Indygate five years on: Why F1’s American farce could happen again

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Michelin runners disappeared into their garages as the race started
The Michelin runners disappeared into their garages as the race started

On this day in 2005 F1 plunged itself into controversy as only six cars took the start for the United States Grand Prix.

Fourteen cars withdrew on the formation lap after tyre supplier Michelin discovered a problem with its product, and attempts to find a compromise solution failed.

Five years on it’s hard to see how F1 has learned from that shameful day in Indianapolis and what could prevent a similar fiasco.

Friday morning at Indianapolis on June 17th, 2005: Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota hits the wall at turn 13 and skids to a halt opposite the pit lane. Schumacher, who’d suffered back injuries in a similar accident at the track 12 months earlier, climbed from the cockpit and dealt his TF105 a hefty kick.

But he should have aimed his boot at the car’s left-rear Michelin tyre. That was what had let him down and was about to spark one of F1’s most notorious and disgraceful episodes.

From the moment Schumacher hit the wall, the embarrassing six-car spectacle F1 served up two days later was not inevitable. That an opportunity to prevent it was squandered makes the memory of that day even more bitter.

What went wrong

After Friday practice Michelin found faults with six tyres and flew them to its headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, France for analysis.

While their investigations went on the seven teams using its tyres – Toyota, McLaren, Renault, Sauber, Williams, BAR and Red Bull – were instructed to keep their running to a minimum. The tyre company also flew in another batch of tyres of a different specification.

But Michelin’s worst fears were realised when the headquarters reported back that their tyres’ sidewalls were failing due to the unusual combination of lateral and vertical loads experienced at maximum speed through the banked turn 13 – a corner unlike any other on the F1 calendar.

Michelin instructed its seven teams accordingly. By now it was the early hours of Sunday morning. The ten team owners met and together nine of them – including Bridgestone-shod Jordan and Minardi – agreed on a solution: installing a chicane before final corner. The only dissenters were Ferrari, under the leadership of Jean Todt.

The Michelin teams went further. Offers were made that they would not score championship points and all the Bridgestone teams could start in front of them on the grid.

Taken together, here were the elements of a compromise solution in which F1 could have saved face by putting on something that at least resembled a real race, while allowing the Bridgestone teams to enjoy the benefit of the superiority they had demonstrated in bringing suitable tyres.

Instead, 14 cars entered the pit lane at the end of the formation lap and only six participated in the race. Why did this happen?

Why no solution was found

Fernando Alonso on the notorious banking
Fernando Alonso on the notorious banking

Fingers pointed in all directions in the aftermath. While there is no doubting the original failure on Michelin’s part to supply suitable tyres for the race, pinning down exactly who was at fault for turning their crisis into a catastrophe for Formula 1 is difficult.

It’s normal for the FIA president not to travel to every race and on this occasion Max Mosley was at home in Monte-Carlo. But he was in close contact with events unfolding at Indianapolis and had his own thoughts for how the race could go ahead.

His proposed solutions were manifestly flawed and would have produced a sham race every bit as unsatisfactory as the six-car farce that followed.

The suggestion that the Michelin drivers could slow down for the banking – even if given a separate lane on the track in which to do so – would have resulted in the highly unsafe sight of some cars charging into the corner flat-out and others braking to minimum speeds, with the difference between the two likely to be around 250kph.

The absurdity of the speed limit proposal was confirmed when the seven teams were charged by the World Motor Sport Council of “wrongfully [refusing] to allow their cars to race, subject to a speed restriction on one corner which was safe for such tyres as they found available”, and found not guilty.

Another suggestion, that every Michelin car could drive down the pit lane every lap, would scarcely have been any more satisfactory than seeing them all pull in and retire on the formation lap. Not to mention the temptation for drivers to abuse the arrangement knowing their tyres would hold up to an occasional flat-out blast around the banking.

It’s not hard to see why many viewed these proposals not as a serious attempt to find a solution, but engineered to maximise Michelin’s humiliation.

Some have sought to lay blame at Todt’s feet for failing to support the calls for a chicane to be built. But given that Mosley never so much as asked Todt whether he would be happy with a chicane, it’s doubtful Todt could have made a difference.

The aftermath

Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Tiago Monteiro on the podium
Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Tiago Monteiro on the podium

Michelin offered to refund tickets for everyone who attended the race, and bought 20,000 tickets for the following year’s event to give to people who’d attended in 2005.

Ferrari won the joyless six-car ‘race’ that ensued, but Michelin-shod cars won every other round of the championship.

Both titles went to Renault, using Michelins, in 2006 as well. After that the French tyre manufacturer quit the sport as the FIA moved to introduce a single tyre supplier.

That tyre supplier contract is up for renewal once again and it’s striking that, only five years on from Indianapolis, there has been no talk of Michelin’s mistake at Indianapolis bring an argument against allowing them to return to F1. Todt, now in charge of the FIA, is believed to prefer a Michelin deal.

Mosley shrugged off calls for him to resign in the wake of the fiasco and won re-election to the FIA presidency later in 2005.

The United States Grand Prix was only held twice more at Indianapolis. There was no repeat of the tyre failures for Michelin in 2006.

Lessons for the future

There would be no point in re-opening these old wounds and not learn anything from them. The stark warning of the Indy fiasco is this: it could happen again.

It may be tempting to think that the end of the tyre war in F1 makes such a problem unlikely to happen again. But NASCAR had tyre trouble of its own at the same circuit in 2008 despite all its competitors using Goodyears.

Earlier pre-event testing at the venue might have illuminated Michelin’s problem, but that is even more tightly restricted now than it was five years ago.

Bridgestone are lately being encouraged to bring more marginal tyres in the name of exciting racing. And next year’s tyre supplier could be one that has been out of the sport for the best part of two decades.

It took more than just the technical problem with Michelin’s tyres to cause the fiasco. The poisonous political atmosphere of the day was the catalyst and those circumstances, too, could be repeated in future.

The backdrop to Indygate was the ongoing argument between the FIA and the teams over the Concorde Agreement, the document that defines how the sport is run. While Ferrari had reached an agreement with the governing body, the others were holding out for better terms.

F1’s political rows have a nasty habit of spilling onto the track. It happened at Jarama in 1980, at Kyalami in 1981 and at Imola in 1982, all of which either saw several major teams missing from the race or events being stripped of world championship status.

Indianapolis 2005 was another occasion when the governing body allowed politics to intrude on racing.

The political climate is much improved this year compared to five years or even one year ago. With the teams now united under the the Formula One Teams’ Association, it’s possible that if a similar crisis broke out a solution could be found without having to rely on the governing body.

Let’s hope the team’s organisation in its current guise holds together longer than it has in the past, because it’s the best chance we have at the moment of preventing a similar situation in the future spiralling out of control.

But the political situation in F1 waxes and wanes – who’s to say things won’t become turbulent once more in the next year or five?

Allowing Indygate to happen in the first place was a terrible failure of the powers-that-be in Formula 1. Allowing it to happen again would be an even worse mistake.

Were you at the United States Grand Prix in 2005? Who do you blame for no compromise being found? Have your say in the comments.


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115 comments on “Indygate five years on: Why F1’s American farce could happen again”

  1. I would blame the FIA for not doing anything. They just blamed Michelin and acted as if it wasn’t their problem.

    As for if it could happen again. It would be as much of an issue because tyre changing is allowed again. Though it could cause problems for the top 10 qualifiers.

    1. It was Michelin’s problem. They failed to supply a safe tyre. The FIA may not have reacted properly to the situation, but without Michelin, there was no situation.

      1. Also, from memory, I believe the only reason why the FIA took action was because the teams failed to agree on anything. Michelin came up with a dozen proposals – add a chicane to the final corner, have the Michelin drivers go through the pits every lap, have the Michelin drivers all pit regularly on the same pre-determined lap, have the Michelin drivers start behind the Bridgestones – and yet each and every single one was blocked by none other than Ferrari.

        1. Why should Ferrari do any differently? They chose the supplier who did the right job. They worked with them and invested to make sure the tires worked right.

          So, their competitors pick the (as it turns out) wrong option, and are not only slow but can’t race at all.

          Why should Ferrari cut them slack anymore than they would if Michelin was, say, 8 seconds off the pace rather than at risk of failure? It’s not some gentlemens’ league where you say, “Jolly good, old chap, keep it even, what what!”. You’re there to win.

          It’s not Ferrari’s fault that Michelin ****** the duck, so why should they be expected to, essentially, let them catch up? Modifying the track to suit the Michelins would have been just as much a travesty for competition as imposing speed limits.

          And even if the Michelin teams scored no points, there’s a good change they would have nerfed off one of the Bridgestone cars.

          Artificially helping some teams at the expense of others, because they screwed up, would be the very antithesis of competition. Sorry, guys, but F1 is brutal. I would have done exactly the same thing: Chorus of boos or not, I’m not there to please the crowd; I’m there to win the damn race. If I want to please the crowd, I’ll start a reality TV show or go drifting.

          If the other teams can’t supply cars and tires that will finish the race, well, tough ****. I made the right choices and you didn’t: Sucks to be you.

          1. Why should Ferrari do any differently? They chose the supplier who did the right job. They worked with them and invested to make sure the tires worked right.

            Yes, and they are to be applauded for that. But at the same time, they blocked each and every proposal that Michelin came up with. A full grid could have raced in Indianapolis were it not for Ferrari’s actions. They caused a situation where it was too late for any solution to be found in time, forcing the FIA to step in. We all know how that ended. I’m not saying the FIA are free of any wrong-doing, but that Ferrari’s attitude of watching out for Ferrari, even at the expense of another team, contributed directly to the situation.

          2. Sure, it contributed – I’m not arguing that. I’m arguing that Ferrari shouldn’t be denigrated because of it; it was their job to block situations which would have helped their competition or hurt them. And any scenario resulting in a full grid would have hurt them.

          3. And any scenario resulting in a full grid would have hurt them.

            And any scenario resulting in a reduced grid would have hurt the sport, which it did. But Ferrari didn’t care so long as they were set.

          4. I think the point of what Keith wrote is that, Mosley was MUCH more responsible for what happened than Ferrari.

          5. A team might be there to win and not to please the crowd, but with no audience the sport would eventually wither and die.

          6. “Chorus of boos or not, I’m not there to please the crowd; I’m there to win the damn race.”

            Yes, but there won’t be races if the crowds aren’t pleased. F1, as well as other spectator sports are competing for consumer’s entertainment spending. This is no high-minded pure competition – it is commerce – We put on a good show and you are willing to pay to see it or buy sponsors products.

            I almost went to some length to go to that race – so glad I didn’t. They should told Ferrari to hold their noses and put in the chicane to have a real race.

  2. Why do they have to complicate things so much?

    F1 needs a dry tyre and a wet tyre. There is NO NEED whatsoever for there to be different “compounds” of tyres.

    1. Neil, the two compounds force to styles of racing and add extra strategy for each race.
      softer tyres usually mean faster lap times, harder tyres usually mean slower lap times but last a hell of a lot longer.

      if you wanted one compound, the canadian grand prix would have been awful and you know it..

      1. But that’s one GP. What other GPs have been exciting because of the prime-option choices? Apart from the quickly deteriorating tyres in Montreal, it didn’t add anything to the strategy. The mere unpredictableness made any tactic other than don’t-run-the-options-too-long obsolete.

        The standard tactic on most tracks has been to qualify on options, run a short first stint, then go in for primes and manage them to finish the race.

  3. ‘waces and wanes’ should be waxes and wanes i think.

    i don’t see any tyre problems in the near future as we don’t race at indy anymore. and any poor tyre performances from Pirelli will mean great racing once again.

    1. Luckily the unique corner and lateral forces arn’t on any other tracks either, well I say luckily.

      Who do I blame for the lack of compromise? Well two workable solutions were found, 9 teams or so agree’d. One didn’t seems one team is to blame, as well as Max Mosley, he could have ordered the chicane built and saved the race, but did he?

      Don’t know what would happen these days, obviously without a tyre war an without the likleyhood of a tyre war, if tyres started failing the teams would find a solution, an hopefully FOTA would be able to work things through.

      In my opinion it should be FOTA that put out the tender for the tyres, FOTA should require a certain amount of the TV budgets to be spent on spec items for all the teams.

    2. Fixed it, thanks Sato.

  4. a bit harsh on michelin they could just silenced the situation putting in risk all michelin drivers and the race could have happened but they made the right choice and they were badly punished because of that as a ferrari fan i was very dissapoited although wining ferrari looked bad on the picture they didnt break any rule but they dont need the money as bad as the other teams that participated ferrari were very unpolite

  5. Well there are pictures all over the wikipedia article for the 2005 Indianapolis GP that shows the fans were in no doubt it was Max Mosley’s fault.

    Paul Stoddart, head of Minardi at the time is also in no doubt that it was Max Mosley’s fault too. See .

    As I recall, Martin Brundle was pretty vocal about the whole thing too and it was pretty much the start of his “disgust” with Max Mosley.

    I personally find it hard to believe it was anyone else.

    1. I’ve never read this before but frankly I’m amazed, it’s amazing an independent series hadn’t been established years in advance. Max Mosley really was something special, hell bent on destroying the sport. Maybe because he sucked at it when he had his go.

    2. For those that want Stoddarts non-diplomatic take on the matter:

      1. That’s priceless! Nice find!

      2. This surely is amongst the most damaging episodes to F1 in all its history.

        We can probably all be glad, that Ferrari went with the FOTA last year, otherwise we would now be having a very satisfied Luca feeling good his 3 cars are winning from Williams, HRT, Virgin, Lotus, StepanGP, USF1 and Durango in the FIA Formula 1 world championship.

        While at the same time most fans would be following a FOTA world series with McLaren, Mercedes, Toyota, Red Bull, STR, Renault, maybe Force India and BMW-Sauber.

        Strange also, that a small bushfire conflict of power is going on right at the moment about tyres and Michelin again, with the teams, Bernie and Todt all in shifted positions.

  6. Yeah I dont blame michelin, at all. The tyre failures were their fault, but that was where it stopped. The Fia used this as an excuse to further their point that a single tyre supplier was needed, and did their utmost to ruin what could have been a perfectly good race.

  7. The main reason this happened is the teams weren’t allowed to change tires. Unless they re-instated that rule, I don’t see it happening again.

    The biggest FU from that day was the fact that there was no indication that the teams were going to pull off after the formation lap. As a fan in the stands who had driven hundreds of miles and spent hundreds of dollars it left a really sour taste in our mouths (which we tried to erase with lots of beer).

    Overall I was very impressed by the behavior of the fans at the track that day, yes there were a few that threw beers on the track, but for the most part people were just utterly disappointed, heck we all love F1 and wanted to see a race. And I’ll never put Michelin tires on my car again. ;-)

    1. I seem to remember hearing that the teams wouldn’t race beforehand from TV, so if you and other fans in the stands weren’t told then you have to partly blame the FIA and/or the circuit operators for witholding information from you.

      Michelin tried to come up with a solution but Ferrari were totally committed to winning at all costs and found the perfect way by creating a race between themselves and the two slowest teams. If all the other teams were aware of the various solutions they put forward I somehow doubt that Jean Todt wouldn’t know about them just because Max didn’t personally inform him…

  8. Would have been no problem to just put a chicane in on the banking and make all teams go through it. Instead, proposals to have some teams taking a drive through penalty every lap is ridiculous, as Keith rightly says, it would have as much advantage as pulling into the pits for good after the formation lap.

    No, instead of a nice chicane a slightly compromised circuit we get a farce of a race because the FIA, particularly at that time, were holding Ferrari’s pocket and doing their bidding and whatever could create the best result from then, instead of the fans.

    Hopefully things have changed and lessons have been learnt, but it’s possible that a new tyre manufacturer will have teething issues, especially as time is ticking for them to get the development rolling. F1 need to make a tyre decision, and now.

    1. Well they finally got rid of Max Mosley so that’s was a good start.

    2. because the FIA, particularly at that time, were holding Ferrari’s pocket and doing their bidding

      And what good did it do them. Sure they might have won the race but Renault still won both titles so it was a pointless exercise.

  9. I was there on that weekend. What a lot of people didn’t realize was that it was Father’s day weekend and a lot of people drove down cross country to see something which was unfamiliar to them, only to be greeted by a race that only had a third of the cars on the grid. It was a total joke and to think that as a business or society, they could have come up with a compromise.

    1. How far did you travel to get there? Have you been to another race since?

    2. This was the only race at Indy I missed. Luck of the draw, I guess.

  10. I fondly remember seeing clips of various chanels around the world reporting on it at the time, one reporter, from Finland I believe, asked the head of Bridgestone two questions, do you have enough tyres for every car on the grid – he answered yes, and would you supply eveyr car with your tyres for this one race, and he answered yes.

    So the reporter asked a third question, why isn’t that happening?

    His answer? Max Mosley won’t let us. I’ve never seen a camera pan away so quick in my life…

    1. Brilliant! There’s your answer to who was to blame. It would have been the obvious and simplest solution.

      If that’s true, that Bridgestone could and were willing to supply for the race, case closed for me.

      1. I wonder though would it have been safe for the Michelin runners to use Bridgestones? We keep hearing this year that they kinda need to know the what the tyres will be asap as the cars are usually designed quite heavily around them. I don’t know a lot about it but is it possible that the Michelin cars could adversely affect the Bridgestone tyres?

        1. I suppose, that this would have been a solution. Sure those cars would never have been able to get the most speed out of the tyres, but it would have been safe enough.

          It goes to show, how dirty the politics were. Mosley barred Bridgestone from helping, threatened the IMS management and indeed the whole of the American racing industry (and the teams as well), to block them having a go at doing some sort of race like thing with a chicane added to the circuit. An utter disgrace.

          We can only hope, that Todt is more skilled a politician (using tricks instead of bullying), the FOTA has more power and is really united and Bernie has not lost his touch and finds a good replacement for himself in years to come.

          1. I think in Mosley’s case it’s not so much a question of political skill as political objective: was his ever the interests of F1? Or simply to maintain power over the sport, because that’s really what he enjoyed, not – say – ensuring F1 didn’t enter into farce and disrepute with this kind of event at Indianapolis?

  11. If this was an isolated incident of politics affecting the sport, it would be easy for those who run the show to make an excuse.
    But it isn’t an isolated case, and politics has reared its ugly head more and more every season. When will F1 be run by someone who has the sport at heart, instead of being run by those with their own personal power and financial standing being foremost in their minds.
    It reached the point last year where all I did was watch the races, and then ignore F1 news for 2 weeks until the next race. FOTA/FIA standoff, budget cap, Renaultgate, Hamiltons lies, and the Mclaren spy saga, just to name a few.

    Who can be bothered anymore?

    1. Dude, start listening to the news again, it’s got so much better this year. Although tyres is back on the agenda, an provides a relavant backdrop to Keiths aniversary article, the controversy has capitulated to the racing brilliantly well.

  12. I still remember those pictures that only six cars were warming up their tyres in the last corner & the rest 14 were in the pit lane.I was so shocked that I screamed & called my mom & aunt so that they can see what I am seeing ( I thought that may be my eyes were playing tricks with me).

    It was a day full of shame for F1.I think that Michelin made a mistake OK human being can but Ferrari should have supported the idea of installing a chicane in the last corner which even team like Jordan & Minardi agreed dispite the fact that they were weaker team & they needed points more than anyone else.Ferrari founded an opportunity to win a race in a season when they shouldn’t have & they grabbed it with their both hands.

    Can anyone tell me when is the last time that Ferrari haven’t won a race in an entire season?

    1. the awful 1993, i suppose

  13. Yep, 1993. They didn’t win in 91 or 92 either.

  14. What I can recall there was a talk about that they can’t build chicane even if everyone would agree since teams would have needed practicing. Since the qualifying-fuel was in place it was little problematic. I could have understood if there had been two 15-minute sessions in spare cars – first for number one drivers and then for number twos.

    I agree with newnmanlea1 that Michelin was the one who was initially to blame, but what happened after that, the blame goes to elsewhere.

    Also, I think that USA was really the worst place for that kind of incident to happen.

    1. Have a look at those interviews with Stoddard posted by Franton (and Hamish), all teams bar Ferrari (Todt did not join any meetings on the subject and tried to steer clear of being involved) had agreed on doing a race of a kind. Even to the extent of running a non championship race without Ferrari if needed.

  15. But given that Mosley never so much as asked Todt whether he would be happy with a chicane, it’s doubtful Todt could have made a difference.

    I would totally lay the blame on JT’s doorsteps :-( . He used his Veto right on Max and so he could do nothing. Max was just a lame duck in this case IMO.

    1. Max was a lame duck that day by choice. He wanted it to be “out of his power” so that he could then install a single tire manufacturer, and to show teams they needed him to cooperate and sign the new Concorde agreement.

      SMF also made a big mistake, and I wonder if, had they called headquarters about it, Ferrari would not have rather held on to the important US market than win that race.

      The tires were faulty, but the public who payed a lot and drove from all over the country to come and see the race should have been given a race, somehow. It was possible, but not important enough for Mosley and the Ferrari team.

  16. I was at the race. It was one of the most appalling letdowns of my life. The worst part was that those of us who were in the infield and couldn’t see the pit lane had no idea what was going on. The formation lap came by, then someone nearby with a radio said cars had gone into the pit lanes, and a little bit later the Ferraris, Jordans and Minardis came by. We were all in total shock. Obviously we knew the tires had been having problems, but we had no idea this was a possibility. My friends and I stood there in shock for a couple laps, before one of them said, “do you have any interest in this crap?” I said no, and we immediately left and drove ten hours back to North Carolina. We had gone to the Canadian GP the week before, which was great so overall it was still a good trip. But I’ll never forget the feeling when those six cars came by.

  17. Somehow I had a feeling that Ferrari would be blamed by most people here, as always…

    1. Out of interest, what events from 1999 (arbitrarily picking the Malaysian Grand Prix for the spoiler tactics, as much as I shamefully supported them as a 13-year-old) on would you say weren’t Ferrari’s fault?

    2. Most people here are blaming Max Mosley, correctly, an yet why do you think might people blame Ferrari?

      Because they tried their hardest to ensure the race was a succsess? Because they were happy to accept the many compromises and solutions offered by the Michelin teams? It’s no good complaining about people who find Ferrari’s actions distasteful when there is great reason to belive Ferrari let what happen, happen for the points and third place.

  18. I don’t know exacly who to blame, but I know who to not blame: Ferrari. Although they rejected the chicane idea, Mosley was right when he said that if someone crashed and died on that chicane, an american judge would not listen to “the teams wanted a chicane”.
    However it was also true that in 1994 after Senna’s death a lot of temporary chicanes were placed, which were actually quite dangerous…

    1. The GPDA was going to help build the chicane to ensure it’s saftey, it wouldn’t have been perfect but do you think it would have been lethal?

    2. max was absolutely correct in not allowing an suddenly improvised, untested and uninsured chicane. max was absolutely incorrect in banning tire changes, and later for forcing tire changes.

      ultimately, i blame michelin alone for the failure of the event. to quote eddie jordan, of all people: “that turn has been there for 80 years.”

      1. errr, 99 years, but you get the idea

        1. The turn had been there, but the tarmac was new. I remember other cars (for Indy 500?) had problems on the same tarmac that year as well, only avoided because they have training a couple of weeks before the race, thus allowing Firestone (a Bridgestone subsidiary) to bring different tyres to the race.

  19. I blame Mosley first, Ferrari second, and Michelin last.

    It wasn’t as if Michelin intentionally brought rubbish tyres. And once the problem was discovered, they pushed for solutions no matter how detrimental to their own advantage.

    Ferrari have to bear some of the blame. Being the only team not to agree to a compromise despite even the minnows of Jordan and Minardi sacrificing a once-in-an-age opportunity, for the sake of saving face (and they couldn’t even do that right in the race) and not threatening their special relationship with the FIA at the time – these actions speak volumes.

    And then there was Mosley, who did nothing except engineer a situation to try and push his own agenda. As usual.

    1. What did Ferrari have to do with Michelin tyres? There was a battle between the two companies and Michelin got it wrong. What would have been said if they told their teams that it was safe to drive? If it was the other way round people would have been laughing at the Bridgestone teams and tyres. The only people to mess up the US GP for viewers and most importantly the fans were Michelin. If you went to a race and after paying whatever were told that cars will not be driving at full pace you would want your money back. Just imagine a 100 metre sprint and Bolt forgets his shoes, do you tell the rest to slow down?
      Go to Spa and find out that cars are not allowed to drive through eau rouge because another team can’t. It’s like saying in Turkey RBR are not to drive through turn 8 flat out because the rest can’t.

      1. Yes, Michelin got it wrong and they took responsibility. Fortunately they did not mislead the teams by claiming it was safe to drive while knowing otherwise. That would have been criminal.

        But the FIA had a chance to save the GP by saying yes to the solutions of putting in a chicane, or permitting the race to be a non-championship one. Mosley put his vanity ahead of the fans and said no to everything proposed. (He did have a few unworkable ideas of his own however.)

      2. I don’t even know where to begin with the false analogies.

        1. One thing which the FIA could have done is to force all the Michelin runners to drive on Bridgestone tyres for that race only.

      3. Rampante, i understand you are an avid Ferrari fan. Please read the account of events by Stoddard posted in the comments here and have a think about your stance on this.

        For the fans the best solution would have been to do the chicane (or maybe have all race on Bridgestones as someone comments Bridgestone would have had enough tyres for that).

        The Michelin teams would not have had any advantage from those solutions as they would not have been elegible for points. Only the Fans would have had a race of sorts instead of a farce.

        Ferrari’s win at all cost mentality under Todt and Schumi was part of the reason why it came to this debacle and what lost Ferrari fans and potential customers.

      4. Isn’t that a Mosley analogy you’ve borrowed there, Rampante?

  20. Great article once again, Keith.

    But please, “Indygate”???
    The whole F1 press has developed the annoying habit of calling every little (or not-so-little) scandal whatever-gate, something I find absolutely ridiculous and annoying and I bet I’m not the only one.
    Please don’t jump on that particular bandwagon.

    If it was already called Indygate back in 2005, then ignore this comment, I wasn’t able to folow F1 that closely back then.

    1. Yes Keith. I thought you hated anything-gate, so why the volte face here?

    2. Appropriately enough I’ve just enjoyed a quiet evening watching “All the President’s Men”.

      Actually I’d say it’s more than just the F1 press that has the habit of calling every scandal ‘something-gate’. Here in Britain (I’m not sure where you are!) we had ‘bigot-gate’ during our recent elections.

      And yes, I do try to steer clear of it but I dropped one in this time. Must try harder in future – thanks for keeping me honest!

      And yes, I think it was widely referred to as ‘Indygate’ at the time.

  21. does anybody know where i could watch the itv coverage of this race from 2005, i wasnt really that much of an f1 fan at that time and have for a few years now been interested to see how it played out on british tv.

    1. you can probably find it somewhere..
      I believe ITV won an award with this show.
      It was a tough race to call and they did a great job at it!

    2. Try registering on

  22. A terrible day for F1, can remember looking forward to this race especially with it being in the evening. Read about the tyre issues on the Saturday but thought it was probably an over reaction. The build up on ITV was strangely fascinating, i think it’s on youtube, as the rumours about what would happen circulated. The race itself was of course free of incident apart from the Ferrari’s nearly crashing! Tiago Monteiro celebrating on the podium was a funny moment as well

    1. I remember it as well, i was sitting there nailbiting all morning and hoping / begging they would agree to some sort of solution.

      After the start i just sat in front of the TV feeling deflated and not wanting to watch any more. I spent the whole race explaining why i am so upset to my family.

      I was sure F1 would brake down after this, but to my amazement, Max was able to keep his bullying politics working for another 3 years before finally being ousted.

  23. Pedro Andrade
    19th June 2010, 20:23

    I remember at the time I was angry at Ferrari for being the only team to say no to the alternatives, but now I think they did the right thing. Like rampante said, if the other teams screw up (or their tyre provider, whatever), why should Ferrari be penalised for that? The only reason Jordan and Minardi agreed to the chicane solution was because at that time F1 was very politically charged around the whole breakaway series, with only Ferrari by the FIA’s side.

    The pitlane drive-through solution is not as bad as you paint. Obviously it’s not as good as a normal race, and it would result in the Bridgestone cars in the top 6 as well (as they deserved), but at least it would provide a spectacle between the other drivers. At least there would be a race.

    Another solution would be to force all Michelin drivers to go for the pits every 10 laps or so. But the chicane would penalise the teams whose tyre suplier did a proper job preparing for the race.

    1. “Like rampante said, if the other teams screw up (or their tyre provider, whatever), why should Ferrari be penalised for that?”

      Thank you Pedro and rampante.

    2. I’m going to go out on a limb and blame American Motorsport for it’s incessant ovals and banked corners. ;)

      In all seriousness I can’t stand all the people who say it was unfair for Ferrari to put in a chicane or comply with any of the compromises.

      I think once the Michelin runners knew they couldnt race they pretty much sacrificed any opportunity to score points. With that understood it is then everyones responsibility to work out a solution that allows all cars to be on the track and fighting. The chicane allowed that, Mosely, Todt and Ferrari didn’t. A chicane would have still let McLaren, Renault and Ferrari duke it out with the understanding that only Ferrari would score. It’s as simple as that but egos and desperation for a Pyrrhic win in a winless season ruined it.

      Michelin is only as guilty for everything that happened as Gavrilo Princip is for every single death in WW1 (ok I wasn’t expecting my analogy to be THAT epic).

      1. sigh, my comment was supposed to be in the main body of replies not at you specifically Pedro :(

  24. Alex Cooper
    19th June 2010, 21:09

    I was at Le Mans that weekend, having just experienced one of the most tremendous weekends of motor racing I’ve watched. The contrast to what happened in the USF1 race was stark.

    Max Mosley played the teams that weekend to the cost of the sport. It never occured to him that the spectators and fans lost out more than anyone else.

  25. Robert McKay
    19th June 2010, 21:12

    There was a sort of morbid fascination in the whole thing, though. From pretty much Friday we all knew there was a big, deep problem but with the politics of the day everyone was really locked into their own paths and noone could (or wanted to, in some cases) be the one to broker the solution.

    I take the point about NASCAR having problems all on Goodyears but I still think that not having a tyre war significantly reduces the potential for problems – simply by dint of removing the element of different factions.

    Having said that, the worrying thing is that the tyre situation for 2011 is taking FAR too long to sort out. The teams are pretty much sitting waiting to know who is getting the contract and what they will be producing and trying to build that into their designs for next seasons cars.

    Couple a late decision with limited testing and, yeah, you could easily have some sort of farce situations, especially if it’s Pirelli who get the gig (not because they’re not a capable company, simply that their F1 experience is not nearly as recent as Michelins).

  26. Jake Butler
    19th June 2010, 22:31

    keith i noticed you missed one of the obvious comprimisies put forward by Paul Stoddart if my memory serves me right. He said ”Allow the Michelin teams to pit as often as needed, every 10 laps or so” 2005 was of course the season where tyre changing was prohibited unless a tyre was regarded ‘unfit to race’ such as a deflation or puncture etc. An example of other tyre problems in 05 would be Kimi Raikkonens last lap crash in Nurburgring , with the flat spotted tyre he recieved lapping Jacques Villeneuve’s Sauber that eventually blew. It was a shoddy rule and was rightly changed at the end of the year.

    So initially the problem was with the rules that strained the tyres….then a secondary issue developed: the Michelin Tyre deflating under load at T13 Indianapolis. It was an issue that needed dealing with and that weekend NOBODY should have been blamed there and then. The F1 world should have come to a compromise and i blame Jean Todt for not allowing that compromise. Its a painfully simple as that.

    1. No, its as painfully simple as asking, why does Jean Todt and his team need to compromise just because two backmarker teams chose to? And why should his team suffer becuase of the mistakes of others?

      1. I’m with you David, but actually Jake brings up possibly the only valid solution.

        The rules allowed tyres to be changed if they were ‘unfit to race’. The tyres were good for at least 10 laps or so. If Michelin were to be allowed to pit their cars as often as they needed to, technically the rules would be satisfied, the Bridgestone teams would have still come out on top. No problem.

        Ok, small problem that the manufacturers could have started making softer compounds all the time, and claimed that their stop for tyres half way through the race was because the softer tyre was ‘unfit to race’ after that distance. But all than needed to happen was for the FIA to issue a rules clarification that any tyre not designed with a full race distance in mind would not be permitted.

        1. Problem with that is, Mosley did not want them to do that.
          Also as a Fan i am not sure i would have had more pleasure watching a lot of cars stopping every ten laps or so (and theres the risk, what if one of them tried to do a little bit longer on the tyres?).

          About the compromise for Ferrari. What kind of compromise are you implying. The same 3 Bridgestone teams would have been the only ones getting points anyway, even if the Michelin cars would have finished first -6th on track they would not have scored any points.

          1. The only difference is that then Ferrari would maybe not have won in the race, their only win of the season, right?

            But wanting to win this race as it was done is, or should be, much worse. Now the history books will always say that the only reason Ferrari won that race is because there was no competition. Hence a Pyhrric victory. So yes, what did Ferrari really have to lose with a compromise? Nothing reasonable.

      2. Because perhaps giving 100,000+ fans and countless TV viewers a proper race is less selfish (and more important) than ensuring you get a few points and leaving your customers disgusted, deflated and upset. Their compromise would have meant a LOT more people could have been happy.

  27. chaostheory
    19th June 2010, 22:49

    “Oh, its not todt, its Mosley” :P

  28. Jake Butler
    19th June 2010, 23:09

    Todt could have stood by the other teams. at least that way, if 10 teams choose not to race then the FIA have to do something. Todt didnt care enough to even enter the room to talk to the FIA with the other 9 bosses…

  29. That was just incredible.
    That they couldn’t find a way to race (well max’s fault).

    I must say I just loved Paul Stoddart, he loved F1 and did everything for the good of the sport.

    I do remember when he sold Minardi, he needed to be sure it was in good hands.. and so he sold it to red bull.
    A good sale wich was good for the team!

    1. A shame he did have to call it quits in the end, would love to have him here.

  30. newnhamlea1
    19th June 2010, 23:58

    after trawling through the internet for hours now, i have managed to find a full video of the race, will upload it onto megaupload later if anybody here is interested.

  31. The ferrari’s suck that year so they probably so no because they knew they would get a free win.

  32. Ultimately, the buck stopped with S&Max. The others were all just bit players in this saga. But isn’t it interesting to speculate what Todt will do as FIA pres if faced with something similar in the future?

    1. Well he is messing up a little bit in the current tyre situation.
      After (reported by Joe Saward and Adam Cooper) agreeing with Michelin without even asking Bernie and the teams, Bernie brought in Cooper/Avon then the teams started talking to Bridgestone again and got offers from both Michelin and Pirelli. Now Todt is struggling to accept his only position now is to accept what the FOTA and FOM agreed.

      Seems the FIA president lost a lot of power, maybe now the FOTA and Bernie would call his bluff and go ahead with a non championship race if needed.

  33. “Indianapolis 2005 was another occasion when the governing body allowed politics to intrude on racing.”

    Strongly disagree. This was one of the few occasions when modern F1 preserved the sanctity of motor racing. The course is known in advance, the competitors fashion all facets of their vehicles to meet the requirements of the course. That is motor racing.

    Changing the course without the agreement of everyone would have been a farce. Ferrari were right to refuse to change anything as a change would have negated their advantage. The team that has built their car to the specifications of the course deserves the glory as well as the points. So the solution for no championship points for the majority of the teams doesn’t fly either.

    If the situation had occurred in reverse, with Bridgestone bringing the bad tyres, nobody would have complained anywhere near as much if those 3 teams had not raced.

    If a control part fails then it is right to find an alternate solution, but the two tyre manufacturers were competitors, it isn’t right to change the rules to suit one of them mid-event.

    1. But even Bridgestone was willing to help (supply tyres to the Michelin teams for this event) but Mosley forbade them.

      Hardly sanity.

      Have a look at the comments from all people posting here who were present in Indy 2005. Can you really and honestly feel this was the right solution?

    2. Negated their advantage? The Michelin teams were agreed that they would not be able to get points for this race if a way was found to allow them to take part without savety risks, and without making it silly.

      As for solutions: Bridgestone was willing to supply tires if the chicane was not agreed upon, but they were not allowed to by FIA.

      Were you watching that race? I saw only a few races that season, but that one I wish I could forget.

      1. I’d have been fine with Bridgestone supplying tyres to the other teams.

        As far as the spectators go, that’s the risk with paying to watch sport. It is sport and not entertainment you are paying to see. And in sport things can’t be neatly scripted, the rule book must be respected first.

  34. There are some incredibly smart people in Formula One so it’s disgraceful that no sensible solution was found at Indy in ’05. Having said that, I don’t think a chicane was necessarily the best option. The FIA spends a lot of time on circuit safety, and their inspection and accreditation process is highly detailed. It’s not just a case of saying “that looks safe, so it must be OK”. Building a chicane with a wall of tyres at the very last minute without any of the regular due diligence taking place was not ideal on safety grounds.

    I know that a ‘quick fix’ chicane was implemented at Barcelona in 1994, but the sport’s safety standards had improved a lot since then. I think the FIA could have done a lot more at Indy, but I can understand why they were hesitant to add a new corner to the circuit just hours before the race when they had gone to so much effort to make the venue safe in the first place.

    It’s no excuse for the F1 community failing to find a compromise though.

    1. Tom M in Australia
      21st June 2010, 2:45

      I agree, a tire chicane was not a viable option. The FIA would have undermined all the (excellent) work they had done on safety up to that point if they allowed a chicane to be build. Mosley was right not to permit any track changes.

      The best option, in my opinion, was to allow Bridgestone to supply all teams. The Michelin teams would have been at a disadvantage being on unfamiliar rubber, but they would have been safe. Ferrari could have no cause for argument (the deal between Bridgestone and the other teams would have been nothing to do with them). Easy!

  35. I was there that year, as I was every year before and after. Grew up right outside of Indy, always been a very special place to me, and when F1 decided to return I was thrilled. The chance for me to see and hear modern day F1 cars on a track I love was more thrilling than any F1 race that was put on there. They were never one of the most spectacular races, but it was a race I could get to and experience F1 in person. So for me to be there alone was something I’ll always cherish.

    However, I’m not sure what most beieve to be the best solution would have been appropriate. A chicane in the final turn? The track was boring outside of that long stretch of full throttle. It was also the only place you’d come close to seeing what a lot of readers here would like to see and that’s an F1 race on an oval. Why take away the one corner that set it apart from every other track? I know there are a lot of great corners around Spa, but would you like to see Eau Rouge, Pouhan, or Blanchimont taken out or dummied down because of a flaw in the car or tire construction?

    These are the things that made F1 great to me. It is not a spec series, different teams will be better suited for different tracks and environments. The problem was with tires, but before that the ultimate problem was the ridiculous rules at the time. I believe that unless testing is done on a track, nothing (especially tire choice of all things) should be determined before Friday practice. Nothing else is set in stone, they have a good idea of downforce levels and the like, but it’s all changed accordingly during practice sessions.

    Poorly written rules made for a poorly executed race, I’m just glad there was no chicane installed.

  36. yes michelin were to fault as quite rightly the corner had been there for years? but ferrari and mad max were sucking up to each other and that is why I didnt want Todt as fia president – we need more than one tyre supplier in F1 it improves competition or why not just have one car builder and engine supplier it makes economic sense – mad max’s point not mine – ps it works for Le Mans why not F1?

    1. I think I’ve seen better competition with one supplier than two, especially in the last 12 years, only exception being 2003.

  37. I think I’m the only person who thinks that what happened was the only plausible solution.

    If it had been Bridgestone who had the problem, would the seven Michelen teams have bent over backwards to include the three Bridgestone teams in the race? HA HA HA!

    You cannot redesign an F1 circuit in a weekend, even if all the teams agree to it, there is a procedure that it has to go through.

    The FIA is not a small body, even if all the teams and the FIA president agree, it doesn’t make the bending of the rules legal.

    You can can blame Ferrari, Jean Todt, Max Mosley or whom ever you like. Three teams had the equipment to race, seven did not. Those seven tried to get everybody to agree to a number of proposals which would have been possibly illegal and unenforceable or even dangerous as a way to shift the blame.

    At the end of the day one tire manufacturer and seven teams decided not to go around a track 48 times fast or slow, in any manner whatsoever but within the rules and instead chose to withdraw altogether and in fact succedeed in making many people believe that their choice was the fault of others.

    1. But Bridgestone could have given them tires to allow them to race, and the agreed already that they would not be getting points regardless.

      From a sporting perspective you could say: well, rules are rules, even if they make little sense. And that is legally correct. But legal is not always right.

      1. “legal is not always right”
        I agree wholeheartedly with that statement but the question is who gets to choose which rules get broken, why, when and by whom? As soon as you do you open a can of worms, I don’t believe it was necessary to do so.

        There were workable solutions but instead of showing contrition and accepting the situation with dignity the Michelin shod teams chose to go on the offensive and demand that things be changed to suit them.

        The 2005 USA F1 GP was a sad race, I actually watched the whole thing live, at 3 am here in AUS.

    2. Yes you are, because there has already been precedence in F1 for last minute circuit modifications: the 1994 Spanish GP where they installed a temporary tyre chicane at the “Nissan” corner.

      1. There was nothing wrong with the track! Therefore the track should not need to be changed, especially the most unique corner (banked turn) on the 2005 calendar!
        Why should the teams that had the equipment to race be penalised?

        Again, I repeat, this nonsense would not have been proposed if the shoe was on the other foot, 3 Bridgestone runners with the problem.

        The Michelin runners were arrogant and hard headed and wanted a fight with the FIA. The fact that Michelin went as far as it did to restitute spectators goes to show its guilt.

  38. the “show” has come a long way in 5 years!

  39. Five years on and the ego riddled decisions of Mosley continue to haunt us all.

    Here’s hoping Todt stays the steady course he has navigated to date.

  40. I certainly hope the FIA has since amended the rules to give itself the power and authority make alterations to a race track over a race weekend in the event of safety concerns.

    I still think its high time the contracts and money distribution need to be renegotiated and more fairly dispensed between all teams. Ferrari’s veto must be immediately repealed and it should be written into the FIA constitution that this can never be allowed or permitted to ever happen again regardless of the circumstances. And if the cancer that is Ferrari object, then they are free to leave with no refunds. In that event I suspect they would be back sooner rather than later once the Italian temperament calms itself as I think they know very well that they need F1 more than F1 need them, as has been shown of late.

  41. Nothing to say but terrific, well-organized piece, Keith.

  42. If there had been any data available on things like G loading I’m sure Michelin could have come up a proper tire. Oh, wait.

    Now I’m hardly one to defending ovals (real race cars turn right) but I don’t seem to recall the IRL or CART having tire problems on ovals nor did I notice any Bridgestone problems.

    1. Bridgestone own Firestone, who produced tyres for American series, and thus they had a massive amount of testing data from the circuit to help produce their tyres, which Michelin did not. If Bridgestone had not produced a safe tyre for Indianapolis then they shouldn’t have been in business!

      1. Yeah, true that Firestone supplies tires for the IndyCar series. But remember that IndyCars run through that corner going in the opposite direction, at higher speeds, using a spec car that is much different than an F1 car. All in all, I think that makes any data Bridgestone/Firestone may have had pretty useless when applied to F1.

  43. “Michelin found faults with six tyres tyres”.

  44. As an American who started following the sport a few years ago, I can say with a high degree of sadness that this race got the most exposure in the mainstream American sports media than anything else related to F1 in my 24 years. ESPN carried the news as the top story on that evening’s Sportscenter, and was front-page news on most every sports publication for the next week or so.

    As for who to blame, obviously Michelin messed up when it could not bring a suitable tire to the track. How they managed to mess up so badly, after having raced there before and possessing all the R&D technology needed, is beyond my understanding. Beyond them, I have always laid the blame at Mosley’s desk for not allowing some form of non-championship event to take place.

    I can understand that perhaps Mosley may have been afraid that one such event, outside of the FIA, would have produced a wave of energy towards a breakaway series. But if Mosley had been doing his job with even a bit of efficiency, would he really have had to fear this in the first place? I can also understand Ferrari, in a position to compete safely, not wanting to comprimise for the sake of other teams. But sometimes, even when you have come prepared, a team needs to bite the bullet and do what is best for the sport and the fans.

    My bottom line was that, if Bridgestone was offering tires to all the teams, everyone- Michelin, most of all- should have agreed and accepted, and at least a somewhat suitable race could have taken place. But, as is so often the case in high-level sport, egos took the first priority.

    1. I don’t know if my memory is playing tricks on me but I seem to recall reading that the track had been resurfaced between the 2004 and 2005 F1 races with a more abrasive surface so that was why Michelin had problems in 2005 when they didn’t in previous years.

      Whereas Bridgestone supplied Indycar which had raced there so they already had data about the new surface.

  45. Ferrari had no real reason to veto the chicane proposed. ALL of the Michelin shod teams agreed to take no championship points from the race; the only teams who would have scored points were the six Bridgestone cars.

    This was offered solely for the purpose of giving the fans a semblance of a real race to watch. Mosley had no inclination to save the day on behalf of the fans, regardless of any precedent setting this may have caused.

    He did what he enjoyed most; handing out corporeal punishment to the offenders, especially when he could blame others.

  46. The FiA should have realized that the fault was with the Michelin tyres; not the teams themselves; they don’t design the tyres.
    Therefore, the extra chicane should have been built and the teams should have been given an extra, maybe 15 minute practice on the new circuit to make it safer for them.

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