There are a lot of angry people in Indianapolis, and it's not just Jim swimming in another leak in his kitchen. Today was one of the greatest days of the year for American Formula One fans. Today was the United States Grand Prix. It's the one time when the international Formula One series visits the United States. Fans travel from all over the country just to watch this race. It's hard to describe Formula One to many Americans because it just hasn't caught on here yet, but if you travel out of our borders you'll see a different story. Formula One is enormous. I once heard that Ferrari spends as much in one race weekend as a Nascar team spends in an entire year of racing. Formula One is serious business. They're the highest performing road race cars on the planet. Today's race didn't do anything to help the popularity of the sport in one of the worlds biggest potential markets.
This year the F1 governing body, the FIA, instituted some new rules which were supposed to cut costs (whether they succeeded is another story.) Teams are allowed only one set of tires for an entire weekend including four practice sessions, qualifying, and the race. Teams must also run the same engine for two consecutive weekends. Engines weren't a problem, but tires were. We're about halfway through the season but apparently Michelin still hasn't gotten their act together. In F1, there are two tire manufacturers: Bridgestone and Michelin. Most teams run Michelin, but Ferrari (and two other smaller teams) run Bridgestone. Before this year Ferrari won everything but this year the Michelin teams have been running strong.
The problem starts with turn 13 on the course which is normally turn 1 in an Indy car or Nascar race. This weekend, Michelin came out and said that their tires would not hold up for the length of the race due to the high speeds in turn 13 and the strain it put on the tire. The teams petitioned the FIA to allow them to use a second set of tires but that request was declined. The next request was to put a chicane (a sharp swerving corner) in turn 13 to reduce the speeds. That was declined as well. In protest, the Michelin teams all pulled into the pits and parked their cars after the warmup lap. That left 6 cars on the grid and only 6 cars finished the race.
Fans were understandably upset. The whole stadium was booing and giving the thumbs down sign. Imagine taking a week off work, flying to Indy, paying hundreds of dollars for a ticket, and then seeing six cars drive around the track.
From what I can tell, the blame lies completely on Michelin. How did they not put effort into this and address the problem before this weekend? The drivers all wanted to race, but the teams wouldn't let them. Who wants to send their driver out into a situation where they will most likely crash headlong into a wall at 200+ mph? I'm sure Michelin has an excuse and I can't wait to hear it. It better be a good one. This weekend has done incalculable damage to the sport here in America. I'll continue to watch all the races, but who knows about other fans who haven't been following the sport for as long as I have. Or what about the fans that made the dream trip to Indy for the race? Thanks for all the fun Michelin. I hope that big white mascot of yours springs a leak.
- Happy Father’s Day