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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report


We were desperate to race: Williams

Alan Baldwin | June 21, 2005 13:45 IST

Formula One teams who boycotted the US Grand Prix were so desperate to race they would have waived their right to score points, Frank Williams said on Monday.

The team owner said the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) must share the blame for a fiasco that left irate fans and a worldwide television audience of millions watching Sunday's 'race' of just six cars.

BMW-powered Williams, who earn 60 percent of their commercial revenues from North America, were one of seven teams on Michelin tyres that dropped out before the start for safety reasons after failures in free practice.

"The teams were desperate to race, to put on a show," Williams said in a telephone interview.

"Racing in North America is fundamental to Formula One's commercial health.

"We wanted to at least entertain the crowds. We were prepared to race for no points and give them all to Ferrari. I can't stress enough how desperate we were."

He said that the response from the team's sponsors had been "understanding and sympathetic", pointing out that US-based open wheel series such as ChampCars regularly call off races due to rain.

MOSLEY VETO

The teams, with their tyres unable to withstand the pressures of the final banked corner, had wanted a temporary chicane installed to slow the cars down but the FIA rejected the idea.

Williams said Indianapolis promoter Tony George and Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone had both agreed to the chicane in a meeting with teams on Saturday night but FIA president Max Mosley had vetoed it.

"Bernie called [FIA race director] Charlie [Whiting] on Saturday night and said get on with it," said Williams, who pointed out several precedents including the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

He said it was to be expected that the FIA would blame the teams, with all seven summoned to a World Motor Sport Council meeting on June 29 for acts prejudicial to the interest of the competition.

However, he pointed out that the teams did not make the tyres and said Michelin had informed them late in the day of the problems.

Williams, who has been in Formula One four decades and won nine constructors' titles, said he had never encountered a similar situation and defined it a "rare screw-up."

But he emphasized that he was not prepared to make any compromises on safety.

"With this particular team, in 1970 Piers Courage was killed in the Dutch Grand Prix," he said.

"Ayrton [Senna] died [in a Williams] in 1994. Ralf [Schumacher] narrowly escaped permanent paralysis [at Indianapolis] when he hit the wall. We take responsibility for safety extremely seriously."

Ferrari won Sunday's 'race' with world champion Michael Schumacher leading home Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello in what was effectively a two-car contest.

Williams said the Italian team, who use Bridgestone tyres, were blameless for everything that happened at Indianapolis.

"They were totally innocent in this affair entirely," he said. "They had no reason not to race.

© Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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