This 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.
While 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.