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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Formula farce nears end of road
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Only the Ferraris, Jordans and Minardis sit on the grid awaiting the start of the US Grand Prix
Formula One has made itself look stupid on a number of occasions in recent years - but the fiasco that was the 2005 United States Grand Prix took it to a new low.

Veteran British driver David Coulthard - long a beacon of sense in a sport flooded with people with an over-inflated sense of their own importance - cut to the heart of the issue.

"I have no words to describe how damaging this is for F1. I am sick in the stomach to be part of this," the Scot told BBC Radio Five Live after seven of the 10 teams pulled out of the race because Michelin could not guarantee the safety of its tyres.

"That mature adults were not able to put on a show for everybody is very sad."

It is maturity - or the lack of it - where F1's problem lies, and not just in this one case.

Too many of the sport's key decision-makers cannot see the bigger picture because they are blinkered by their attachment to the sport's increasingly labyrinthine rules or blinded by petty political rivalries.

Of course, everyone involved had a valid point of view at Indianapolis on Sunday.

A fan at Indianapolis blames FIA president Max Mosley's rules for the farce at the US Grand Prix
Ferrari and their tyre supplier Bridgestone were, for example, quite right to ask why they should be penalised for Michelin's error - a mistake that had opened the door to their first win in an unusually poor season for the Italian team.

Any number of solutions were possible, even if all of them had their inherent problems.

But what was needed was someone who could cut through the fog of self-interest and find a solution to staging a race.

And it is worrying for the entire future of the sport - let alone its future in America - that no-one could do that on Sunday.

In the past, that man would have been F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

But perhaps his decision to leap into bed with Ferrari in the political row that threatens to tear the sport apart has terminally harmed his position as F1's deal-maker extraordinaire.

It is difficult not to view the problems at Indianapolis as tied up in that row.

Seven teams and five of the sport's car manufacturers have threatened to set up a rival championship in 2008 because they want a greater say in F1's future and a bigger cut of its finances.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and race director Charlie Whiting discuss the looming catastrophe at the US Grand Prix
Ecclestone (left) and other officials failed to solve F1's problems on Sunday
Crucially, they have also lost faith in the impartiality of FIA president Max Mosley, a view that will not have been erased by his organisation's intransigent response to Sunday's crisis.

In that sense, the US Grand Prix offered a haunting view of F1's future.

If no compromise is reached, then it will not have been the last Grand Prix race involving Ferrari and a bunch of also-rans.

For their own sake as much as that of the sport's fans, F1's bosses need to put aside their differences and bang their heads together until they come up with a solution.

If they fail, a sport steeped in more than a century's worth of history could well be consigned to it.

REACTION TO THE US GP FARCE

"We have a tyre which is quicker. We didn't use that because we knew what is going to face us here. I'm not saying the others purposely chose something wrong, but whatever it is, it is their problem and not our problem."
Michael Schumacher, F1 world champion

"I don't know what more the Michelin teams could have done to get a race on safely. We offered so many options and were open to ideas. We offered to let the Bridgestone runners start at the front, we offered everything but sadly for the fans it did not happen."
Martin Whitmarsh, managing director McLaren-Mercedes

"It seems the Michelin teams failed to bring a back-up tyre as usual with them to Indianapolis. The FIA offered them options which would have allowed them to compete safely within the limitations of their tyres. For some reason they chose not to accept those options."
Max Mosley, FIA president

"The bottom line is that Michelin screwed up, but after that the FIA had in their hands the ability to make sure that a race took place."
David Coulthard, Red Bull F1 driver

"On a day that called for strong governance, innovation and compromise, or at least a decent back-up plan, self-interest and intransigence ruled."
David Tremayne, the Independent

"I don't see how even the most ardent Mosley haters can blame the FIA. This is all Michelin's fault."
"Optimistic Dave", BBC message board

"If it is the only way to be rid of Mosley, Whiting and Ecclestone, then so be it. They are killing the sport. I hope the big guns - Mercedes, Honda, Renault and BMW - have the courage to bring them to justice and rejuvenate the sport we love."
Frank, BBC messageboard

"I am furious with the stupidity. There should have been a compromise. I tried a million things, but the teams had other ideas."
Bernie Ecclestone, F1 commercial boss

"Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley between them have presided over a vertiginous decline in F1's credibility on and off the track. So much time has been spent on out-smarting and wrong-footing opponents that the sport no longer has a basis of trust on which to runs its affairs, with consequences that were all too apparent in the failure to resolve yesterday's difficulty."
Richard Williams, the Guardian

"The contract in the US is up next year. Whether the people here will want to renew it is another thing. The governing body has to be open to some kind of compromise when faced with unique or unusual situations of this kind."
Jackie Stewart, three-time F1 world champion

"Your teams have the choice of running more slowly in turn 12/13, running a tyre not used in qualifying (which would attract a penalty) or repeatedly changing a tyre (subject to valid safety reasons). It is for them to decide. We have nothing to add."
Charlie Whiting, F1 race director



SEE ALSO
Stoddart blames F1 boss for farce
20 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Schumacher claims farcical US win
19 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Team boss warns of F1 'disaster'
20 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Battle lines drawn in fight for F1
02 Mar 05 |  Formula One
McLaren threaten to make F1 exit
19 Feb 05 |  Formula One


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