June 29, 2005

F1 steps back from crisis over tires

By Alan Baldwin

PARIS (Reuters) - Formula One stepped back from the brinkof crisis Wednesday when the governing body decided to delayuntil September any action against the seven teams who failedto start this month's U.S. Grand Prix.

The teams -- championship leaders Renault, McLaren,Williams, Toyota, Red Bull, Sauber and BAR -- had been chargedwith bringing the sport into disrepute by their actions at theJune 19 race in Indianapolis.

Just six cars took part in the ninth round of thechampionship when Michelin said they could not guarantee thesafety of their tires through the high-speed final bankedcorner after failures in practice.

After appearing before the International AutomobileFederation (FIA)'s world motor sport council in Paris, theteams were found guilty of two of the five specific charges butcleared of the other three.

They were deemed to have failed to ensure they were inpossession of suitable tires, albeit with strong mitigatingcircumstances, and to have wrongfully refused to allow theircars to start the race.

They were cleared of refusing to race subject to a speedrestriction, combining to make a demonstration and failing toinform the stewards of their intention not to start.

"The world motor sport council has decided to adjourndiscussion of any penalty to an extraordinary meeting of theWMSC to be held on September 14," the FIA said.

There had been fears that heavy sanctions, such as bans orpoints deductions, could trigger a boycott of Sunday's FrenchGrand Prix and subsequent races.


The FIA said the September meeting would examine what stepshad been taken by teams and Michelin to compensate the fans andrepair the damage to the reputation of the Indianapolis MotorSpeedway and the image of Formula One.

It would also consider what steps had been taken to ensurethat such an occurrence as June 19 never happened again.

Clearly blaming French tire producer Michelin for thedebacle, Mosley explained that the FIA had no power to imposeany sanction on that company.

Tuesday, Michelin offered to reimburse the 120,000disgruntled fans at Indianapolis, many of whom walked out indisgust while others threw plastic bottles and cans on thetrack during the event.

"We are hoping the Michelin teams will make sure that whatMichelin has suggested they do is done and not just talkedabout," said Mosley.

He added that his message to the seven teams was: "If yousort this out (for the fans), we will take a lenient view -- ifyou don't, we might not."

Mosley thought it unlikely that teams would beretrospectively docked world championship points.


"Personally I am very reluctant to do anything with pointsunless what the person has done affected their sportingperformance," he said.

The case of BAR, with a suspended ban already hanging overthem after being barred for two races in May for a breach ofthe weight and fuel regulations, was considered but it wasdecided that the situation was different this time.

That cleared Briton Jenson Button to race in his homeBritish Grand Prix next week.

"The view of the council was that the two things were sodifferent that it would not be fair to impose the suspendedban," said Mosley.

He warned that the FIA could, however, impose "a series ofenormous fines" on the teams with which to compensate fans ifit decided not enough had been done when the council met againin September.

Mosley dismissed the suggestion that the French Grand Prixmight have been at risk had the teams been punishedimmediately.