FIA press conference with Max Mosley 29 Jun 2005
Following Wednesdays meeting of the World Motorsport Council in Paris, Max Mosley, President of Formula One racings governing body, the FIA, spoke to the media about its findings concerning the actions of the Michelin teams at Indianapolis.
Max Mosley: The hearing of the teams took place this morning. They were represented by counsel, with one exception, which was Red Bull. As you will recall, there were five charges against the teams.
The first of these was failing to ensure they were in possession of suitable tyres for the 2005 United States Grand Prix, and they were found guilty of that, but with strongly mitigating circumstances.
The second thing was they were accused of wrongfully refusing to allow their cars to start the race, and they were found guilty of that on the grounds that they could have used the pitlane, it would have been very slow but they could do that.
The third charge was refusing to race subject to a speed restriction, and they were found not guilty because there was no clear plan in place as to how that would be done. They were also found not guilty of combining to make a demonstration because they satisfied the World Council that it was genuinely their intention to race when they went out of the pits and onto the starting grid, and finally they were found not guilty of failing to inform the stewards for exactly the same reason, that they did intend to race. So guilty on two and not guilty on three of the charges.
The World Motor Sport Council decided to adjourn discussion of any penalty to an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on September 14, 2005, when it will also examine what steps have been taken by the seven Michelin teams and/or their tyre supplier to compensate the Formula One fans and repair the damage to the reputation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to the image of Formula One. Also what steps have been taken by the Michelin teams to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Those two questions will be examined in September and depending on where we have got to on those two points will make the final decision on a penalty, if a penalty is imposed by the World Council.
The difficulty that we have is that the FIA has no direct relationship with the Michelin tyre. We have no contractual relationship with them, we are therefore not in a position to impose a penalty on Michelin. Had we been in a position to do that, they would have been summoned to the World Council and, judging from what we heard from the teams, they would have found themselves in a very difficult position.
You have seen the various exchanges of correspondence, you have seen the letter that was sent this morning to Mr. Edouard Michelin and you will have seen how they said in their letters that they had no knowledge of the forces on their tyres. And if I were not able to show that in a Michelin letter then you would think that I had invented it, because it is an extraordinary statement for them to make. They also said that they could not guarantee their tyres wouldnt burst if used under extreme conditions and that is of course exactly what Formula One is. I think it doesnt need me to launch into an attack on Michelin after what we have seen of them and what they can do and their responses over the last ten days. The facts speak for themselves. It is a disastrous performance and that company should be deeply ashamed. I dont intend to go into the detail but I certainly can if asked to do so.
So that is what has been decided.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Was it a decision taken by all the members of the World Council?
MM: This decision was unanimous for the World Council. Of course, not every member of the World Council could participate in the discussion because, for example, Jean Todt, of Ferrari, who is a member of the World Council, absented himself before we started the discussion on the Indianapolis speedway. Equally Nasir Hussain was the chief steward at Indianapolis, so he played no part, and then Bernie Ecclestone played a very restricted part because he, too, was also involved. Otherwise everyone was there and it was unanimous.
Q: Isnt Michelin honourable to decide for safety and not to race?
MM: Michelins job at Indianapolis was to turn up with a racing tyre. That inevitably is something on the limit that may not work on all the cars, but to they also have to turn up with a second tyre, which is allowed by the regulations, that would be completely reliable in all circumstances. They didnt do that, by their own admission they turned up with two tyres with the same construction but with different compounds. That meant that if there was a problem with the construction, which there turned out to be, they would find themselves in Indianapolis with no usable tyres.
They then flew in a tyre from France, the so-called Barcelona tyre, but that had the same construction as well and showed the same problem in testing. So they completely failed to take the most basic precaution, which is to make sure they had a safety net. And in the circumstances to do anything other than race down the pitlane would have been dangerous.
Arguably, by all of their own admissions, even the chicane would have been questionable because they were asking for a chicane at the same time that they said they couldnt find the root cause of the problem.
If they didnt know what was a problem, how did they know that the chicane would be safe? Also, one of the failures was in turn five, and that is another high-speed corner. One of the two Toyota failures was in turn five, we could have had other failures in turn five and they themselves admitted that this was a possibility. So on every count, what they have done is completely extraordinary and it really does require explanation. And for them to sit there and say for reasons of safety we told the drivers not to race completely begs the question that avoids the whole discussion, which is why did they turn up there with no proper tyres?
The whole purpose of the regulation that allows two different tyres is to give you the possibility of having a safety-net tyre, which is inevitably going to be slower, but that is the sacrifice you make. They didnt do it, and they have done enormous damage to Formula One.
Q: How encouraged are you by the statement made by Michelin overnight, in which they have offered compensation to the fans?
MM: It is a big step forward and it is something we have been strongly urging them to do for more than a week. We put out a statement on Wednesday saying that Michelin should compensate the fans and that the fans should get free tickets next year, and they have gone some way towards doing that. By delaying as long as they have they have done damage. It was one of those situations where we needed a reaction within two days, not ten days.
Q: Max, your decision to defer any penalty, would it be fair to say that you have given into the teams in respect to them possibly not running in this weekends Magny Cours race?
MM: No, there was never any question of them not running. There was one eccentric gentleman who mentioned that, but no serious team would have considered that, that was never an issue, and they certainly would not have done that after what happened at Indianapolis. It would simply be cutting off the nose to spite the face. That was never a question.
What came out very clearly today was that the teams were saying we did all we could, we wanted to be there racing but Michelin told us that unless there was a chicane, we could not race. Well, that was, of course, very annoying from our point of view, because it wasnt an option. The pitlane wouldnt be ideal, but at least it was a safe option. So, the teams had strong mitigating circumstances because they didnt play any part in this failure to bring the right tyres and they obviously didnt know that this was going to happen. On the other hand, they are the ones who are answerable to us, we can say to them it is up to you to turn up with the right equipment, you should make the necessary arrangements with your suppliers.
Today its tyres, tomorrow it might be spark plugs or anything else.
Q: What does this do to the image of Formula One? You say it has damaged it, but can you expand on that?
MM: I am not an expert on these things, but I think it is fairly evident that what happened in Indianapolis did great damage to Formula One worldwide but particularly in the United States, and that needs to be put right.
Because the sooner people start to behave properly, for example to refund the tickets and to offer free tickets next year, the better the situation becomes. I think we wont know for another two or three months really what damage has been done.
Q: You mentioned you have no contractual relationship with Michelin, so no ability to do anything to them. So would your only option be to file a suit against them, and if so would that be in the United States, in Indianapolis?
How would you go about it?
MM: We cant impose a penalty on Michelin because they have no more relationship with us than any other team supplier, we just dont have any power over them in that sense. We are able to indirectly put pressure on them through their teams and this is one of the things we are doing at the moment.
Q: You said they didnt know what was wrong with the tyres and so the chicane could not be a good idea, but a speed restriction is the same, you dont know what is the solution.
MM: Absolutely, you can argue that. Michelin was saying a chicane was acceptable. If a chicane was acceptable, then logic dictates that a speed restriction was acceptable, but the teams had a defence to that because nobody said what it was, where it was, which part of the track precisely and how you separate the fast cars and the slower cars, so that is why they were acquitted on that point. As far as running in the pitlane is concerned, whatever the risks of the chicane they would have been much smaller using the pitlane, but obviously it would demonstrate each lap that the teams were uncompetitive. There were two fundamental problems with the chicane, to be clear. One was that the circuit would not have been properly inspected, homologated, probably the insurance would have been invalid and there may have been safety issues. So that was point one. That alone would be enough.
Point two was that, from a sporting point of view, it was completely unfair, because what we would be doing is changing the whole nature of the circuit to suit a group of competitors who had the wrong equipment to the detriment of a group of competitors who had the right equipment. You cannot do that if you are trying to run a sport, and to illustrate that, you just have to think. What would have happened if it had been the other way around and Ferrari or one of the other Bridgestone teams had gone to Charlie Whiting and said you need to install a chicane because our tyres wont work around the banking? It wouldnt have even been listened to. If it is true for one group, it has to be true for the others. We have to try to maintain a level playing field.
Q: The World Motor Sport Council is not going to make a decision for another two-and-a-half months or so. I just wanted to know why that period was chosen? Is it a cooling-off period, or is there more evidence to be heard?
MM: It is several things. The first is that the number one priority, from our point of view, from the moment the race took on the form it did, was to secure compensation for the fans in the States and, if we can, somehow, to make it up to the people watching on television, but the main people were the people who bought tickets. So that was our number one priority and that is what we have been trying to do, trying to get that sorted out. Apart from that, there is the whole question of how this is allowed to continue in the United States and it is very important that Formula One should maintain its position and not lose a Grand Prix in the United States. That is very much in the hands of the teams and, in particular, their tyre company. That means, in turn, that if we give them a bit of time, we will know in September what has been done and what hasnt been done. If a great deal has been done, the World Council will undoubtedly take a very lenient view. If, on the other hand, nothing has been done, it could be very different. But it did seem fairly reasonable to give everyone the time to sort the problem out.
Q: The financial damage is all about commercial deals and the Federation is not part of the commercial deals. Can you explain the way you will control the way they will repay?
MM: We wont be involved in the commercial side of it. We are not saying exact sums, how it has to be done, we are saying it has to be sorted out, come back in September, tell us what you have done, then we will consider the penalty in the light of that. It seemed to be the most rational way of approaching it.
Q: Max, when you define what you will do, could it be taking off points, because it would make the whole championship very strange, or would it be a money fine? If it goes into the points it could have a different affect on the championship.
MM: I cannot speak for the World Council, always remember it is not me, it is 26 people including me. But, personally speaking, I would be very reluctant to do anything with points unless what the person had done affected their sporting performance. It doesnt seem to be this would be a case where it would be be appropriate to deduct points and come to that, not an appropriate case for banning people from a race. On the other hand, we do have the ability to impose a fine and, as far as I know but I have to check this legally, we can do what we wish with the money. So, ultimately, we could impose a series of enormous fines and use that money as best we could to compensate people. But this is really not the business of the FIA, our business is to run the sport, so what we have said is, if you sort all this out we will take a lenient view, if you dont sort it out we may not take a lenient view.
Q: Apologies if I have misunderstood the suspended ban hanging over BAR, but this is a clear guilty of wrongfully refusing their cars to start the race' so, aside from what they do to make up the image, does that trigger their suspended ban?
MM: We considered that question carefully and we invited their counsel l representative to make submissions on that point and the view of the World Council was that the two things were so different it would not be fair to impose the ban that was suspended. We really would only impose that ban if there was a repetition of an offence similar to the one for which the ban was imposed, and this seems to be quite different.
Q: You are not able to regulate Michelin, but we have spoken a lot about them and they might feel that they are being made scapegoats.
MM: They are not the scapegoats. They are responsible. They admitted themselves that they are responsible. They have not denied that they turned up at Indianapolis with the wrong tyres and because they got the wrong tyres their teams could not race on the circuit they had agreed to race on, and to try to describe them as a scapegoat would completely go against the English language, it is simply not true. They were responsible for what happened and the teams technically share the responsibility in that it is up to them to get the right equipment and to have the right contracts with their suppliers, which arguably they failed to do. But this is a completely new element in Formula One, we have never had anything like this before, and as you noticed the second part of the thing that is outstanding until September is what they intend to do to make sure it never happens again, and the sort of thing you could imagine is that they have clear terms in their contracts, for example with a tyre company, requiring that company to bring a tyre that would be safe in all circumstances, even if it is not quick.
Q: Given that Michelin will compensate fans who were there and they are buying 20,000 tickets for next year, what do you expect the teams to do by way of compensation?
MM: What we are really hoping the Michelin teams will do is make sure that what the Michelin tyre company has suggested they do is actually done, and also the teams, everyone, will be looking to Michelin for indemnities against any actions that are brought in the United States.
Q: So, if any action is taken, that Michelin should deal with it, rather than the teams?
MM: That would be our position. Michelin or the teams. The trouble is we can only talk to the teams, we cannot really talk to Michelin, but the teams in turn can talk to Michelin. It is up to them to get it sorted out.
Q: From your view, do you think the World Council will decide from next year or the year after that, rather than 2008, that there will be only one tyre manufacturer in Formula One?
MM: This is conceivable, but that would not be the World Council, it would be a decision taken on grounds of safety, and as has become apparent, because we released the correspondence this morning, after Mr Michelins letter was released, we have asked Michelin for details of all the failures they have had in the last two years. This is because there is a suggestion from several Formula One engineers that there have been several other sidewall failures in the past. We do not know if that is true, we have to investigate, but if it turns out that this is not just a one-off problem and that it has happened on several occasions, and if it turns out that there have been failures of a similar kind during private testing, with tyres of this construction, then it may well be that the technical department might conclude these tyres are dangerous and they should not be allowed to run in Formula One. Now not to pre-judge that, that must be looked at very carefully and we would have to have independent experts because we dont have experts on tyre technology, we would have to get someone independent to look at that on a neutral basis. But it would not be a decision in the first instance for the World Council.
Q: Max, just reading the verdict here, do you feel that a part of what should have happened today was a very clear verdict and statement of blame and punishment and what we have got is a mixture of the two and the American public, who like things in black and white, will look at this and say, well, nothing has happened today.
MM: I couldnt agree that nothing has happened. We have agreed two things have to happen. It has to be sorted out with the fans and we have to have proposals to make sure it never happens again. That couldnt be done today, not by any stretch, but it should be done by September. It would be unfair to impose a severe penalty today on the evidence that we had. On the other hand, if nothing happens, it would be entirely fair to impose a heavy penalty. As we didnt have the information to decide on which of those two courses to take, the only thing to do was to postpone it to a future meeting. In the meantime we will have a great deal more technical knowledge and a great deal more information.