tire maker in F1 in 2006. This would enable Bridgestone to win the prize (by just buying its way in by paying Bernie), as Michelin has stated they are not interested in a non-competitive formula. And it would give Ferrari an "even playing field" were they would expect to win again (I use quotes because that is a joke of course - Bridgestone would continue to give them an advantage by developing for them more than for the others). And the audiences would see a less technologically advanced F1... Do you think (if they have a say) that the other racing teams would like that? So Bernie might just try to run Michelin out - by continuing to change the rules to remove technical advantage, and by exploiting the PR machine to point responsibility at Michelin.

posted by ergos at 05:46 PM on June 20, 2005

Formula 0

posted by teamskidmark at 05:54 PM on June 20, 2005

ergos, that was fascinating. If I never read another Sportsfilter thread again, your comment was worth all my time spent here.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 06:02 PM on June 20, 2005

thanks ergos. for providing intelligent discourse, first of all, and for a glimpse into the story behind the headlines.

posted by gspm at 06:32 PM on June 20, 2005

agreed. Thanks a lot for that insight. I could have guessed at the messy politics of F1, but to hear about it from someone who's been there is truly enlightening.

posted by chicobangs at 06:35 PM on June 20, 2005


posted by ergos at 07:01 PM on June 20, 2005

Definitely cool.

posted by yerfatma at 07:44 PM on June 20, 2005

Ferrari (known cheaters btw but shhh) This is the exact point where your comment appears to veer from excellence into unsubstantiated bullshit. The stuff before that though... at least somewhat interesting. One interesting theory I've heard is that the problem may have been caused by unpredicted vibration modes.

posted by mosch at 07:53 PM on June 20, 2005

One interesting theory I've heard is that the problem may have been caused by unpredicted vibration modes. LMAO. And you talk of "unsubstantiated bullshit"? Can you define a bit more what you mean by those mysterious "vibration modes"? For the rest of the serious crowd out there: the failure modes at high speed are well understood and based on stationary waves, the length of which is determined by the stiffness of the tire (that includes the structure and pressure) and dimensions, and the speed by the parameters I listed before. What is less known in advance (i.e. at the time the tires are built) and (apart from weather and track parameters) changes from car to car are (1) max speed (2) aerodynamic downforces (3) front to rear distribution of roll forces (4) camber and other alignment parameters (5) effects induced by torque, esp assymetrical effects (6) track surface condition and temperature (7) air temperature and most importantly (8) actual inflation pressure in tires. Those are enough to change the failure speed by more than 100 kph, so it's not trivial to guess right in advance. It's also why some cars might have felt they were not in danger with the Michelin - a slow car with low down force and no camber, and enough air in the tire, would be on teh safe side... As for the failure on Ralf's Toyota, it is probably a conjunction of a tire at the low end of the production distribution curve and of load conditions underestimated (esp. banking and aero load). Nothing mysterious here. But it could also very well be the result of a valve leak for example... The main problem was that there were no definite answers and the safety margin was hence put in question. As for Ferrari and cheaters - mosch obviously is not privy to how F1 really works. I'll leave it at that, so someone may still call it unsubstantiated. But it's most definitely not bullshit, I can assure you.

posted by ergos at 08:27 PM on June 20, 2005

oh god, i now know far too much about tyres. my brain hurts....

posted by owlhouse at 09:34 PM on June 20, 2005

Can you define a bit more what you mean by those mysterious "vibration modes"? this thread discusses the issue. I just thought it was an interesting thing to discuss. As for Ferrari and cheaters - mosch obviously is not privy to how F1 really works. I'll leave it at that, so someone may still call it unsubstantiated. But it's most definitely not bullshit, I can assure you Making a vague accusation twice doesn't add substance, even if it's a popular thing to say.

posted by mosch at 10:45 PM on June 20, 2005

My specific questions about Ferrari cheating: 1) why is there no public fuss made by the Renault, McLaren/Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Red Bull, Jordan, Sauber or Mindari who compete against Ferrari? 2) why is there no public fuss made by Michelin who competes against Ferrari's tire supplier? 3) Why is there no public fuss made by major sponsors of rival teams? 4) What are they doing? You're suggesting that dozens of massive corporations... many of whom are beholden to their shareholders to maximize profits are letting Ferrari win because "that's how F1 works". Forgive me if you have actual evidence of this, but it seems more than casually implausible. And no, saying "but it's true" a third time is not evidence.

posted by mosch at 11:20 PM on June 20, 2005

Fascinating comment ergos, although I do find it to be a bit biased towards the end, but one the whole I respect his opinion and comment. What happened on Sunday had little to do with Ferrari's position wrt to GPWC. Even Sir Frank Williams says Ferrari were totally innocent. I'd rather believe Frank Williams on this than ergos. As far as I can piece this together, Michelin were invited to test the new surface prior to the race, and they did go. At a later test in Europe, Davidson & Massa were the only two drivers present for testing tyres that they were going to take to Indy, the rest of the Michelin drivers were at Silverstone doing something else. After Ralf & Zonta's tyre failures, it was learnt that up to 9 other Michelin tyres were close to failing. It had nothing to do with a single tyre compound or running on low pressure, Jarno Trulli of Toyota said that Zonta & Ralf were running different tyre compounds with pressure within the specified margins, which was confirmed by Dupasquier, the Michelin boss for F1. The problem with the tyres was rather apparent by Saturday after Practice, and it was not until Sunday morning that the Michelin teams tried to bully the FIA into changing rules for their sake to make up for Michelin & the 7 teams' screw up. I, personally, doubt that the Michelin tyres could hold up for more than half distance even if the teams ducked into the pits every lap to avoid Turn 13 (Turn 1 in regular Indy 500). Because Zonta's accident happened on the twisty inside bits of the course. Also a few people including I believe the Red Bull team have said that Michelin were not even sure that the Barcelona tyres could handle the track, so the whole flying in a new batch of tyres was more for show than a genuine safer alternative. Switching to tyres that were not submitted to scrutineering prior to the start of the Grand Prix weekend (Practice session 1) would break at least 4 different rules of F1. Allowing that or a chicane to make up for one supplier's mistake would be grossly unfair to the teams who had done their homework and arrived prepared, and worse than a 6 car race. So what we had a TKO for the Michelin teams, and it happens, no one went out of their way to help Ferrari at Barcelona earlier this year when they had tyre troubles, no one went out of their way to help Sauber when their wings were falling off at Brazil a few years back.

posted by riffola at 04:27 AM on June 21, 2005

The thread on "vibration modes" does not discuss the issues, it raises badly formulated questions without being able to answer them; so are you. I gave a precise description of what happens, not a vague list of uneducated questions with big words. As far as your list of questions on why the shit has not hit the fan yet, it can be answered in two ways - first in that to date Bernie and Max have had an absolute stranglehold on F1, to the point where rules are made at will to support their objectives - including supporting Ferrari over the past few years; the otehr teams are trying to resist but have to date done so less publicly by fear of punishment; is there "fuss" as you put it? Yes, but you simply are not aware of it. Second, that these same other teams have been trying for several years to create their own series and that in my opinion the battle has escalated to the point of non repair on Sunday. In many ways this is similar to the Don King management of heavy weight boxing. Everybody knows he manipulates it to his advantage and to that of his favorites but if you want a shot at the title within your lifetime you have no choice but getting along. A last comment - not seeing the truth does not make it "casually implausible". It just shows gullability, or a desire to believe in what ever nice story people are being fed. This is a real war, and (like the war in Iraq) it takes digging a bit more than what most news outlets are doing to understand what is really happening. I can't help it if you don't want to do that.

posted by ergos at 04:33 AM on June 21, 2005

Ferrari has raced all season long by pushing their equipment to its limits. They have seen their success evaporate as the "limits" of Michelin tires have proven to exceeed the "limits" of Bridgestone tires. At Indy the roles reversed and Ferrari finally had an andvantage. Everything in racing is about gaining an advantage, through either car, equipment, or driver. Why would they volunteer to make track alterations that would negate their advantage? Why couldn't Michelin put their cars out and race to the limits of their equipment (ie slower into turns)? The built in telemetry could have been used by the teams to limit revs into corners and maintain safety limits with regard to the tire limitations. When Michelin shod teams were wiping out Ferrari in earlier races I never remember anyone asking for or offering a solution to "even the field" between the teams. Why is it different now? Ferrari as cheats....I won't argue for or against in an overall light, but will vehemently dispute it in this case.

posted by vewill1 at 04:34 AM on June 21, 2005

riffola - a couple of comments: Fascinating comment ergos, although I do find it to be a bit biased towards the end Thanks. Bias is an arbitrary and somewhat dishonest preference. I don't have an axe to grind, I am just giving information based on many years of personal knowledge. If my information contradicts what you would like, it does not make it biased. Even Sir Frank Williams says Ferrari were totally innocent Frank is a master politician but if he said that it is clearly a joke and an attempt by Frank at positioning himself ahead of the hearings next week. A better way to put it is, Ferrari was entirely in their right in denying the request approved by all the other teams. The rules gave them the right to refuse. But here is how it worked out, once the tire situation was known after Friday: Bernie tried to break the "constructors' union" by forcing the issue, all the way till the end. He essentially decided he would not yield and try and find a pragmatic solution - even though many were suggested. In that regard, Ferrari was a tool for Bernie, and got repaid by a "victory" and points and the money associated. For those who believe there were no discussion of strategy between Bernie's folks and Luca's folks, I have some prime oceanfront property to sell in Arizona... Don't you think Bernie was not in absolute control, once the unfortunate Michelin situation was known, to: - allow a change of tire under the reason of safety as is stated in the regulation (remember all rules are worded vaguely on purpose so as to permit the FIA lots of leeway in interpreting them the way that serves them on a given day); instead he (or Charlie) threatened the Michelin teams that they would be found cheating and probably be suspended several races if they used a different tire - pressure Ferrari to accept the compromise on the chicane (in exchange for what the other teams had offered, i.e. to race from the back of the grid and to forfeit any points in advance); remember that a similar arrangement in the guise of safety was done (use of the safety car) in Brasil a couple of years ago to help Ferrari and Bridgestone under heavy rain after Bridgestone had neglected to take full rain tires to the track; also chicanes (I believe 3) were added to Imola in 1994 in the immediate aftermath of the Barrichello/Ratzenberger accidents, and again in Tamburello after Senna's death (for which Frank Williams probably also finds himself "completely innocent"); adding chicanes has been done dozens more times after accidents, such as in Watkins Glen (JD McDuffie), the tunnel/piscine complex in Monaco (Ascari?), Hockenheim (Clark); must we wait for drivers to be killed first for the chicanes to be added? - to delay the start/red lights once it was obvious the Michelin teams were not going to race (Charlie, the starter, is a Bernie guy and must absolutely have consulted with him in some form prior to letting the 6 cars go); such a delay would possibly have given time to agree a resolution such as the chicane with a penalty to the Michelin teams Bernie decided to force the issue. He thought he could break the union and when he failed he refused to lose face in a last minute compromize and decided to "go nuclear". So yes, Frank is right - Ferrari are innocent (if dishonest) tools - Bernie is guilty. the rest of the Michelin drivers were at Silverstone doing something else Agreed. Huge miscalculation on the part of the Michelin teams and Michelin. Stupid beginners mistake. But once that was known and the consequences demonstrated on Friday, there were many potential solutions. The FIA did not let them save whatever little remained to be saved. And that was all in Bernie's hands. it was learnt that up to 9 other Michelin tyres were close to failing. It had nothing to do with a single tyre compound or running on low pressure, Jarno Trulli of Toyota said that Zonta & Ralf were running different tyre compounds with pressure within the specified margins, which was confirmed by Dupasquier, the Michelin boss for F1. That is not quite it - the tires were not close to failing, but the safety margin was unknown after the Ralf accident could not be explained. Indeed it has nothing to do with compound (you wont find that listed in my explanations) but has much to do with tire pressure - the usually specified domain of pressure would not have worked. In any case that is beside teh point as nobody (and certainly not Michelin) disputes the mistake. The point you are missing is what could be done, and what should have been done afterwards, and who could do it. The problem with the tyres was rather apparent by Saturday after Practice, and it was not until Sunday morning that the Michelin teams tried to bully the FIA into changing rules for their sake to make up for Michelin & the 7 teams' screw up. That is not accurate. The request to bring replacement tires for safety was made on Friday. And no request was made to change rules, rather to interpret the rules as had been done in teh past (again, Imola and Interlagos). And the Michelin teams offered to forfeit points and grid position. Hardly a bullying. I, personally, doubt that the Michelin tyres could hold up for more than half distance even if the teams ducked into the pits every lap to avoid Turn 13 (Turn 1 in regular Indy 500). Your informed opinion mistakes physical phenomena. High speed failure is a catastrophic reaction that is not linked to mechanical endurance and wear; in other terms, the probablility of it is no different at any stage of wear, and it would actually have been more likely to occur when the cars were heaviest, i.e; in the first lap or just after refueling. But if you know something more, I can manage an introduction for you to Pierre Dupasquier and get you a job as tire developer (there might be an open position this week) ;-) Also a few people have said that Michelin were not even sure that the Barcelona tyres could handle the track I have read that but that does not seem to come from Michelin; in any case that is besides the point: Michelin were ready to certify these tires and race with them, and the teams were willing to forfeit the points and still race; nobody says it does not stretch some rules, but the safety rules (by which the Imola chicanes were added, and that explicitly permit tire replacement at will for safety reason subject to validation by the stewards) are more important than teh technical rules. Again, nobody argues with the screwup. The question is, why did the FIA refuse all potential solutions? no one went out of their way to help Ferrari at Barcelona earlier this year when they had tyre troubles Their troubles were not safety related, but performance related. And they did not ask for help, nor did they offer to forfeit any points. You can't compare teh situations.

posted by ergos at 05:48 AM on June 21, 2005

Why couldn't Michelin put their cars out and race to the limits of their equipment (ie slower into turns)? The built in telemetry could have been used by the teams to limit revs into corners and maintain safety limits with regard to the tire limitations. This is a good question. In practice though, I do not believe they could have limited the revs in just that one section (rules oppose active use of distance control of the engine with the "telemetry" and i don't think it is built in, as you can't have something built in that would enable you to cheqt even if you don't use it). They would have had to reduce the revs (w/o changing teh gearing) by a good 5 to 10% to obtain a meaningful reduction in speed, which would have resulted in massive power loss (probably 100 hp or more), and then teh gearing would have ben out of tune with the engine, with cars stalling and sputtering on the starting grid, and running maybe 10 to 20 secs slower a lap with comparatively less reduction in max speed (remember that contrary to Indy cars, F1 have plenty of power to spare for max speed and that in itself it is always compromized for better traction in slow curves). So yes, they could have tried that but I believe it would have made almost as much of a joke of the GP as it ended being. When Michelin shod teams were wiping out Ferrari in earlier races I never remember anyone asking for or offering a solution to "even the field" between the teams. Actually Luca de Montezemolo complained that the Championship was too much of a tire manufacturer championship and that started/compounded the drive by ax Mosley to have a unique manufacturer in 2006 (or 2008 depending on the interpretation). The president of the FIA is the one who went to the rescue of Ferrari to "even the field".

posted by ergos at 06:02 AM on June 21, 2005

I have no qualms with Michelin saying they screwed up, and their tyres are unsafe at any speeds (especially looking at Zonta's accident), so they can not give a go ahead to their teams to race on their tyres. In fact it was brave & honourable of them to be open about that aspect of it and to put driver safety first. My problem is with the teams wanting the chicane, which I felt was just stupid since Michelin did not suggest using a chicane, their solution was having their teams drive slower through Turn 13, mostly using the apron, and with higher pressure in their tyres than normal, it was the teams that wanted a chicane. And in my opinion that's unfair to the Bridgestone teams, especially because their cars & tyres were tailored for the high speed Turn 13 - long straight aspect of this circuit. Regarding the tyres being unsafe at any speed, that was mentioned by Jarno Trulli, Peter Windsor, and if I am not terribly mistaken Christian Horner of Red Bull & Pedro De La Rosa. I think Nick Heidfeld's tyre was found to be near failure too. I agree that a tyre failure on Turn 13 is far far worse than a failure on the back straight as literally shown by the differences between Ralf & Zonta's incidents. Based on that I find it hard to believe that a chicane would've solved the issue. As for Bernie, as odd as it sounds, Bernie was doing his very best to get the FIA to budge, and find a solution, but they didn't, Bernie was pretty annoyed, it was reported by both ITV & Speed during the pre-race and race that Bernie tried to find a solution, so for once I think Bernie too was not the main reason for the race we ended up with. As much as I don't like Bernie or Tony George, the farce's blame lies on the Michelin teams. Here's how I see it in terms of blame. Michelin are guilty of screwing up and bringing a subpar tyre. Michelin teams are guilty of screwing the fans by not accepting they and their supplier made a mistake, since the teams are to blame for not picking a good tyre in testing to bring to Indy, and for not accepting a solution within the framework of the rules. They could've pitted every 10 laps and changed a tyre, as suggested by the FIA, they could've run slow through turn 13 as recommended by Michelin & the FIA, they could've used the pitlane to bypass turn 13 and fought to salvage some points as recommended by the FIA, or lastly they could've used the Barcelona tyres and accepted whatever penalty was to be had. The teams instead tried to get a chicane, and when they found out that the FIA was not going to budge, they suggested that the Bridgestone teams can take up the first three rows, and the first six points paying positions. Ferrari claim they were never asked for their opinion on the chicane, but if they were, they would be against it, but if the FIA agreed to install it, they would accept it. Ferrari Totally Innocent, Says Williams by Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Williams said the Italian team, who use Bridgestone tyres, were blameless for everything that happened at Indianapolis. "They were totally innocent in this affair entirely," Williams told Reuters. "They had no reason not to race."
Also an interesting read: Dupasquier: "We Screwed Up" by Will Gray You need an Autosport-Atlas subscription to read the articles linked above.

posted by riffola at 07:05 AM on June 21, 2005

riffola - you really don't understand either the technical or political stuation. Or maybe you don't really want to?

posted by ergos at 07:59 AM on June 21, 2005

My last input into this issue...... Michelin did not pitch up to the race with equipment that was safe for the race conditions. Bridgestone did. Everyone had ample time to do their homework and familiarise themselves with the course and with the effect it would have on tire life. How could Michelin mess up on something so basic then have the audacity to point the finger at everyone else? We all realize that F1 (all racing in general for that matter) is highly political and borderline unethical in practice, but that does not negate the fact that Michelin screwed up on this one. Thanks to the teams that raced. Although only marginally entertaining, it was a race nonetheless. I hope the Americans get their money back and hope they give F1 another chance. I will now bow out to ergos, god of racing and tires.

posted by vewill1 at 08:25 AM on June 21, 2005

ergos, awesome stuff. until your last comment. your michelin heritage betrayed you.

posted by garfield at 08:47 AM on June 21, 2005

ergos, thank you for your much appreciated insight. It would be even more appreciated if it didn't come with such smugness. No one here would dispute that you know more about the technical and political sides of F1 than any of us. You don't need to take such a high ground about it. Cheers.

posted by qbert72 at 08:52 AM on June 21, 2005

ok guys, got it - I'll refrain from posting here in the future. Have a great time.

posted by ergos at 09:24 AM on June 21, 2005

No one here would dispute that you know more about the technical and political sides of F1 than any of us. Actually, I'd be perfectly happy to dispute that. There's no reason at all to believe he has any insider F1 knowledge. He helped develop sports car tires, a task which has absolutely nothing to do with F1. His continuous accusations of a long-lived Ferrari/FOM conspiracy are laughable. The idea that huge numbers of highly competitive organizations would agree to run with a handicap against Ferrari is asinine. Unless ergos does something more than make a vague accusation a fourth time, I've officially dismissed him as a crackpot.

posted by mosch at 09:48 AM on June 21, 2005

ok guys, got it - I'll refrain from posting here in the future. Have a great time. Hero to bitch in under 10 comments. Welcome to the Internet: someone is bound to challenge you on a comment once in a while. You can either deal with it and add to the intelligent discourse (as you seemed to be doing) or turtle, take your ball and go home. Either's fine.

posted by yerfatma at 10:07 AM on June 21, 2005

I've officially dismissed him as a crackpot. Well I for one liked the insight into Michelin's corporate culture that ergos brought to the discussion. I felt it was most surely accurate and very relevant to this weekend's debacle. ergos, I really don't want to see you go. It's great to have some discussion about racing here. Conspiracy theories are fun to discuss, and you obviously have a lot to bring to the table. It's just that unless you can bring tangible proofs, your conspiracy theories have no more intrinsic value than other people's conspiracy theories. And saying "I'm an insider, I know stuff and you don't" alienates you from the people you're discussing with and effectively kills off any discussion, while in no way effectively supporting your theories.

posted by qbert72 at 10:09 AM on June 21, 2005

Thanks to the teams that raced. Although only marginally entertaining, it was a race nonetheless. C'mon on now. 6 racers may fall under the dictionary definition of a race but nobody paid to see that. I went to the Montreal GP and if they had pulled that I would have been plenty pissed. Attending the event wasn't cheap. I guess the fans don't measure on the bottom line of the whole thing.

posted by gspm at 03:15 PM on June 21, 2005

I guess the fans don't measure on the bottom line of the whole thing. I don't know of a professional sport where the attending fan measures.

posted by garfield at 03:21 PM on June 21, 2005

Thanks for your comment ergos, while it's true that I am not professionally involved with any company that has any stake in F1, either as a manufacturer, supplier, technical sponsor, sponsor, or events management, so I guess I only see it from a fan's point of view. The thing I sort of worry about is the fate of BAR, those poor guys are already under a six month suspension, so when the FIA dishes out punishment they're most likely going to get hit the hardest.

posted by riffola at 05:21 PM on June 21, 2005

"there is no question in my mind that the farce that occurred on Sunday, June 19, 2005 at Indianapolis was the responsibility of the FIA President, Max Mosley, and compounded by the lack of support from Jean Todt." A long statement of events surrounding the withdrawal of the seven Michelin teams from last weekend's US Grand Prix, from Bridgestone-running, Minardi team principal, Paul Stoddart. Stoddart is hardly on good terms with the FIA and Mosley in particular, a fact certain camps will use to colour Stoddart's words, but it will be interesting to see the FIA's response and how much of the release, if any, they dispute.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 09:27 AM on June 22, 2005

Paul Stoddart says lots of things, especially about Ferrari and the FIA. Hearing him trash them again means close to nothing. It's like listening to a guy from Boston say "the Yankees suck".

posted by mosch at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2005

...speaking of certain camps. Anyway, the FIA have now made available copies of the letters sent to each team, detailing the charges they will face at the World Motor Sport Council at the end of June.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2005

Michelin is stepping up

posted by rdr at 04:46 AM on June 29, 2005

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