Much has been said about the 'farce' that occurred on Sunday at Indianapolis, and Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart - a Bridgestone runner - has decided that, in the interests of transparency, it would be worthwhile for someone who was actually present, and participated in the discussions leading up to the start of the grand prix, to provide 'a truthful account' of what took place - both for the 100,000-plus fans who were present, and for the hundreds of millions of people watching on television around the world.
"While this is a genuine attempt to provide a factual timeline of the relevant events that took place, should any minor detail or sequence be disputed, it will not, in my opinion, affect in any way this account of events that led up to arguably the most damaging spectacle in the recent history of Formula One," the outspoken Aussie wrote in a statement distributed to the world's media.
"For those who have not followed the recent political developments in Formula One, it is fair to say that, for over a year now, the majority of teams have felt at odds with the actions of the FIA and its president concerning the regulations, and the way in which those regulations have been introduced, or are proposed to be introduced," Stoddart continued.
"Not a weekend has gone by where some, or all, of the teams are not discussing or disputing these regulations. This is so much the case that it is common knowledge that the manufacturers have proposed their own series commencing in January 2008, and this [proposal] is supported by at least two of the independent teams. The general perception is that, in many instances, these issues have become personal, and it is my opinion that was a serious contributory factor to the failure to find a solution that would have allowed all 20 cars to compete in Sunday's United States Grand Prix."
Having provided the background to his version of events, Stoddart goes on to recall, blow-by-blow, what happened between free practice on Friday, when the first tyre problems emerged, and the start of the race on Sunday, when the seven Michelin-shod teams peeled back into the pits at the end of the formation lap.
"I noticed that Ricardo Zonta's Toyota
had stopped but, in all honesty, did not pay any attention to the reasons why," he revealed, "However, I actually witnessed Ralf Schumacher's accident, both on the monitors, and more significantly, I could see what took place from my position on the pit wall. This necessitated a red flag and, in the numerous replays on the monitors, it looked very much like the cause of the accident was a punctured rear tyre.
"Throughout the afternoon, numerous people in the paddock suggested it was a tyre failure and commented that it was similar to the serious accident which befell Ralf Schumacher during the 2004 US Grand Prix. Later that evening was the first time I was aware of a potential problem with the Michelin tyres at this event. In all honesty, I didn't pay a great deal of attention, as our team is on Bridgestones.
"On arriving at the circuit on Saturday, the word throughout the paddock was that there was a potential problem with the rear tyres supplied to all Michelin teams for this event, and it became evident as the first and second sessions were run that most of the affected teams were being very conservative with the amount of on-track running they were doing.
"In addition, Toyota
announced that it had substituted Ricardo Zonta for Ralf Schumacher, who would take no further part in the event. Speculation was rife in the paddock that some Michelin teams might not take part in qualifying and, also during the practice session, I was informed there would be a team principals' meeting with Bernie Ecclestone at 1430hrs - after qualifying - which I incorrectly assumed would centre around the Michelin issue.
"Qualifying took place, and indeed, all 20 cars qualified for Sunday's grand prix.