By Ann Bradshaw, England
Autosport-Atlas Special Columnist
Ann Bradshaw has seen a lot of drama and arguments in her time in motorsport, but none of them prepared her for what she witnessed last Sunday at Indianapolis. She looks at the causes of the debacle, at how similar problems have been solved in the past, and what can be done to make sure nothing like this happens again
How many wrongs make a right? As the saying goes, two wrongs don't make a right, but if what happened at Indianapolis over the weekend is anything to go by, then dozens of wrongs don't make a right either. I still feel stunned and upset by what happened at the American race track, and it seems that this opinion is shared by all but a tiny minority of people.
I have worked in this sport for many years and can't ever remember feeling so ashamed at a spectacle of such stupidity. I listened with interest on Radio 5 Live at the comments of Maurice Hamilton and Ian Philips - two people I have known for a long time and respect - and if they could not reach a conclusion about the farce then I am sure those cheated spectators in Indianapolis could not.
Michelin will be the scapegoat for all this. They have already held up their hands and admitted it would be dangerous to let drivers risk life and limb on their tyres, but I hope the people who rule our sport will also have the guts to stand up and be counted. If all the money that is poured into this sport cannot produce one sensible person who can bang the collective heads together of the people representing F1 in that paddock then heads should roll, and it should not only be those at the French tyre manufacturer.
The FIA is the governing body of motor sport, so govern. I understand Bernie Ecclestone did not have a good reception when he went to the bastion of all that is good in hospitality, the Paddock Club, to say goodbye and sorry. For once I felt sorry for him, as I expect no one worked harder than he did to make the whole lot see sense, especially as he had millions of people sitting in front of their TV screens waiting for a good race.
I have sympathy with Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi on their bulletproof Bridgestone tyres - they had done nothing wrong. However, if what I have heard about the affair is true, the boys from Maranello could have done a little more to sort this out. Why should they let a golden opportunity of snatching points pass them by, I can hear them asking? Well because if you want to continue in a sport with a future, you had better look past your own self interest.
As I listened to what was going on I had just left Oulton Park and had seen proper motor racing. No grand opinions from people who never gave the spectators, both at the track and watching the races on TV, a second thought. The show had to go on despite torrential storms that turned the track into a river in certain places. Forget the sport hype - we are in the entertainment business, and that is the bottom line. There were drivers of all ages, from 16 upwards, racing at the Cheshire track, and they all want to be the next Jenson Button or David Coulthard. But if Formula One continues in this same way the sport will be dead before they are old or experienced enough to realise their dreams.
It took Formula One years to get onto to the most famous race track in the world, and in one weekend it showed the American spectators what they had not been missing. I was there in 2001 when, a few days after 9/11, we gave a shocked nation something to feel good about. We proved to them that life does go on, but also showed them respect and stood to attention when the Star Spangled Banner was played. Now I don't expect the American racing fans want to see Formula One ever again, and I can't blame them.
Lots will be written. Sides will be taken. Recriminations will go on for weeks if not months, but I applaud the statement from the Indianapolis Speedway CEO Tony George on Sunday, which called the fans to contact Michelin, the FIA and FOM "to make their feelings known."
Tony George comes from the Hulman family who have owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for many years, and who know how to entertain crowds. The Americans are proud people who give their spectators value for money. I can't even begin to imagine how Tony would have felt on Sunday. He had brought Formula One to the heartland of American motorsport and let his fans down.
This is not the first time there has been controversy over safety in the sport. I was under the misguided illusion that safety took precedence over everything else, and if a solution could be found then the rule book was thrown out of the window.
I was there in Belgium in 1985 when the Grand Prix was cancelled due to the track breaking up. The Formula One teams pulled out of the paddock late on Saturday night and left the Formula 3000 teams to risk the chunks of tarmac being thrown up. Sadly there was no alternative for the powerful cars. I felt sorry for the spectators, but their money was returned if they wanted it, and a new date was found later in the season.
I suppose times have changed; 20 years on the sport is now a business, and unanimous decisions for the good of the sport are not made. The saddest part of it all was that six drivers were out there making a mockery of their sport, while another 14 were doing something similar by taking their cars into the pitlane after the warm up lap. I am certain that not one of them was listened to. If you are paid a lot of money to do a job, you do what you are told. David Coulthard was perhaps the most vocal, but he might have saved his breath as no one who had it in their power to make a decision wanted to listen.
I loved my days in Formula One, made good friends and was able to see the world. It was a magic time, but Sunday killed the magic. I am hoping that someone will see sense, but I suspect it may be too late for America. You have to respect the paying public, and once you treat them with the disdain that was exhibited on Sunday you are on the slippery slope to oblivion.
It is with a heavy heart I have written the above words. Let's hope no one ever has to do anything like this again, or we can all start looking for new jobs.