FIA revoke Ide's superlicence
I guess everyone's read the news by now: The FIA have revoked Yuji Ide's superlicence and as such he will take no further part in the 2006 Formula 1 season. Former Renault test driver Franck Montagny will replace Ide for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix as he did at the European Grand Prix last weekend. Super Aguri are looking for a permanent replacement.
There are a range of views on this. Some, most vocally Kimi Raikkonen, will be glad to see the back of Ide. Not only was he slow, but he caused a serious crash in Imola and memorably blocked Rubens Barrichello's qualifying lap in Australia. Others will view this as unduly hash treatment from the FIA - other driver's have been slower than their team mates and caused more accidents without having their licences suspended or revoked before.
Unfortunately for Yuji Ide, he found himself in the unenviable position of being a slow driver in a very slow car. In that situation it makes all your mistakes even more evident. At the same time, the Super Aguri strategy of putting little fuel in the cars at the start of the race in order to try and make up places on the first lap was always going to lead to him being involved in more "drama" than necessary. If you know you're at the back of the grid you put more fuel in at the start, not less.
While it was the team's strategy that got Ide unwanted attention, I think the team's actions have finally cost him his superlicence. It involves a lot of reading between the lines of the news stories surrounding this driver, but let me explain.
- On Sunday, 23rd April, Yuji Ide is repremanded by the stewards for causing the accident that put himself and Christijan Albers out of the San Marino Grand Prix.
- The following Wednesday, Super Aguri announce they have signed Franck Montagny as their 3rd/Friday driver.
- On Thursday, 4th May (one day before the San Marino Grand Prix practice starts), Super Aguri announce that they have replaced Ide with Montagny for the race following "advice offered by the FIA". That I believe is a code for "the FIA threatened to suspend Ide's superlicence if he had another bad race". That may not actually be the case, but I don't believe the FIA is usually involved in advising teams on personel matters - Bernie does occasionally, but not the FIA.
- On the Saturday, a story appears on Autosport.com, stating that Super Aguri would like to put Ide back in the race seat for the Spanish Grand Prix the following weekend, but that they are waiting for "further clarification from the FIA".
- The today, they announce that Ide's licence is revoked and that he will not drive for them again this year.
Now if the FIA wanted to punish Ide for the Albers crash, they took a very long time about it, so I don't think that's the reason, not the direct reason anyway. The FIA's advice of the 4th May was that Ide would sit out races until he'd had some practice in private test sessions. They team stated that clearly and admitted that it wasn't idea that they hadn't been able to offer the driver any significant pre-season testing due to the rush to get the cars ready. Super Aguri have not been able to run any test mileage since then and yet they state in the press that they want to put Ide back in the car the following week.
Maybe they thought the FIA just wanted them to punish Ide by leaving him out for one race instead of taking their "advice" at face value. How beligerant they may have got in their communications with the FIA over the matter might also have come into it. If Super Aguri insisted that they would run Ide in the race this weekend, that could have been enough for the FIA to settle the matter for good by revoking his superlicence.
And that is what I think has happened because the more straightforward explanation (that the FIA revoked Ide's licence as a direct result of the Imola incident) doesn't seem plausible given the delay. And the conspiracy theories, that Super Aguri wanted to get rid of Ide but didn't want to get flamed in the Japanese press and so got the FIA to do their dirty work, don't add up either.