Tuesday, September 02, 2003

FIA Imitates NASCAR

To accomodate the summer holidays, Grands Prix are spread out to every three weeks at this time of year, instead of the fortnightly schedule that they follow the rest of the time. As a consequence, the FIA needs to do something to generate news during the middle week. This time they've come up with a fascinating proposal regarding tires.

As a quick primer -- there are two tire suppliers in F1, Bridgestone and Michelin. Bridgestone supplies tires to Ferrari and minor teams, Michelin to Williams and McLaren and minor teams. Lately Ferrari has been doing poorly after dominating last season and they blame their tires (if not in so many words).

There are persistent rumors that the FIA really really like Ferrari and don't want to see them do badly -- rumors that are frequently denied. Those in the tinfoil hat crowd, however, can certainly point to rulings that seem explicitly designed to favor the team from Maranello, however.

That being said, the FIA has just announced a new level of tire scrutineering that seems likely to disqualify anyone running on Michelin tires by making them too wide. This kind of moving the goalposts during the season is common in certain popular forms of American motorsport, but has not been the norm in Formula One. Michelin have announced that they don't care and have no intention of changing their tires before the next race.

This is all presumably a tempest in a teacup, since the FIA are unlikely to disqualify half the field, but it will certainly fuel the conspiracy theorists among us.