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Old September 2nd, 2003, 09:17 AM   #1
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We finally know why the Michelins are so fast.

According to a myriad of articles on www.planet-f1.com and www.f1racing.com, Ferrari and Bridgestone finally figured out why the Michelins are so fast. Ferrari lodged a complaint stating that the Michelins are outside the max allowable contact patch rule after the tires have been used. The FIA agreed to start measuring the usable width of the tires tread at the end of the race, rather than before. Michelin have implicitly admitted that this is true by stating that all of their tires are then illegal and they even threatened to boycott. Eventually, they decided to just let the teams show up on these "now illegal" tires and put it to the FIA to DQ the 10 Michelin shod cars.

This is all interesting given that the Michelin runners began leaving their tires on for multiple stints this season. They alluded to some advantage of "not risking getting a set of bad tires" or "not having to break in a new set of tires" when the truth is, they needed the tires to be worn.

There are 2 sides to every argument and I'm sure that some will praise Michelin for finding a loophole around a technical regulation. IMHO, the rules are their to provide some common ground or level playing field on which the various manufacturers can compete. Building a better compound is great. But taking advantage of a loophole to skirt around the spirit of a rule is not so great. In any event, the playing field will level up again. Now that Bridgestone knows what is going on, they will have a chance to let the FIA alter Michelin's tires or start taking advantage of the same loophole themselves. Unfortunately, neither team really has time to make any significant changes this season and it will be marred by this problem whichever way the resolution goes.
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 12:34 PM   #2
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Come on now

The entire racing world is built on exploiting loop holes! Porsche has a number of vicoties because they were able to find a loophole in the fia's rules. Everyone does it to the best of their ability. Wath "Victory By Design" next time it is on speedchannel. They talk a lot about how this team or that team found a loophole and came up with a winning car...etc.
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 12:53 PM   #3
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I've seen it. I know it happens.

But to me, meaningful racing still takes place between one correction (modification of rulebook to close an exploited hole) and the next exploitation.

I said that I understand that there would be some people who would be impressed by Michelin's creative interpretation. But here, you have several results getting affected merely because Bridgestone took the rule at face value.

The only part that really bothers me is that it was exploited secretly. This is something different than the exploitations you are referring to. And it would have been better for the sport, too. Michelin should have first discussed the interpretation and their intent to get around it. Then, the FIA and Bridgestone could have responded accordingly. Michelin would have had a headstart and who knows how long it would have taken Bridgestone to adopt similar technology. But at least it would have been a fight on a level playing field.
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 01:59 PM   #4
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Re: I've seen it. I know it happens.

I see you point. Funny how autmakers are always looking for that loophole. Remember Porshe dominated the sports car racing scene in 1970/71. The fia changed the rules on them allowing displacement to 5.0 liters, thinking this would make the french auto makers more competitive. Porsche had dominated the 3.0 liter ranks, so the French thought they would through Porsche a fast one. Little did they know porsch had been developing a 5.0 engine. This went into the 917 which was wildly successful. Then porsche cut the roof of and called it a Canam car. Didn't make that rule board very happy, but what could they do...it complied. This came to be the 1000hp 917/30.

I am no auto racing historian, but I pretty sure that's how it went.
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Old September 2nd, 2003, 02:56 PM   #5
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The 917 benefitted from a poor definition of production.

The class was restricted to cars in production of at least 25 models. (I think that's the number) Porsche decided to just make 25 race cars to exploit this definition. The cars weren't even remotely based on a production car (as the spirit of the rule would have required) but because they could make enough race cars to satisfy the rule, they got away with it. And there were at least 2 versions before it was all said and done. The 917/10 and 917/30. One was a 4.5 I think and I believe the other was a 5.4. I'm pretty sure both were turbocharged and the more powerful one produced over 1100bhp.

But my point was just that Porsche didn't sneak in extra displacement or extra power into the action. They said, "Oh, we have to base this car on a production model? Okay, well according to the books, if we make 25 or more, it will be a production model thus satisfying that condition." The whole world knew what they were doing and it was just Porsche's willingness to spend more money on the racing program that gave them the advantage. The other constructors could have exploited the same hole. They would have played catchup, but they could have done it.

In the case of these tires, Bridgestone has never shown a lack of interest in building a competitive tire. Michelin didn't come in and take the job more seriously. In fact, I guarantee you that if the FIA back down from their stance and let the Michelins go unchanged, Bridgestone will follow suit and make their tires the same way.

With regard to the tires, it would have been nice to discover it early in the season so that the FIA and/or Bridgestone could react. I only lament that depending on who wins the ultimate ruling, there will be tons of people saying either that the FIA screwed Montoya or that Schumi lost because of some exploited rule.

Where as you can name a lot of sports car racing where entire seasons were dominated by a car taking advantage of this or that, in F1, that's really rare. When they have to make a rule more explicit for the sake of leveling the playing field, both parties tend to have time to adjust. Here's a trivia question for ya. When is the last F1 WC that was decided in large part by some controversial interpretation of the rules?
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