Michelin set to face FIA punishment

Michelin are almost certain to face disciplinary action after their unsafe tyres prompted a mass pull-out in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Michelin are almost certain to face disciplinary action after their unsafe tyres prompted a mass pull-out in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

The French company advised their seven partner teams not to race yesterday, a request they all complied with by pulling into the pit lane to retire after the warm-up lap.

That left just six cars racing at Indianapolis and made action of some kind from world governing body the FIA inevitable.

Tyre companies must bring two tyre compounds to each race, with one generally understood to be a "safe" option which will be certain to last the pace.

Michelin’s two compounds at Indianapolis were both judged to be unsafe due to loads experienced on the banked final turn, a problem discovered when Ralf Schumacher crashed heavily there in practice after a puncture.

The FIA reacted angrily to Michelin’s failure to bring adequate tyres and are now considering charging the company with bringing the sport into disrepute.

Before the grand prix, FIA race director Charlie Whiting wrote to Michelin to express his surprise that no safe tyre had been brought to Indianapolis.

He wrote: “We are very surprised that this difficulty has arisen. As you know, each team is allowed to bring two different types of tyre to an event so as to ensure that a back-up (usually of lower performance) is available should problems occur.

“It is hard to understand why you have not supplied your teams with such a tyre given your years of experience at Indianapolis.

“That the teams you supply are not in possession of such a tyre will also be a matter for the FIA to consider in due course.”

FIA president Max Mosley added after the race: “The FIA is now awaiting a report from its observer in Indianapolis before deciding on the next step.”

The world governing body have unlimited powers to punish Michelin, from fining the company to banning them from Formula One.

If, as seems likely, they are charged it will be under article 151C of the FIA’s international sporting code, which deals with “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motorsport generally”.

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier is adamant he made the right decision in asking teams not to race.

The Frenchman said: “Anything we have heard so far was more on the side of ‘congratulations for the responsibility, you made the right decision’ and so on.

“You ruin your reputation if you do stupid things. If you race with a problem in the tyre that could send the drivers in the wall then you ruin your reputation because you are knowledgeable and you are responsible.

“You have made the best you can, we do a good job at other places. In this situation we did not have the right tyre for the conditions, but fine, it happens to everyone.”

Michelin’s troubles this weekend came at a bad time. On Wednesday the FIA outlined their plans for Formula One post-2008, when the ruling Concorde Agreement expires.

As part of wide-ranging safety and cost-cutting measures, the FIA proposed to enforce a single tyre formula on the sport, ending the tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone by obliging one to leave.

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