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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
F1 puts war on ice
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Fernando Alonso's Renault leads the other Michelin teams into the pits at Indianapolis
The Michelin teams pull into the pits at the start of the US Grand Prix
Formula One's governing body appears to have seen sense over the United States Grand Prix fiasco - and not before time.

Wednesday's decision by the FIA's world motorsport council to delay handing out penalties to the seven teams who refused to race at Indianapolis might appear befuddled.

But in fact it amounts to a realistic compromise that should defuse what was becoming a dangerously volatile situation.

It is not a judgment without faults.

The F1 rules say it is a team's responsibility to ensure they have suitable tyres, so the seven outfits had to be found guilty - even if in reality the fault in this case was Michelin's.

And it is difficult to see how the teams can be guilty of "wrongfully refusing to start the race" when they would have been wilfully endangering the lives of their drivers - and possibly the American spectators - had they done so.

To get a clearer understanding of the ruling, we must examine the words of FIA president Max Mosley.

Explaining the judgment, he made it clear a ban or points deduction could not be considered.

That's because the chief culprit here is not the teams but Michelin.

Michelin tyres in the Formula One paddock
Michelin will have to compensate US fans after the Indy fiasco
However, with no means of punishing the French tyre company, the FIA had to be seen to be doing something to solve a crisis that has seriously damaged F1's international credibility.

Hence a decision which effectively lets the teams off the hook.

It is always dangerous to second-guess the decisions of the FIA's world council.

But assuming Michelin compensates the US fans to the FIA's satisfaction, it appears the teams will be given merely a fine or a reprimand.

The teams might not like that, but they are likely to accept it.

What this judgment does not do, however, is address the deeper-lying issues that allowed the situation at Indianapolis to get so out of control.

There appears, for example, to have been no consideration of Mosley's role in the US Grand Prix fiasco.

He blocked a plan which would have allowed the race to take place following the insertion of a chicane but with only the cars on Bridgestone tyres scoring points.

It might not have been a proposal that fell strictly within the rules, but at least it would have given the thousands of fans at Indy and the millions of TV viewers around the world something to watch.

Mosley's suggestions for a solution were even less realistic - and would arguably have made the "race" more of a farce than it turned out to be.

And there is no doubt that the poor relations between the FIA president and most of the F1 teams exacerbated the problem at Indianapolis.

The teams have lost their faith in Mosley's ability to govern F1 satisfactorily, a feeling that is at the heart of the threat by seven teams and five car manufacturers to set up a rival series in 2008.

Rightly or wrongly, the teams feel Mosley governs in a haphazard manner, interferes where he is not needed and that his impartiality cannot be guaranteed.

His intervention in the rows at Indianapolis did nothing to diminish those feelings.

Nor did his admission in a newspaper interview this week that he felt the teams were overstating the seriousness of the problems with the Michelin tyres at Indy.

So while the potential consequences of this particular battle may have been defused, the wider war rages on.




SEE ALSO
Michelin offers refund to US fans
29 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Michelin in complaint to F1 boss
29 Jun 05 |  Ceefax Only
Stewart criticises FIA 'failure'
26 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Mosley rejects US race criticism
23 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Mosley 'wrecked US salvage talks'
22 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Fans launch legal action over GP
21 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Stoddart blames F1 boss for farce
20 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Indianapolis unsure of F1 future
20 Jun 05 |  Formula One
US race boycott set 'to harm F1'
19 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Formula farce nears end of road
20 Jun 05 |  Formula One
Schumacher claims farcical US win
19 Jun 05 |  Formula One


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