Damien Smith's Off the line
Yes, Michelin made a horrendous foul-up. Yes, the team owners were justified in putting driver safety above everything. Yes, Max Mosley had every right to be concerned about track changes so late in the day in the most litigious country on earth. Yes, the Bridgestone teams naturally wanted to make the most of a rare performance advantage in 2005. Yes, it was complicated. And yes, there was no simple solution. But why did Formula One treat its fans on June 19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with what could be construed as utter contempt?
That’s what really got to me. To run a ‘race’ for six cars, only two of which were competitive, was bad enough. But to ignore over 120,000 expectant people and let them realise the farce for themselves was simply unforgiveable. Sadly, it was also completely predictable.
What a contrast at Goodwood one week later. The Festival of Speed is a tonic for all those who have felt second-class at grand prix circuits over the years. The paddocks are packed and corporate guests still get the best views, but crucially the public are still made to feel welcome. A stark difference.
For what it’s worth, I actually feel sorry for Michelin. It’s a company that has served motorsport well for years and this misjudgement, made under the intense pressure of a tyre war, has hurt it badly. The public humiliation could take years to get over. Further punishment would be wrong: Michelin didn’t mean to bring the wrong tyres, just as an engine supplier doesn’t mean its motors to blow up on the first lap.
As for the teams, why are they being blamed for what happened? I can’t accept that it was viable or safe for drivers to hit a rev-limiter button to run slower through Turn 13, and trundling down the pitlane on every lap would have made F1 as much of a laughing stock as it is now. There is no disrepute in failing to take either of these options.
The suggested chicane would have been problematic, but it was the solution. Why not run an extra practice session on race morning, then penalise the Michelin runners with a stop-go during the grand prix to be fair to the Bridgestone teams?
Oh, whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of talking about it. So why don’t you get away from it for a while? Turn to page 42 in this magazine and read about a man who had a true perspective of what motor racing is all about. Keke Rosberg didn’t care about ‘F1 issues’. He just kept his foot down.