Bewildered fans want restitution
INDIANAPOLIS Many Formula One fans were outraged by the withdrawal of all but six cars before the start of the United States Grand Prix on Sunday.
The other 14 cars, representing the seven teams that use Michelin tires, pulled off the track after the warmup lap because of safety concerns and a failure to reach a compromise that would have allowed them to compete.
Many people left the race and demanded ticket refunds.
"I came all the way from South America, from Bolivia, to watch this thing. But for me, this is the last time that I go to Formula One," said one man, who identified himself only as Gustavo. "I'm not only speaking for myself, but probably for a lot of people who come from different parts of the world to watch only six stupid people.
"To just give the race away like that is not fair for us, the fans. We want our money back."
Another fan called it "an absolute outrage."
"I have been to this race every year they've had it here," fan Joe Huling said. "My brothers and I have followed Formula One since the '70s and have never seen anything as outrageous as this. As far as I'm concerned, if they do have a race here again, I would be questionable about coming here."
The cars that raced were the Ferraris of winner Michael Schumacher and runner-up Rubens Barrichello, the Jordans of Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan and the Minardis of Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher.
"I wanted to see Ferrari win, but not like this," fan James McAden said. "We never seen such a thing in motor racing. We came from South Carolina. This is not good for Grand Prix racing in America."
Scott Brombacher, a fan from California, said he was disgusted as he left.
"I love Formula One ... it just aggravates me," Brombacher said. "I spent a lot of money and took a week off from work to come out here. To have all this happen at the last minute is just disgusting."
The United States is the rare country that has not fully embraced the world's top racing series, and teams have been working hard to tap into the lucrative market.
All seven teams that pulled out of the race signed a single statement apologizing for the debacle.
"We are totally aware that the USA is an important market for Formula One and there is an obligation for Formula One to promote itself in a positive and professional manner," it said.
A subdued Michael Schumacher, who won his fourth U.S. Grand Prix with only token opposition by teammate Rubens Barrichello, admitted he had mixed emotions.
"Certainly today was a very unique Grand Prix, but to be honest, it wasn't in our hands," Schumacher said. "There's nothing we could have done. I don't know what their [Michelin] problem was, but it wasn't our problem."
Schumacher was aware that many fans were booing.
"But there were a lot of people yelling. There were still a lot of supporters there, being happy with what we did," he said.
The fiasco won't destroy F1 in the United States, Schumacher predicted.
"We've had good ones, we had a difficult one, and we'll have good ones again," he said.
Formula One put politics above sport, said Paul Stoddart, the team principal for Minardi.
"Nine of the 10 competing teams had agreed that in the interests of safety, a temporary chicane needed to be placed before the final turn," Stoddart said.
The idea was rejected by FIA President Max Mosley, and "in no uncertain terms, the teams were told that, should this occur, there would be no race," he said.
"I have complete sympathy with the Michelin teams and can take neither satisfaction from nor interest in this afternoon's race, if you can call it that," he said.
The happiest driver may have been Tiago Monteiro of Portugal, whose third place gave him his first F1 points and first podium finish.
Monteiro, who drives for Jordan, qualified 17th on Saturday and knew he didn't have a competitive car -- until the boycott eliminated almost all of the competition.
"We always hope for a crazy race, to get the points. But I would never imagine a situation like that," Monteiro said. "It is a sad race. It's a shame what happened, but I'm happy, really excited, myself."
Jarno Trulli, who would have started from the pole, called the withdrawal of the Michelin Seven a "shame for Formula One" but the only reasonable option.
"We all knew to run and finish the race was too dangerous," the Toyota driver said. "But that's life. Sometimes these things can happen. We have analyzed data, and Michelin has analyzed data. They felt we were in danger today, so it was as simple as that."
Trulli said he wasn't upset that Ferrari decided to race.
"Ferrari was right where they expect the rules were clear from the race director," he said. "That's the rules. If you cannot race, you do not race."
The tire problem that limited Sunday's race to six drivers was caused by the banking in the final turn, which is Turn 1 of Indy's regular oval course but Turn 13 of the reconfigured road course used for the this race.
Michelin said going into that turn -- the only one that is banked -- puts added stress on the tires at high speed.
"The corner is not a corner," said David Coulthard, whose Red Bull Racing was one of the seven F1 teams that pulled out after the warmup lap.
"We come through the oval. It is an easy corner, but the reality is it takes a lot of stress in the tire. We are just not designed to drive those types of corners at these speeds."
Rubens Barrichello, whose Ferrari team uses Bridgestone, said he had no problem with the tires in practice or qualifications.
"We have in the past, but we've sorted them out," he said. "With the rules like they are, there will be a time when you bring a couple types of tires for the track. There will be times you get it wrong."
Red Bull was fined $3,000 because driver David Coulthard drove in reverse in the pits during practice Saturday. David Saelens of Belgium won Sunday's Porsche Michelin Supercup support race by 1 second over Alessandro Zampedri. Saelens also won the first Supercup race Saturday, his first victory of the season. Richard Philippe of Key Biscayne, Fla., won the second Formula BMW race Sunday, beating Tobias Hegewald of Germany by 4.2 seconds. Australian James Davison, who won the first BMW race Saturday, was 23rd, one lap down.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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