Grandstands To Terraces: Formula One Has Some Bad Fruit

Grandstands To Terraces: Formula One Has Some Bad Fruit

2005 United States Grand PrixThis week I have been reminded of the 2005 United States Grand Prix; it’s something I try not to think about too often, but occasionally my mind is forced in that direction. Interestingly though, it wasn’t the usual trigger that sent me off towards the empty and puzzled feeling I get over the debacle. No, for once it wasn’t Max Mosley who reminded me of the race. Instead, and perhaps for the first time since the race, it was a beer can that made me recollect the farcical event.

The 2005 United States Grand Prix has gone down in history as one of those races. An accident during free practice involving the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher sparked Michelin to essentially withdraw themselves from the event. Because the French tyre manufacturer publicly announced that there may be a problem with the boots they brought to the race, the teams really had no other option than to retire; had another driver suffered a similar accident to Schumacher and not walked away there could have been legal proceedings directed towards the team.

So the race ended up being a tour of the circuit by six cars; Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi. And Minardi only raced because rivals Jordan were. The race itself was therefore pretty boring, as you could imagine. I sat at home on my sofa scratching my head and trying to figure out why a solution hadn’t been implemented.

Apparently the teams, drivers and Bernie Ecclestone all threw suggestions down on Mosley’s table, but none of them were good enough. The race was a farce and the fans were livid. Having spent a few hundred dollars to watch 22 cars battle it out was turned into a parade of red, yellow and black. And watching the television, I could see their anger building until, just a few laps in to the race, some of the spectators started to throw beer cans on to the track, right in the path of the cars. I couldn’t blame them for being angry and frustrated; I was angry myself and I hadn’t re-mortgaged the house to watch the race. They had a right to be mad, but nobody has the right to throw beer cans into the path of a speeding car.

Anyway, for once it wasn’t Max’s stupidity that reminded me of all this yesterday. Instead, it was a report that track officials at Circuit de Catalunya had barricaded off a section of grandstand to prevent ‘fans’ from throwing cans at the McLaren pit garage and hurling abuse directly at the team and Lewis Hamilton. These people, apparently Spanish, had attended the circuit to witness their man Alonso test for Renault, and to enjoy the presence of the cars testing prior to the season start in March.

2006 United States Grand PrixWhile it was just a select few who chose to exhibit this behaviour, I fail to see why they need to be angry, why they need to intentionally disrupt a team. The feelings come from the supposed way Alonso was treated at McLaren last year, but that is no excuse, even if you do believe in the stories. Surely the best way to deal with this is support your driver and help him beat his opponents on the track. But not so for a group of people attending the track on Friday, who woke up that morning and decided to make a banner that depicts a truck towing Hamilton’s McLaren away.

This kind of behaviour wouldn’t be amiss at a British football match, and although the governing bodies have done well to improve the situation, fans still feel obliged to hurl abuse at the referee and opposing team. But Formula One is, I thought, different. Rarely have I heard of this kind of behaviour from ‘fans’. I have sat down in a grandstand next to an ardent Michael Schumacher fan and enjoyed a decent conversation about his man’s dominance of the sport. Clearly British I was initially presumed to be a die hard Button supporter, but when I told him that I didn’t really support one driver over another, we had a great chat about the lack of driving talent coming through from both British and German lower formulae. It was civilised, intelligent and, well, normal.

Formula One doesn’t need people like those who threw litter at McLaren yesterday. It doesn’t need idiots with silly banners, drinking to excess and shouting profanity at a rival driver. Hopefully these are just isolated incidents and those who are involved won’t be attending races this year. Keith at F1Fanatic voices his concern well, and should Formula One develop a group of hatred-hunting fans, I would have to agree with Keith and hope the FIA and circuit officials deal with the problem swiftly and without hesitation.

Update: Pitpass are now reporting further shameful behaviour at Circuit de Catalunya today. These people do not deserve to be at a race track, or any sporting venue for that matter. Let’s hope this disgusting abuse doesn’t spill over into the racing season and ends here.

Also talking about this is doctorvee in his post, Racism Reaches F1. Yet more wise words on the current state of Formula One’s coverage and how it doesn’t help with situations like this.


  • It seems that Fernando Alonso has his own breed of Ultras, the Spanish being as passionate as they are, this comes as no real surprise. Any opponent of a Spanish hero is generally abhorred to extremes, as seen here.

    Typo fixed. Ollie.

  • I don’t see how you can compare the US Grand Prix to these idiots. Back then, people paid good money to watch a race that never happened, due to the FIA’s incompetence. They had every right to be angry, and if I was there, I would have thrown a beer can, too.

    This is completely different. Aside from basically being in the wrong car at the wrong time, Lewis has done nothing to these people. Their behaviour is unneccessary and completely unacceptable.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but I think the parallel you’re drawing here is a bit far-fetched.

  • The post was mainly written yesterday before the full extent was shown later today – the photos on Pitpass that clearly show racism is involved. (Although it was mentioned yesterday, I don’t like going off on one until I know for sure.)

    The parallel is justified in my mind because as you say, Lewis Hamilton has done nothing to deserve the torrent of abuse he has. However, nor did Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello et al during the ’05 US Grand Prix. They were actually racing, trying to appease the situation, but had to put up with abuse during and after the race. And I really would not want a can across my visor at 150mph.

    As of yesterday/this morning, throwing a can at Schumacher in Indianapolis and throwing a can at Lewis Hamilton in Spain are identical crimes.

    I cannot condone the behaviour seen in Catalunya, it is unacceptable, it is disgusting and these people should not be allowed to return to a racing circuit again. And the behaviour seen at Indy in 2005? It wasn’t as bad, and as far as I could tell there was no racist element involved. But those people who threw stuff on the oval should not be allowed to return either.

    To sum up, I guess, the parallel is bad behaviour at racing circuits that should be stopped before it gets out-of-hand.

  • Okay, I know what I’m about to say isn’t in line with the exact subject at hand, but hear me out:

    For those thinking it’s the responsibility of the FIA to put on a show…… or that they handled the 05 USGP in an incompetent manner:

    Their job is to enforce the rules. They did just that. Their job is not change them so that some unprepared teams can compete. This motor racing. Entertainment should merely be a by-product. This is motor racing at the highest level, Michelin should bare full responsibility. This may be a bad example, but picture football game played in the snow or muddy conditions. Now imagine one team not bringingthe right kind of cleats. They brought the 1/4 inch spikes instead of the 1/2 inch spikes. Should the refs force both teams to play with the 1/4 spikse, because one team was completely unprepared?

    Furthermore, for those who think a solution such as adding a chicane should have been implemented, but only allow the Bridgestone teams to score points. Well, kist what kind of solution is that? In the case, it’s just a glorified practice session. What’s more is the teams/drivers out of the points a

    The fans who paid good money to watch a race still got a race. No where are they guaranteed a good race.

  • The FIA are there to organise the series. That is the entire source of their power over the rules. Since they were meant to organise the series, the FIA should have organised some sort of solution to Indy 2005 that resolved the problem as well as possible. They (or rather Max) chose instead to block all proposals while not providing anything viable (note that it was Max who proposed the speed limit “solution”, which besides the flaws of the chicane method, the circuit could not enforce?)

    To link back into the topic at hand, it is good to see the FIA take leadership over the matter of misbehaving spectators. With as strong an attitude as they have taken, people are definitely on notice. The Spanish authorities have taken the right approach too, though it would be good to have details of what exactly they propose to do about racist people and those who take their “joking” too far (apparently there were some of the latter).

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