Formula for disaster

The United States Grand Prix became a farce this afternoon, as only six cars took part. Every car took the formation lap at precisely 1PM EST but only the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, Tiago Monteiro's Jordan, ...

The United States Grand Prix became a farce this afternoon, as only six cars took part.

Every car took the formation lap at precisely 1PM EST but only the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, Tiago Monteiro's Jordan, Christian Albers' Minardi and the back row of Narain Karthikeyan (Jordan) and Patrick Freisacher in the final Minardi took the green flag.

The balance of the 20-car field, all of which utilize Michelin rubber pulled into their pit stalls and retired on the spot.

Shortly before the cars went to grid, Formula One supreme Bernie Ecclestone declared on television, "The future for Formula One and Michelin in the United States is not good."

The debate over tire wear came to this: a two-hour discussion ensued between Ecclestone, Charlie Whiting and Tony George, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Toward the end of the debate all 20 drivers entered the talks to find an equitable way to run the race with all participants on the track.

By the time the meeting had dispersed, nine of ten F1 teams, 18 of 20 Formula One drivers agreed to install a chicane in the Turn 12/13 area while only one demurred, that being Ferrari and its two drivers.

Without a suitable solution in sight for the tire problem instigated by Michelin, the Michelin teams felt they had no choice but to retire.

This left the estimated 130,000 patrons who had paid (on average) $100 per ticket with two true race cars to watch and four pretenders, all of whom will earn points for this debacle. The resulting "race" has become a near-$13 million fleecing of race fans from around the world in ticket sales alone.

Schumacher and Barrichello tried to keep it interesting as they dodged plastic water bottles heaved to the track circuit by disgusted patrons only a few laps into the contest, circulating within a second of one another until Barrichello pitted on the 24th lap.

At that point Freisacher was already a lap in arrears and Albers, in fifth was close to going a lap down as well. Schumacher pitted on the 25th lap, allowing the laggards to regain their lost laps. Momentarily.

Signs from the stands said "Black flag this" and "$ back" and fans voted with their feet, as within the first 25 laps huge gaps appeared in what were crowded grandstands. Patrons passing through the tunnels gave single finger salutes and even the air horns were silent.

More to follow

Please see As the tire turns

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Narain Karthikeyan , Tiago Monteiro , Tony George , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Minardi , Jordan