I find myself annoyed by the fiasco of the Indianapolis Grand Prix for reasons which I think are quite different from a lot of the other people.
The situation is pretty clear – Michelin failed to provide tyres that were suitable to run for race distance at the speedway. As such safety was compromised, and it was absolutely the right decision that these tyres should not have been used under race conditions. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this.
The problem comes with the response. Michelin and the seven michelin running teams on the grid felt like the rules of the sport should have been changed. The race stewards and bosses of Formula 1 didn’t. You have to ask yourself if Ferrari had found a problem with their rear-wing that compromised safety in the high speed straight, if they’d had asked for the circuit to be changed to accomodate this they’d have been laughed out of the paddock. Quite rightly.
It seems to me that there were plenty of options for the Michelin cars to race, if only amoungst themselves, and these were spelled out by Charlie Whiting:
- They could run with the tyres they used for qualifying (which the rules require, of course), but “tip-toe” around the corner in question to prevent the dangerous loads going onto the tyre.
- They could do (1), but at full race speed, and change the tyres at a pit stop every 10 laps (the tyres were considered safe for up to ten laps) – and probably attract no penalty beyond the time of the pit-stops. The probably is because it’s against the rules to do a tyre change during the race for any reason other than safety.
- They could change the tyres to a different spec from those used in qualifiying, which were safe for the race – but this is breaking the rules and would attract a penalty of some form or another, probably stripping any points gained.
It seems clear to me that there’s some politiks going on here. The team bosses and Michelin are playing all innocent, saying “Put the chicane in so we can race, and we’ll quite happily accept a penalty of stripped championship points”, when actually that were several options for them racing, if only amoungst themselves – some of which that would have attracted no championship penalty. The ITV commenters were asking if it’s a sport or a business – the answer is it’s a sport, it has rules that are abundently clear and diligently adhered to.
Quite aside from anything else, it seems like madness to me to be changing the circuit on the morning of the race!