Jun 19th, 2005 · Categories: Uncategorized · No Comments

Sports: The U.S. Petit Prix

The U. S. Grand Prix was anything but grand; once again, American fans pay the price for the fat cats’ stupidity. Today’s Formula One travesty reminds us that all professional sports make their money from fans whom they in turn ignore. This is a sport dominated by billionaires, men with egos fatter than than their wallets. Such men do not readily identify or sympathize with the ordinary mortals who provide the cash that supports their vicarious life in racing. Such men bask in the reflected glory of exceptionally brave and talented drivers who risk their lives and actually earn the respect and even the adoration of the fans. Such men view fans as a faceless herd of nobodies entitled to nothing more than the privilege of handing their money over to the lords of F1.

On the surface, the facts are simple. Michelin provides the tires for seven of the current ten F1 teams. Unfortunately, they were not able to provide tires that would actually carry the cars around the entire track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In particular, the tires had a tendency to fail in turn 13, AKA the Indy 500’s turn one. In correspondence posted here and here, Michelin described their dilemma and offered to provide tires based on another compound, but the F1 sanctioning body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), refused. According to F1 rules, cars are supposed to race on the same kind of tires they qualified on.

Michelin then asked the FIA to order the construction of a chicane (a barrier that produces a speed-reducing S-curve) before turn 13. The FIA refused on the grounds that changing the course to help some teams solve an equipment problem would be unfair to the other three teams. They informed Michelin that their teams would have to deal with the problem by (a) suffering a penalty for using a different tire, (b) slowing down in turn 13 (an obvious competitive disadvantage, (c) pitting roughly every ten laps to change the affected tire. The seven team owners, obviously acting in concert, simply refused to follow the F1 rules and run the race.

Their are rumors of ongoing disputes between the owners and the FIA. Perhaps there was more to their decision than the fact that their chosen tire vendor wasn’t up to the task. This kind of fat-cat-fight is certainly nothing new to American fans of open-wheel racing, particularly the Indianapolis 500. Disagreements between car owners and the United States Auto Club (USAC) produced a new sanctioning body, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Disagreements between CART owners and Tony George (owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and of an ego the equal of any F1 owner) spawned the Indy Racing League (IRL), current sanctioning body for the Indy 500. But no fan of American racing had ever seen 70 percent of the field take the parade lap (warm-up lap in F1) and drive straight to the garage to sulk.

Will F1 come back to Indy – or anywhere in the United States next year? No one knows. F1 has been a hard sell in the United States, showing up in Watkins Glen (New York), Long Beach (California), Las Vegas, and most recently in Indy. The farcical National Hockey League invites us to ask instead, will anybody care?

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 19th, 2005 at 9:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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