|Updated: 18 November 1997||Post Season Issue|
I feel I must take issue with Chris Balfe's comments regarding the Schumacher-Villenuve crash. If Villenuve had entered the corner too fast his car would have slid away from the apex of the corner, and it would have been understeering. This is not apparent from the video footage. What is quite clear from the video though is that Villenuve was in front when Schumacher hit him. Also, rather that instinctively try and turn away from Villenuve after contact had been made, Schumacher keeps the steering wheel turned into the Williams...which caused his Ferrari to drag alongside Villenuves car. For those who think that such an accident is really a 'racing incident' I would ask then this question; what criteria are you judging this by? Normally, if a driver has more than a 50% overlap with a car in front, then he has won the corner. Villenuve had about a 125% overlap...and thus clearly held the line. Based upon this criteria, it was clearly Schumacher's 'mistake'. The only criteria to use to judge the incident as being Villenuve mistake would be if one states that the car behind must not pass the car in front. This would seem to defeat the object of motor racing! Before the start of the European Grand Prix FIA said that they would impose draconian fines if there was any hint of foul play. During that race Schumacher was under a one race suspended ban (for the yellow flag incident in Japan). Why then has a fine not been imposed, and the ban activated? Judging by the trade mark Schumacher grin that Michael was displaying after the 'punishment' was announced, he knows he's won another victory.
Nick Raman makes a good argument that regulation changes are not required in F1 because the teams are now so close, however he has missed what I believe to be the point of the 1998 regulation changes.
Despite how close the cars supposedly were toward the end of the season, how much overtaking was there? The huge influence of aerodynamic downforce on a car's performance, coupled to it's extreme sensitivity to airflow means that racing and overtaking are almost impossible without a collision (unless someone lets you through) because the loss of performance to the pursuing car is so great when one car closes up upon another. The extreme cornering speeds of which F1 cars are capable don't help the situation either; most straights which would once have been considered as overtaking opportunities have been ruined by chicanes to reduce speeds into subsequent bends in order to allay safety fears. Even the braking areas for these chicanes are poor areas for overtaking because the chicanes are too tight for more than one car, particularly at such high speeds; many great overtaking manoeuvres used to occur under braking because the drivers could go deeper into a corner with less fear of a collision.
What the 1998 regulations are attempting is the return of racing and drivers to F1. Reducing the width of the car reduces the effect of the aerodynamics as well as reducing its stability (and therefore speed) under cornering, grooved tyres also reduce cornering speeds and therefore place a greater emphasis on braking and general car control. With lower speeds possible in corners the impact of cornering accidents is less, perhaps some chicanes can be removed and overtaking areas will reappear.
The aim of the 1998 regulations is not to bring the performance of the cars closer together, but to allow drivers to once again race each other.
The president of the FIA made some startling admissions last week. First was his point that if Jacques was knocked out of the race by Michael, Jacques would still have won the Championship - but what would have happened if it was the other Ferrari that ran Jacques of the road (we've seen it before)? If Eddie was stricken from the Championship table, Michael would still have won! This "penalty" does not address the REAL crime.
More infuriating is their argument that if Michael was banned for all or part of 1998, then the driver who won the WC would have a hollow victory. By that logic, we ought to punish only drivers who don't have a serious shot at the title. Disgraceful. How stupid of us all to assume the FIA "court" would apply justice blindly.
We heard that Jean Todt had dinner with Mosley and Ecclestone several days before the trial. Doesn't this whole thing really smell? This type of conduct in any other type of sport (or even society) would precipitate resignations and revolution. What would it take to remove these men from our once beloved sport?
I find it alarming that so many of your readers will post their comments regarding Schumacher's stripping of points, without properly informing themselves of the facts, nor considering the benign but very serious message behind it.
Firstly many press reports on the day were to the effect that Schumacher lost all his points for that year and was stripped of his world championship placing. The FIA press release (which is available to everyone on the Internet) stated quite clearly that it was his second place ranking that he was being stripped of. His points and victories remain the same, he just goes down in history of not being ranked for 1997.
Which brings me to my second point, which I thought was obvious but has not seemed to catch on. The reports of whitewash by the press have not addressed the subtle warning issued by the FIA . That is, should the next time this situation arises, the man with one point ahead, is being passed by his only challenger for the title, then you must do what the public deserves to see you do and that is to race on, try and regain the lead. All in the hope that you can take the championship in an honourable manner. Is this not what the spectators want and deserve??
Indeed the punishment was expected to be harsh by those who pre judge Schumacher and his actions. Whilst I don't agree with what he did, I cannot say with any certainty that I would have definitely not have done the same were I in his position.
Do you think that if this precedent had been set previously, Senna and Prost would have taken each other off when the only driver they would have deprived of a championship would be themselves, not the other man.
By ensuring that any championship won in such a manner will be taken away, the FIA done the best they can to make sure it wont happen again.
RE: The Integrity of Sport.
On Sunday morning after watching David Frost on BBC, I reflected on the amount of media coverage Bernie Ecclestone has received during the past two weeks regarding his donations to the Labour Party in Great Britain. As an American, I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, knowledgeable about British politics. And, frankly, the last thing the British want is an American giving his or her views on their problems. However, for the sake of the Atlas Team F1 members in the North and South America who have not been able to follow the situation, let me just quickly recap.
The general gist of the situation here in the UK is that Ecclestone donated over a million pounds sterling into the Labour Party after previously being a long time supporter of the Conservatives. Generally, within a short period afterward, the Labour majority government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair extended an exemption to Formula One regarding the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship of sport and sporting events. This has caused a great deal of concern on the part of the British people. Could you imagine Bill Clinton doing the same for CART or NASCAR? Well, maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges, but the fact of elected officials succumbing to lobbying of donations by wealthy industries is nothing new. However, the fact that the controversy is from a form of entertainment which is basically no more than fast cars going around a track... is new.
Officials from the Labour Party are now backing off their tobacco decision and saying that Formula One may now have three or ten years (depending which source you're listening to) to comply with a European ban of all forms of tobacco sponsorship of sport. This has come down after knowledge of further negotiation between Ecclestone and Labour have been uncovered.
As a fan of Formula One... what kind of taste does this leave in your mouth?
Furthermore, many people have sent their comments regarding the McLaren-Williams situation. Regardless of what many of the respective fans of these two teams would like to think, both, in all likelihood, colluded. But why even debate the situation when betting agencies in the UK are very upset about the final race in Jerez and currently considering Formula One as suspect. During an interview on BBC Radio 5 last week, a representative of William Hill confirmed as much.
What many people fail to connect is that Michael Schumacher's punishment last week was probably a negotiated settlement between Ecclestone, the FIA, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren. Schumacher's crime was apparent. McLaren's and Williams' crime was yet to be. The result was Schumacher and Ferrari walking away unscathed. They used their evidence, McLaren and Williams both agreed on a settlement, and, that was that. However, the fans of Formula One now suffered the brunt of both crimes.
Regardless of the desperate move by Michael Schumacher in Jerez, let there be no doubt that the possible collusion of Williams and McLaren could be the the worst know incident in the history of the sport. And, before you suggest that Formula One is above race fixing, let me remind you of the qualifying session at Jerez:
You can read more by selecting the following links.
Let the recent events signal the beginning of the end for the Ecclestone era.
After a lot of attention that's being payed to Michael Schumacher and Jaques Villenueve, no one has cared to remeber an era of the old kind of racer when Gerhard Berger leaves! And, after a well deserved 4th place at Jerez, Gerhard Berer will always be remembered.
Frankly, what I am tired of, is the FIA playing with the situation so that the championship goes to the final race. I believe that the FIA's decision regarding Schumacher was correct in that it allows everyone to get back to racing next year. To have an incident from 1997 possibly effect the championship in 1998 would be preposterous. The only effect a suspension in the next season would have, is that once again, excuses would be made for Villeneuve's success. I have followed this young man for many years, he may be the most complete driver I have seen. We are watching the unfolding of a legend in motorsport. His win at the Indianapolis 500 for example. How quickly he made his presence felt in Formula 1. This guy is for real. 1997 is over, the better driver won, let's get on with it. Decide the World Championship on the race track.
It seems to me that a lot of people don't understand the FIA rulling, which is simply that even if Villenueve had been knocked out of the race and couldn't continue, and Schumacher had led in the points total, he would have been excluded and Villenueve would have been world champion. Which I think, Is a damn good deterent to this type of behaviour, more so than just taking away a few points next year.
I have my own(?) little theory about the last lap at Jerez. Lets presume that the rumors about BAT as Villeneuves "own" team in 1999 are true. They (BAT or Lucky Strike or what ever) want an engine, and they want a competetive engine (not a Ford V8, or even a V10). Right now, they are involved in negotiations with major manufacturerers about a deal for 1999. One of them is a big one who's for the moment just supplying one team. They want that one.
On the last lap, two cars that currently are using the engine they (=Villeneuve) want are right behind Villeneuve. Under the cirumstances, of course he let them pass!
I think that the FIA did the right thing when it decided to take away Michael's points away. Because even if Michael was successful in taking Jaques out of the race, he would not have won the championship anyway as the FIA would have taken his points away. There are really 2 offences that Michael commited in Jerez. 1 - Dangerous driving; 2 - Attempting to take out Jaques so that Michael can win the championship. The FIA only punished him for the second offence. Never the less, the FIA's decision deter future actions taken by drivers to seal championship wins.
Dave "Gizmo" Gymer
Having just read the outcome of the Schumacher "did he or didn't he" hearing, I have to say that if anyone wanted any further proof that the FIA do everything with tongue planted firmly in cheek, this is it. Okay, stripping him of his second place is a good compromise, neatly side-stepping calls for a ban at the start of '98 (funny how this should happen within a day of Judge Hiller Zobel pulling off a similar trick, finding Louise Woodward guilty, but still setting her free), but enforced participation in an European road safety campaign?!
Are they just taking the mickey or what? I'm already starting to envision the TV campaign... "Remember, mein Eurocitizenfriends, alveys mirror, signal, manoeuver. Ich forgot and look vot happened to mein Ferrari!"
Dave "Gizmo" Gymer
Well I guess it was bound to happen. The ultimate act of FIA "stupidity"! If grooved tires were not enough, taking away Michael's 78 points is! Nobody deserves that. Is the FIA trying to "make up" for the Prost - Senna fiasco's of the past? "Tyranny and Oppression" always lose out in the end!
What a joke! Do you think Schumacher cares about his GP points? Do they think Ferrari will pay him less next year due to his lack of points? This is a token slap on the wrist. If Villeneuve had done the same to Schumacher you can be sure they would have suspended Jacques. What is to deter Schumacher a third time. Unfortunately he may kill someone the next time!
I am somewhat surprised by the outcome of the Schumacher hearing: his 1997 results have been nullified? This is a bit crazy. What becomes of those 78 points? Does Ferrari lose them too?
What I am more surprised by is the pointless controversy concerning the so-called McLaren and Williams race fixing. Moreover, I am surprised it took two weeks for people to say anything about it. I thought it was obvious, and I thought there was nothing wrong with it. To say the least, I found it exciting and entertaining. When has an F1 race of late produced such intrigue? The FIA should be excited things like this happen, as I am sure more fans will be inclined to watch the next race (especially on TV) because this season proved so exciting in the end.
At the time I am writing this I don't know what, if anything, is happening to McLaren and Williams, but I think they should be left alone. Does the FIA really think this is the first time such a thing has happened? I am not accusing, but I'll bet it has happened before.
I think Jerez was an exciting event. It was full of intrigue, the kind of intrigue that attracts fans. Think of how many more people will tune in next year after this year's exciting conclusion.
Returning to Michael Schumacher's penalty. It is too much. He earned second place in the championship. Period. Maybe taking away ten or 20 points would be acceptable, but 78! The punishment does not, I believe, fit the crime.
So they have stripped Schumacher of his points for this year! Well if that is the case, surely it serves as a precident for actoins of past and future events. Now I say Damon appeal the decision of the '94 championship, it's yours by right and by precident!