Monday, June 20, 2005

U.S. Grand Prix Marred By Controversy

Click on the title for a link to an article by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, about the USGP controversy. It seems that Bob is fed up with the European racing league's arrogance as well as, their total disregard for their fans in the United States. And believe you me, Bob is not alone.

Let me just give you a short backdrop to this.

Tony George CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway spent millions of dollars to renovate the Speedway to attract Formula One back to this country. Bernie Ecclestone (the head of F1) called all of the shots, he told Tony to jump, Tony asked how high, Bernie told him, and then he jumped exactly according to Ecclestone's specifications.

Since the very first USGP, Ecclestone and company have done very little to help promote the race (while expecting George to do so) and have acted like Americans should be thankful that they allowed their precious series to grace the American shores. In short, it has been evident from the beginning that they did not care to be here.

In all honesty, F1 doesn't need to be at Indy. They are quite well off from the billions (much of it government money) that the Europeans sink into the series. But then again, Tony doesn't really need them either. He has the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400, which ensures him of a very comfortable lifestyle for life.

But back to the tire fiasco, that was the center of the controversy. Kravitz has pinpointed the people to blame and those not to blame:

Now, of course, comes the time for apportioning the blame, and the best way to begin is by telling you who isn't culpable in this situation:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George.

Naturally, people looking for a refund will gaze toward 16th and Georgetown, but, tell me, what else could they have done? They were more than willing to put a chicane on the 13th turn. How could they have been expected to fix this?

I don't blame George and the Speedway folks for refusing to be a part of the postrace victory celebration.

And I don't blame George and the Speedway for releasing a statement that basically said: "Hey, you want your money back, here are the addresses for Michelin and the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile)."

George was more than willing to do whatever necessary to keep the race intact. He knows the purposes of rules, but he also knows that sometimes you must be flexible. He knows that the show must go on on and that you don't drop the stack of plates to catch the one that is falling.

Read on:

No, if we're assigning culpability, it belongs to a lot of other folks.

• To Ecclestone, who couldn't find a way to get his own politically charged house in order. The buck stops with him.

• To Michelin, a company that just got so much bad publicity, the Michelin Man was seen drowning his sorrows in a Downtown Indianapolis pub. Speed TV's telecast, by the way, was sponsored by -- yep -- Michelin.

• To the FIA, which made any kind of compromise virtually impossible by threatening to pull its sanction if a chicane was added. It put politics ahead of the fans. Inexcusable.

• To Ferrari, the only team that was said to be against the addition of a chicane, another decision that killed any hope of saving this race. At one level, it wasn't their fault the Michelin teams were unprepared, but again, it's supposed to be about delivering the product, even if that means making a concession.

The Speedway resurfaced the track recently, but Michelin (another fine French company) didn't feel the need to do any testing on the new surface before this year's race. That is one of the most basic necessities needed each time a track is resurfaced and something that other tire companies do with regularity.

In the end, we have Michelin and the FIA (another fine French entity) giving America the short end of the stick. And people wonder why I am so hard on the French and the other Europeans that worship them.

They certainly did not care about putting the best product out there.

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