(VENICE, ITALY) Officials in this northeast Italian resort city acknowledged today that the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix of Venice was in danger of being cancelled, after all 24 cars plunged to the bottom of one of the city’s famed canals immediately after crossing the start line during today’s first round of time trials.
“There are still some bugs to work out in the course, unquestionably,” Venice mayor Giorgio Orsoni acknowledged to reporters after race stewards showed the red flag, indicating a halt to further practice sessions. “But it is premature to suggest that the race may be postponed. We know there are always problems when an event such as this is run for the first time. “Venice has long been known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and Formula One is the world’s greatest form of motor racing. The Grand Prix of Venice, which I promise will be run as scheduled, will give us a chance to show the world what our city is really made of.”
No drivers were seriously injured as a result of the multiple accidents, although Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was reportedly being treated for hypothermia.
|Defending champion Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull is pulled|
from the water following Friday's disasterous practice
As crews using heavy cranes worked to remove the cars, valued at upwards of $15 million each ($750 million Euro), from the paddock area near the Dorsoduro region, F1 major domo Bernie Ecclestone refused to concede defeat, saying that “48 hours is plenty of time to correct any of these little bumps in the road. Or ripples in the water, as the case may be.” Many Formula 1 fans, though, expressing their anger and frustration in various internet chat rooms, laid the blame for the “fiasco” at the feet of controversial race course designer Herman Tilke, who was responsible for the design of the Venice street course. “Tilke has given us another bland circuit, even worse than Abu Dhabi,” “ruapetrolhead564” wrote in a typical comment. “Only this time he replaced sand with water.”
Longtime F1 analyst Peter Windsor felt fans might be underestimating the adaptability of F1 pit crews. “We have some of the most brilliant engineers and technicians in the world working in Formula 1,” Windsor said. “If you ask them to come up with a solution, I’ve no doubt they’ll do it. I imagine Red Bull are probably working in their garages right now, fitting some sort of oar propulsion system to the blown rear diffuser. And McLaren – well, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d come to race weekend all prepared to fit the car’s side pods with some sort of pontoon if it was needed.” He refused, however, to comment on speculation that FIA officials might allow gondoliers to accompany the drivers during the race.
Despite the confidence of race promoters and F1 officials, most observers remained unconvinced. Former world champion driver Jackie Stewart spoke for many, shaking his head as he looked out over the course while the setting sun cast an orange glow on the waters lapping gently against the guard rails set up for the race. “This is what happens when money is allowed to be the overriding concern in motor sports, rather than safety. Let’s race on a street circuit in Venice, they say. Great idea. It will bring in lots of money and look great on television, which is all they care about. Only now do we see the fatal flaw in the plan, which is that Venice has no streets.”