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Boycotting teams lose ruling

Associated Press

PARIS – Formula One’s governing body ruled Wednesday the seven teams that boycotted the United States Grand Prix were guilty of failing to provide suitable tires and wrongfully refusing to allow their cars to start.

The FIA will announce its punishments Sept. 14.

BMW-Williams, Mercedes-McLaren, BAR-Honda, Toyota, Sauber, Red Bull and Renault declined to race June 19 after their tire manufacturer, Michelin, said its tires were unsafe for the Indianapolis circuit.

In a joint statement, the teams said they were “very disappointed by the decision of the World Motor Sport Council to find them guilty” and will appeal. The teams said they “reasonably relied on Michelin, an approved FIA tire supplier” – meaning it wasn’t their fault if they were given unsuitable tires.

Though Michelin offered fans refunds and free tickets for next year’s race, FIA president Max Mosley had harsh words for the company.

“It’s a big step forward, but delaying as they have done has caused a lot of damage,” Mosley said at a news conference. “The facts speak for themselves. It was a disastrous performance from that company and they should be deeply ashamed.”

But Frederic Henry-Biabaud, Michelin’s deputy director of competition, defended the decision not to race.

“We prefer to guarantee security before rather than after the event,” he said in a telephone interview. “We are not at all embarrassed. We took our decision with rigor and honesty. The only thing we are upset about is for the American fans.”

In September, the teams will face punishments ranging from a reprimand to life bans – but the FIA can only indirectly punish Michelin by applying pressure on the teams using its tires.

“The difficulty here is that the FIA has no contractual relationship with Michelin, we are not in a position to impose penalties,” Mosley said. “Had this been the case and judging by what we heard today, Michelin would have found themselves in a very difficult position.”

Mosley added that until the penalties are determined, the teams and Michelin must show what steps they will take “to compensate the Formula One fans and repair the damage to the reputation” of the Indianapolis racetrack and “to the image of the Formula One.”

Michelin claimed its tests showed the tires were not “intrinsically flawed” and justified demands for a chicane, or a curve, to be installed to slow cars on a high-speed part of the course. Michelin added that the circuit’s banked Turn 13 was unique to the championship and the pressure exerted on the rear left tires was greater than estimated.

The FIA refused the request, even though nine of the 10 teams – excluding Ferrari – said they would race if the turns were installed.

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