My Take on the US F1 Grand Prix Fiasco
The 2005 season of the FIA Formula One World Championship was shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory before last weekends United States Grand Prix. Since 2000, Ferrari has dominated the F1 scene, giving Michael Schumacher 5 of his 7 world champion trophies and dominating the opposition. But this year, the face of F1 has changed through the first seven rounds, with West McLaren Mercedes and Mild Seven Renault exchanging victories. The rule changes, blistering pace of car development and the tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin have upped the level of competition, allowing new faces to stand up to the podium and new teams getting their share of the limelight.
Then, the farce that was the US Grand Prix happened.
Twenty cars formed the grid for the US Grand Prix, but at the start, only six remained. Why? Because Michelin had made a monumental error in judgement by bringing a defective tire for their teams, and advised their partner teams not to race on the tires for safety reasons. So, after the formation lap, fourteen cars that made up the seven partner teams of Michelin pulled in to withdraw from the race before it even started. The fans were appalled at this and started heckling and jeering the remaining cars in the field: the Bridgestone-shod Ferraris, Jordan-Toyotas and Minardi-Cosworths. The grid eventually finished the way they started, for there is no way that the Jordans or the Minardis can compete with the Ferraris. The fans felt they were robbed of a real race, and some made a pledge never to come back to watch F1 in the stands of Indianapolis ever again.
It is an irony, actually, that something like this happens on the United States famed circuit filled with history about motor racing. The sadder part is this: the politics in the motor sport surfaced in a very ugly way, the schism between teams and the sport’s governing body rearing its’ ugly head. And the pathetic aftermath? The sport let the politics rob the fans of a real show.
It may be true that in the spirit of keeping the integrity of organizations, what each team, tire manufacturer and the FIA had done had been right. Their reasons and arguments about safety, sticking to the rules, looking after the long term interests of the teams were sound and needed no rebuttal or refute. But each and everyone of them must remember that it is the paying public that should be the focus of all this. If events like these will be likely to happen in the future, why will one like me dream of taking a long vacation, save up the hard earned money only to watch a flimsy race? Fans are just as passionate as the drivers and teams participating about racing and will not mind spending or dedicating their lives to fuel their passion, but if it is the sport itself that douses water on the fiery passion, soon Grand Prix racing will be just that – racing.
I sincerely pray that the teams, the FIA and the people behind F1 find a way to recover from this and win back the fans. The season is still interesting and it would be good to see how all of this would play out.