Bob Constanduros on the US Grand Prix

24/06/2005
NEWS STORY

Many fans have written in to various websites around the world with their comments post-US Grand Prix, many with completely conflicting viewpoints. There are those who blame Max Mosley, the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt, Ferrari, Michelin, Charlie Whiting, McLaren, the Michelin teams (not many) etc etc.

There are just a couple of points that haven't been made. Firstly, being old-fashioned, I would like to hear a proper apology from Michelin to the fans, the public and Formula One in general. They have been the ones who screwed up and although I will deal with their punishment later, I have yet to hear an apology to those mentioned above although they have apologised to their teams. This is a big error on their behalf and suggests a lack of humility which, on this occasion, they should be consuming in large doses of humble pie.

It is very fashionable to knock the FIA these days and Max Mosley and colleagues have taken a fair old battering over this. I believe this to be wrong. The FIA is the organisation which regulates the sport worldwide. The rules that they lay down are relied on by governments worldwide which is why nations are happy to let the FIA apply their rules, as they are with many other sports.

In this instance, however, we are talking about a sport that can be dangerous and therefore their safety measures, technical regulations, crash tests etc are just a little bit more important than, say, ensuring that a football player's boots are to the right specification. Via the National Sporting Authority (NSA), governments rely on the FIA to regulate the sport according to their rules.

If they go around changing those rules, however, they run the risk of losing the trust of the governments in the nations concerned. They simply cannot afford to change things willy nilly. The FIA hasn't explained their position on this, but there is potential for all kinds of penalties if they had changed the course at Indianapolis to include a chicane. What would have been the insurance situation? And having seen the incredibly abrasive nature of the newly resurfaced speedway section, it could well have actually done worse harm to all the tyres, from either supplier.

It is not up to the FIA to say this, but I think that many people have under-estimated the paranoia created by the threat of legal action in the United States, sometimes referred to as the Land of Litigation. Europeans are more aware of this perhaps than Americans. We see it creeping into our society, and we don't like it. To be faced with it in the United States is almost inevitable, as we have seen since Sunday. Fans are taking their issues to court; if I had bought a seat at turn 13 in order to see cars cornering at 180mph and all I saw were cars negotiating a poxy chicane at 45mph, I might have been moved to take the organisers to court too!

But to be serious, changing the circuit could have opened up all kinds of disputes, waivers and legal questions, which certainly couldn't be sorted out on either a Saturday or Sunday morning. Ferrari, incidentally were right to let the matter be sorted out by the FIA. Regulating circuits is their responsibility and is not the work of a moment.

I note that some fans are willing to forgive Formula One, providing it never happens again. OK, a race was postponed back in 1985 in Belgium when the track broke up, and there was a threat to the race in Brazil 2003 due to a lack of suitable rain tyres, but it has never really happened before, and there is no reason why it should happen again, especially now.

And forgive me for mentioning this, sports fans, but if I had travelled from England for the Indy 500 and it had rained, would I not have had to wait until it stopped - which could have been long after my plane had left? Perhaps we should have waited until Michelin flew in some suitable tyres…

My last concern is for this meeting in Paris on Wednesday. Mr Mosley seems to be on a mission here, to exact considerable revenge on those who caused Sunday's debacle: Michelin and their teams. While I seriously believe that Michelin have been pushing the envelope this year which has had the effect of rubbing Bridgestone's noses in it, I would quote Max Mosley's own letter to Pierre Dupasquier on June 1 this year. "We greatly value the presence of Michelin in Formula One and believe the Formula One World Championship is enhanced by the competition between tyre suppliers." Michelin are great supporters of motor sport and it would be poorer without them. May your revenge not to be too harsh, Max. We need them in the sport.

Similarly, the teams at least have apologised to the fans and they are perhaps more aware than anyone of the damage done. Any penalty is likely to enlarge the gap between GPWC and the FIA, so why not ask them what penalty would be acceptable. I am concerned that penalties emanating from the FIA World Motor Sport Council on June 29 could actually make things worse and could drive participants away from the sport.

I don't believe that docking the teams World Championship points is justified and I don't think the FIA will either. These are points that have been earned legitimately and taking them away retrospectively is unjustified. In this instance, a fine contributing to a compensation package would be ideal, but it would also create a precedent. No doubt the FIA will ensure that it is a suitable - but not too harsh, please - penalty for the crime committed.

I note, incidentally, that one of the charges against the seven teams is that they "failed to notify the stewards of your intention not to race." In some ways, this directly affects me, because as circuit commentator with my colleagues Dave Calabro and Tom Carnegie, it was up to us to break the news to the fans if and when they were not going to race. I preferred not knowing, and of course, the stewards could have kept that to themselves. There had to be a certain amount of damage limitation here, and I can assure you that although I suspected I knew what was going to happen, it was by no means confirmed, and therefore I just had to watch and wait.

I am deeply sorry that the image of Formula One has been so damaged, especially in a season which was looking so promising and in a country where we have long endeavoured to gain credibility. I can say that it is just a glitch, one race out of 19, but obviously to many fans who had travelled from afar it was a lot more than that.

So just one final comment, however: let's get racing and put this whole thing behind us - please.

Bob Constanduros

Bob Constanduros He is the on-circuit commentator at all Grands Prix. He has also worked as a TV presenter and commentator for the BBC and with TV companies in South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and France.

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Published: 24/06/2005
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