Michelin Teams Running Out of Options

The Michelin teams are running out of options for Sunday's United States Grand Prix, after various solutions proposed at Indianapolis today have proved too problematic or impossible to implement in time for the race start

Michelin Teams Running Out of Options

The seven Michelin-shod teams were faced with a dilemma after several tyre failures in Friday's practice - the most dramatic leading to Ralf Schumacher crashing his car at the final turn, and subsequently withdrawing from the Grand Prix on his doctor's advice.

Michelin had further advised its partners not to race on the existing tyres in their current form due to safety reasons. The French company said it would fly in a supply of tyres used in the Spanish Grand Prix last month as a replacement.

However, the FIA's delegate Charlie Whiting had already made clear this solution would contravene several regulations. But despite suggestions that the FIA could agree to a more lenient penalty - such as starting behind all Bridgestone runners, or alternatively each Michelin-shod car serving a 10-second stop-go penalty in the race - there is also objection to this solution from within the Michelin teams.

It seems some of them have shot down the idea because it remains unknown whether these tyres - which would be fitted on the car straight into the race and without any prior running - could even last the race distance.

Another solution that was reportedly proposed by the Michelin teams was to build a chicane before the high-speed Turn 13. According to SpeedTV.com, the seven Michelin teams have written a letter to the FIA stating they would not take part in tomorrow's race unless such a chicane is built beforehand.

But sources in Indianapolis stated this option would be virtually impossible to implement, as the safety requirements for any track alterations are too heavy to be met within just a few hours, and in fact a hurriedly built chicane could prove dangerous in itself.

Alternatively, there had been suggestions that the teams agree to negotiate the problematic banked turn in a "Yellow Flag Mode", as one source called it, effectively agreeing to voluntarily reduce speed when driving through Turn 13. But not all teams are convinced this is an agreement that could be enforced, and in a situation of close racing it is unlikely that a team would tell their drivers to back off and hold positions against their rivals.

With little options seemingly left to solve the situation, the possibility of Sunday's race running with a diminished grid of anywhere down to only six Bridgestone-shod cars remains a tangible one.

Not all Michelin teams feel the same way, however, and while tomorrow may see some Michelin teams withdraw from the race, it could well be that others will continue to run with their current tyres.

Renault's Flavio Briatore stated that his team would not race in the US Grand Prix without a change that would ensure their drivers' safety. But at the same time, Williams's technical director Sam Michael revealed that his team was not affected by these tyre failures and suggested that the Michelin teams could part ways in their choices of how to race, or if to race at all.

With Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone applying pressure on all parties to find a solution that would allow 20 cars to start the race - and with both teams and the FIA eager to reach a solution that will avoid a major embarrassment for Formula One in the United States - the next 12 hours will be crucial for the ongoing negotiations between all sides, and the solution could well be completely unorthodox.

 

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