Monday, June 20, 2005

Winning Formula?

First of all, let me say that I do not "follow" any racing league (or any sport for that matter) to the degree that I know day by day who is where in the standings. Within my heirarchy of leagues, I will watch IRL/CART (I still wish the leagues had never split), NASCAR, then Formula One.

I turned off Sunday's F1 race after 5 laps.

If you don't know what happened, here is the brief story. There are two competing tire manufacturers in F1 racing; Michelin and Bridgestone. Yesterday, Michelin screwed up and the teams that use Michelin tires may have just killed any prospects of the league having any success in the United States for the next twenty years.

Essentially, the sidewall on the Michelin tires were unable to withstand the forces created when taking the final turn at high speed. The tire could suddenly deflate with the car and driver being put into the wall. This happened twice in the final practice session on Friday.

Michelin was unable to solve the problem over the weekend. You can't redesign a tire, manufacture it, and ship it from France in 48 hours, and Michelin North America (my former employer) does not manufacture racing tires. Michelin issued a letter to their teams that the tire was unsafe in turn 13 (turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but going the opposite direction after finishing the road course).

On race day, all twenty drivers took the parade lap and just before the green flag, 14 drivers pulled off the track and into the garage leaving only six cars in the race, four of which are among the worst in the league. The third place finisher was a lap down at the end.

The seven teams that withdrew blamed just about everybody but themselves.

The venue: Indianapolis is the only track on the circuit with a high banked corner. Of course this is not the first year that the US Grand Prix has been held in Indianapolis and it has had the same layout every time.

Ferrari: They objected to placing a chicane in the course to slow speeds through turn 13. Of course this ignores two points. First, none of the drivers has ever even turned a lap with the extra chicane and putting it in at the last minute could in itself be dangerous. And second, Ferrari didn't have any trouble in the corner so why would they want it changed?

FIA: The league's governing body offered three solutions. First, run slower through the corner so you don't blow out your tires. Second, pit more often to change tires. Third, run different tires than you have cleared for your team and accept the appropriate penalty.

And this is the key. Essentially, these seven teams were at a disadvantage because of choices they made. They chose Michelin over Bridgestone. Michelin chose not to test at Indy early this year. Why, when you make poor choices, is it everyone else's responsibility to level the playing field.

And the best attendance at a Formula One race in the United States paid the price for the poor choices of seven teams and one tire manufacturer. Formula One was considering expanding to 2 US events in the near future. They'll be lucky if they have one next year.

So, why am I writing about a sport in which I have very little interest?

Does this sound familiar?

"I can't take turn 13 at 200 mph. Can we make it so everyone has to slow down?"

"I can't win a race. Can we give fewer points to the first place finisher?"

"I can't earn a million dollars a year. Can we tax rich people more?"


Blogger ljmcinnis said...

Hey Bryan! You've been tagged! Re: Questions about important books at my page. The idea is to list and answer the questions on your site and then tag 5 others.

11:48 AM  

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