Michelin have offered to refund US Grand Prix fans after tyre failures turned this month’s Formula One race at Indianapolis into a six-car fiasco….
The French tyre manufacturer said in a statement on Tuesday that is has decided to contribute to the costs incurred by the spectators present at the circuit on Sunday, June 19, 2005 by offering to refund their tickets.
"This is an important decision, since Michelin is not at all legally bound to do this," said a spokesperson for tyre manufacturer.
Some 120,000 fans attended the race.
Michelin, who gave no financial details, also offered to buy 20,000 tickets for the 2006 US Grand Prix to be given to spectators who were at this year’s event in order to "promote further Formula One interest in the United States".
Seven of the 10 teams use Michelin tyres and none raced at Indianapolis after the company said they could not guarantee safety through the final high-speed banked corner.
Some fans threw plastic water bottles and beer cans on the track in a debacle that badly damaged Formula One’s standing in America.
"Michelin deeply regrets that the public was deprived of an exciting race and therefore wishes to be the first, among the different groups involved in the Indianapolis race, to make a strong gesture towards the spectators," the company said.
The seven teams are due to appear before the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s world motor sport council in Paris on Wednesday to answer charges of bringing the sport into disrepute.
The Michelin gesture is likely to reduce the risk of the teams – championship leaders Renault, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, Sauber, Red Bull and BAR – from being heavily sanctioned.
It should also lift a cloud hanging over Sunday’s French Grand Prix, which could be affected were the teams to take action against any penalties.
However the tyre company, who have been adamant throughout that safety was their main concern at Indianapolis, remained critical of the governing body’s response to the tyre crisis.
"We are extremely disappointed that the proposals made with all our teams were not accepted," Michelin said.
"These proposals, including a chicane, were technically viable and totally met all safety requirements.
"On Sunday morning, June 19, the sporting authority had all the means necessary to preserve the interest of the race," added the statement.
"And yet the sporting authority rejected the proposed solutions. Why? In our view, this is totally incomprehensible and reflects a lack of respect for the spectators."
The Michelin teams had asked for a temporary chicane to be installed at Indianapolis to enable them to compete, a request rejected by the FIA.
They world body suggested instead that Michelin-shod drivers take the corner at reduced speed, use the pit lane or come in repeatedly for a change of tyres.