The United States Grand Prix, which will be held on the Indianapolis circuit, becomes the most important race in Formula 1 and Michael Schumacher is the maximum human expression of motor racing. It is America, a country of large spaces and absolute superlatives. F1 arrives, something which nobody cares about for the rest of the year, and the party begins. Thursday 16 June 2005 Michael Schumacher speaks from a stage inside the racetrack, the crowd listens and asks questions. It's like being on the set of a Hollywood film: "Michael, is it true that McLaren boss Ron Dennis asked to contest only sixteen Grands Prix instead of nineteen?" Asks a gentleman from Wisconsin with a big cowboy hat. And the audience screams boo, because it doesn't want to hear about cuts. Schumacher gets into the part:
"If he wants to run sixteen times, let him do it".
Only in the United States is the athlete most reluctant to interviews being questioned by a thousand people possible. There is the complicity of the sponsor (the Bridgestone tire specialists), but it is always an event. Unfiltered, sometimes embarrassing questions. Do you have any pets, apart from Barrichello? Frost. The moderator corrects the question. Do you have cats?
"No, no cats. Three dogs and some horses, which my wife Corinna likes so much".
After achieving P2 in Canada, the German driver spent three days on a ranch in Nevada with his wife and children Gina, Maria and Mick. In Indianapolis he is in excellent shape and with one goal: to win. In Montreal, Ferrari occupied the bottom two steps of the podium.
"That's true, but I have to be honest. Under normal conditions, without all those retirements, I would have finished fifth".
His brother Ralf in recent days has claimed to have seen him demotivated and ready for retirement. He denies again:
"As long as I'm competitive, as long as I'm having fun, and as long as you're enjoying seeing me, I'll keep going".
We talk about the championship and the possibility of a comeback.
"We'll try until there's an arithmetical chance".
Kimi Raikkonen is chasing Fernando Alonso, just like he did in 2003 with the Finnish driver, recalls a fan with good memory.
"It seems that the challenge is reduced to the two of them. However, I hope it ends just like it did two years ago".
Do you aim to win ten titles before retiring?
"No, these are made up rumors. I told you, I'll keep going as long as we have fun".
Will you then try other avenues, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
"Are you sure the 24 Hours will still exist the day I retire? Seriously, Formula 1 is the best: I feel young, but I don't see any other challenges outside of here".
Why do they put rules to slow you down?
"The problem isn't the speed, it's the circuits. It's easier to reduce performance than to retrofit an old racetrack. However, for every ten engineers who study to slow down, there are at least a hundred who try to make us go faster".
Another ovation. Michael Schumacher overwhelmed Juan Pablo Montoya in popularity, who won the Indy 500 in 2000. In the Canadian Grand Prix the Colombian was disqualified (he did not respect the red light in the pit lane).
"I was wrong, but the judges were incorrect. It was an exaggerated punishment".
McLaren is disappointed with its results. But the Colombian pilot defends himself, saying:
"Even the team made a mistake in not calling me back to the pits as soon as the safety car entered the track. The important thing is to have shown that I'm going fast".
In the meantime, a new revolution is born in Formula 1. It is proposed by the FIA, with a series of rules that should come into force from 2008. Rules that serve to reduce costs and give single-seaters a more human, less technological face. The most important change is represented by the gearbox: from 2008 it will again be completely manual, with the clutch pedal. Some components of the transmission system must be the same for all teams and will be supplied directly by the FIA, like the electronic control unit. A revolution for the tyres as well: there will be only one supplier (we can bid farewell to the battle between Michelin and Bridgestone) and in the event of a dry track, slicks, those without grooves, will once again be allowed. In addition, the elimination of all the aerodynamic appendages is foreseen and the general load should undergo a further cut of 90% compared to today. Also new for the engines: they will have to be 8-cylinder (something already imposed since 2006), but whoever wants to can run with the 10-cylinder, but with power limitations. One team will be able to sell a complete car (or individual parts) to another. It could therefore happen to see a Ferrari, naturally colored in a different way, racing with the Minardi insignia. The FIA will present its definitive plan by Monday 1st August 2005. For these changes to come into effect from 2008, they must be approved by the FIA World Council and by the General Assembly at the end of October. Otherwise they risk slipping to 2009. All this while Formula 1 lands in Indianapolis, the temple of speed. Where Jarno Trulli plays the American. The Italian driver will start from pole position in the United States Grand Prix, a race which is uncertain and troubled due to problems with the Michelin tires reported after the bad accident on Friday 17 June 2005 involving Ralf Schumacher, unscathed, but forced as a precaution to leave his seat to test driver Rìcardo Zonta, 29, a Brazilian of Italian origins, who last raced last year in Sao Paulo. Trulli, author of a perfect lap, gives Toyota, right in the States, the first start in front of everyone. Jarno pushes to the max (maximum speed at 342 km/h) without fears for the grip of the Michelin tyres. The Italian gets the third pole of his career, the previous two both with Renault last year.
"I have to admit that I was a little scared about the tire issue, but it immediately passed when I went out on track. From that moment on, I only thought about going fast".
Only Kimi Raikkonen, the last to go onto the track, tries to snatch first place from the Italian driver. But even the Finn is forced to abandon dreams of glory, even if for 0.069 seconds. The Finn, however, manages to keep Fernando Alonso behind him, with whom a close challenge for the title is underway. The Spaniard is only sixth in the grid, preceded by Jenson Button, Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher. Ferrari confirms some progress compared to the majority of the qualifiers carried out so far with the German fifth and Barrichello seventh. The differences between the two are probably also determined by different strategies for the race. The F2005s benefit from a more accurate tuning and also an updated version of the engine with a few more HP. Says Michael Schumacher, who was sleeping peacefully in the pits half an hour before qualifying:
"I'm happy with my performance, and above all I'm confident with the data we gathered on the first day of practice. We can maintain a good race pace, we have no worries about the tyres. All in all I also like to start from fifth position, because fourth is on the dirty side of the track. Our tactic should be valid, because we have a good load of petrol on board, we are heavier than in Montreal and the F2005 seems to respond well to all the settings. We aim for the podium, but we also hope for something better, because we improve in the race".
Rubens Barrichello is even surprised by his result:
"We make progress. I really didn't expect to go so fast. The time gap compared to other races has narrowed even further, even if there is still a difference between us and our rivals on the fastest lap".
Among the most awaited protagonists, Juan Pablo Montoya was missing at the top, only managing P11. However, taking into account the courage and aggressiveness always shown by the Colombian, one can think of a comeback possibility. In theory, the race could launch Ferrari towards its first success of the season. In two days of testing Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, as the drivers themselves say, didn't have the slightest problem and lapped regularly on times very close to those set by the McLaren and Renault drivers, who however remain the most favored cars.
"Our tires are not safe and cannot be used in this race".
However, the men from Michelin showed up at the Indianapolis Speedway on Saturday morning to serve this unfortunate news to their seven customers, that is, all the teams that count except Ferrari.
"We didn't understand why the Toyota's left rear tire exploded during Friday free practice. We can't guarantee it won't happen again".
It was Ralf Schumacher's turn to experience the consistency of the walls on the side of the track: a frightening blow, as he tackled the fastest corner in the World Championship with the accelerator fully open, on the verge of 300 km/h. An accident similar to the one that last year caused him to fracture two vertebrae during the race. In the emergency room, doctors diagnosed whiplash and banned the German driver from competing. The Williams pilot will follow the Grand Prix on television, assuming it is played. The question is addressed at the end of the qualifications. Michelin tries an extreme manoeuvre:
"We asked the Federation to use new tires that we will deliver from our factory in Clermont Ferrand. They are the same employees in Spain, we trust them".
But Charlie Whiting, FIA technical manager and race director, unofficially replies:
"Good, so you violate five articles at once. If you do, I would have to report to the race stewards and they would take action".
The rules on the tires are precise: the punching takes place on Thursday, and on Saturday morning the choice of the set to be used in qualifying and the race, substitutions are not permitted. But the Michelin technicians retort:
"In the name of safety, exceptions are allowed".
"In the name of safety, after the punctures in Barcelona we went back to slower but more reliable tyres".
That is, worse for them if they have miscalculated, they will pay the consequences. Rubens Barrichello says:
"When we had problems, we solved them".
But Flavio Briatore rejects any hypothesis of compromise:
"We will not risk the lives of the drivers mor race just to get disqualified".
Very clear as well the comment that comes from the McLaren team:
"We will follow the indications of Michelin".
Toyota, despite the pole position obtained by Jarno Trulli, is very cautious:
"The safety of our men and the public comes first".
Instead, Luca Marmorini, engine designer, is more drastic:
"These tires last 20 laps. Either they give us guarantees or we won't run".
The Japanese manufacturer will therefore decide at the last minute whether to participate in the race (during free practice it also had tire problems with Jarno Trulli and twice with Ricardo Zonta). Meanwhile, Bridgestone pulls itself out of the fray, saying:
"Someone said that we would have to authorize or not the use of new tires by Michelin. The decision rests with the FIA".
It is unlikely that the Federation will create such a precedent, also because the safety issue does not involve all cars. In 2000 in Brazil, at the end of qualifying, Peter Sauber had the cars of Mika Salo and Pedro Paulo Diniz put back in the containers and went back to Switzerland because the spoilers came off. But if Michelin decides to withdraw, only Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi will show up at the start.
"You can't run in six".
Says Charlie Whiting. There is still a third way, the one that the diplomats of the organizers and Bernie Ecclestone (“Don't worry, in the end it will run”) try to follow until the end to avoid an image catastrophe. A dangerous tire becomes safe under certain conditions, which Michelin itself has indicated: increase the inflation pressure, decrease the camber (the angle between the tires and the asphalt), give up a little aerodynamic load, distribute the weight upwards front, choose a softer suspension setup. The price to pay is a drop in performance, but at least the rules are respected, form is saved, and the Grand Prix as well. The Michelin technicians do not rule out any kind of possibility. Michelin F1 Technical Manager Nick Shorrock explains:
"The tires are our property, but we won't prohibit the teams from using them. Ours is just an indication".
So you're going to say run only with pressure mods?
"This doesn't guarantee safety, because we don't know the problem yet. However…".
"The tests continue in Clermont Ferrand. Perhaps we will be able to have sufficient indications to guarantee the safety of the riders".
On Sunday 19 June 2005, until a few minutes before the start of the race, Michelin and the FIA are committed to reaching a compromise that can allow the smooth running of the event, jeopardized by the reliability problems encountered by the French tyres, without, however, getting any concrete result. Nonetheless, all the cars line up on the grid within the times established by the regulations: the race will apparently go ahead normally, despite the doubts about the reliability of the French tyres. But at the end of the formation lap, however, to the great surprise of the public, the cars with Michelin tires all entered the pit lane and retired. Immediately before the start, in a connection with the correspondent Ettore Giovannelli of Rai, the Renault team principal, Flavio Briatore, states that the teams that mount Michelin tires are in possession of a letter signed by the company which forbids the teams to run to safeguard the safety of the pilots. Briatore himself affirms that after qualifying, at the suggestion of the supplier and the other teams equipped with French tyres, an agreement was sought to install a chicane before the banked turn to slow down the cars and to start the six Bridgestone-shod cars in front, but the FIA did not accept this change to the track. The race then gets underway in a surreal atmosphere and amid protests from the audience in the stands, incredulous at seeing just six cars start from the grid, namely the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, the two Jordans of Tiago Monteiro and Narain Kartikeyan and the two Minardis of Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher, all fitted with Bridgestone tyres. The single-seaters of the Minardo team take part in the race despite the patron Paul Stoddart announcing that, in the event of the teams giving up on Michelin tyres, he too would withdraw his cars as a sign of solidarity: the Australian entrepreneur will subsequently affirm that his cars will line up because Jordan in turn violated an agreement that would have left only the two Ferraris on the grid.
The fight for victory was therefore restricted to the two Ferrari drivers, who accumulated an enormous advantage in a short time: the only tense moment came when Michael Schumacher left the pits after the second pit-stop, while his team-mate arrived team, Rubens Barrichello: the German resists the attempt to overtake by the Brazilian driver, at the braking point in the first corner, with the latter forced to widen and end up on the grass, returning behind Michael Schumacher, and then remaining until the end of the race for second place. Even with regard to third place, the situation was defined right from the start of the race: Tiago Monteiro got off to a better start than his teammate and began to pull away from him regularly, obtaining the first and only podium of his career, one lap behind the winner, as well as teammate Narain Karthikeyan, who is forced to settle for fourth place and the record for the first points for an Indian driver. Monteiro is the first Jordan-driving driver to finish on the podium since Giancarlo Fisichella at the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, as well as the first Portuguese to score points since Pedro Lamy at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix. rhe two Minardis obtain very precious points for the Constructors' World Championship in a race in which all those who started are attentive above all to finishing the race, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the other teams. Jamo Trulli, pole position and the shortest race of his career. The Thirty-one years old Italian took away another great satisfaction: he is the first driver to bring Toyota so high. In his career he had already succeeded twice with Renault. He pities the conclusion of the weekend: not even one lap. It was he who led the group of Michelin-shod single-seaters into the pit lane at the end of the formation lap, leaving only six cars on the starting grid. Is it more anger or disappointment at what happened?
"I would say resignation. Deep down we knew it would end like this after the accidents involving Ralf and Ricardo (Zonta, ed) during Friday's free practice. Michelin warned us that the tires weren't capable of facing the race".
And Trulli the Michelin, does not take it?
"No, these things happen. They have done an outstanding job for our team so far. When you build an object, whether it's a tire or a chair, you or whoever supplies you with the pieces can make a mistake. And when you realize it, it's too late. We discovered it in Indianapolis. Too late to fix it".
What does it mean?
"All the tires Michelin brought here have a manufacturing defect. I don't know exactly what it is, maybe it's the carcass web. Maybe. In this case, however, it would not be Michelin's fault, but one of its suppliers".
Nine teams have asked to put a chicane between turns 12 and 13...
"The position of Ferrari and Bridgestone is impeccable. We were wrong: the rules are clear and have therefore been respected".
Jacques Villeneuve argues that the relationship between Formula 1 and the United States is broken forever. Do you agree?
"No. The American public is very mature and knows that, for example, the Formula Indy and Nascar races are not held for safety reasons in case of rain. This is a similar case: first of all we thought about our safety and theirs, because an accident would have been inevitable with this type of tyre".
But wasn't there really a way out to run just the same, safeguarding safety?
"No. In the end it was a right decision. And the only one possible. I understand that Formula 1 doesn't come out very well, but it has shown that it has people's safety at heart before any other aspect, including the economic ones. A test of sensitivity".
The tire at risk was the left rear. In exceptional cases, substitution during the race is allowed: why didn't you try this route?
"Because the new rules only allow us to have two sets of tyres. Ok, we could replace it, and then what? There are 73 laps in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Michelin did not offer any type of guarantee, not even for ten laps".
Is this why the proposal to complete at least five laps before retiring was rejected?
"Exactly. We took the only road that guaranteed safety. Sorry for the fans. You will see, we will make up for it in two weeks in France".
Flavio Briatore is forced to play defense. It's a role that doesn't suit a pure striker. The Renault boss has to accept the letter from Michelin telling him not to race, he has to counter the offensive by Bernie Ecclestone who instead asks him to put the leader of the World Championship, Fernando Alonso, and Giancarlo Fisichella on the track for at least five laps , to save form and offer a shred of entertainment to the Speedway's 130.000 spectators. But the Italian manager is forced to say no, he who after the attack of 11 September (and the accident involving Alex Zanardi a few days in a Formula Cart race) was ready to kick his drivers (and also those of the others) who simply asked for a ban on overtaking on the first lap. Ecclestone did not like his position and as he left the circuit he limited himself to saying:
"I did what I could, this is a bad day".
The team manager of the French team even tries to avoid questions, he who by nature loves expressions and jokes. Eventually he is forced to give in. Briatore, did you hear the boos from the audience?
"We are for the safety of the riders. Whatever the thing to do for the safety of the riders, it must be done, otherwise we refuse to race".
There was the possibility of replacing the tires before the start, then being sanctioned by the Federation.
"It's the same thing: the riders risk even when the tires are in order. I don't send them out on the track for two hours and then see them disqualified".
Flavio Briatore leads the protest Michelin's mistake relaunches Ferrari's ambitions.
"Yes, there was an error from our tire suppliers. They admitted it, we can't kill them".
How did you spend the hours before the Grand Prix? You have been locked in meetings for hours without being able to find a solution.
"We tried to do our job, in complete safety for the riders. If the Federation had authorized us to do what we asked, we would have left. It didn't happen and the consequence was inevitable".
"We had a letter from Michelin in our hands warning us not to race because the tires would not last the whole race. How would you have behaved?"
What were your requests?
"A chicane between turns 12 and 13, where you travel at over 300 km/h, would have been enough. It would have served to slow down the cars. We were also willing to start behind the riders on the Bridgestone tyres, giving up the points. Proposals rejected".
Well, those were bold requests. Were you surprised by the rejection?
"I'm just saying we found a wall. And we couldn't have chosen otherwise: faced with a supplier who tells us that the tires are dangerous, we have to protect the safety of our riders".
Seventy-three laps, just one emotion and that's already been a lot, given the situation. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello gave themselves a battle for a few minutes, between lap 50 and lap 51. In the first stop, the World Champion had lost a few seconds too many and the Brazilian had taken the lead. The German pursued determined as always, to recover. When Rubens made his second pit stop, Schumacher picked up the pace and set a lap record, among other things. After entering the pits, Schumacher also returned to the track very fast. The F2005 of the Brazilian driver arrived on his trajectory. Barrichello attempted to overtake, but he went too wide and went off the road, cutting across the track, and then rejoining behind his teammate. It would have been a joke if the two Ferraris had excluded each other. It was the only thrill, apart from those caused by the spectators when they definitively understood that the race would have been truncated, without the presence of fourteen competitors including the two current leaders of the standings, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. A huge disappointment and a lot of anger, given that some troublemakers went so far as to throw bottles of water and cans of beer on the asphalt. A gesture of enormous danger: one cannot imagine what would have happened if one of these objects had hit the cars in the race or, even worse, the drivers. However, tensions were not lacking in the pits. Michael's first stop caused some concern. It seemed to the driver that there was something strange in his car that had precarious grip. So the technicians of the Maranello team preferred to check the suspension and tire pressure as best as possible, especially the one most used, i.e. the rear left. This mishap, which cost Schumacher three or four seconds, was basically the episode that gave the most interest to a race that could not be as spectacular or hard-fought as others. In addition to the challenge between Schumacher and Barrichello, who had no team orders nor were they driven from the pits, at least until three quarters of the Grand Prix when obviously the technical manager, Ross Brawn, via radio warned the two drivers not to do anything stupid, the poorest and boycotted United States Grand Prix in history lived on the fight for third place on the podium.
Starring Tiago Thiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan with the Jordan-Toyotas, and Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher with the two Minardi-Cosworths. In the end it was Tiago Monteiro, Portuguese from Porto, 29 years old, in his first season in Formula 1 with a brilliant but not exceptional past in the other categories, who beat his direct rivals. For Jordan of the Canadian tycoon of Russian origin Alexander Shnaider these are the first points after those conquered last year in Canada by the very good Nick Heidfeld who now demonstrates his qualities with the Williams-BMW. Paul Stoddart, owner of Minardi, does not talk about the result of Albers and Friesacher. The Australian limited himself to justifying the presence of his cars on the track, because in the morning Jordan had broken the front of the nine manufacturers who are fighting against the FIA, deciding to participate in the race. However, he too collects precious points that he would never have dreamed of gaining on a track like the American one. Everything can have a weight and two measures, when needed.
"Formula 1 in America is dead".
Jacques Villeneuve says it, many think it. The United States Grand Prix becomes a farce: two Ferraris in front, two Jordans in the middle, two Minardis in the rear, all in the points. They are the only teams capable of racing. The other seven had to give up after completing the formation lap which allowed the race to be validated. The public neither understood nor was warned. 130,000 people had paid from 85 to 150 dollars to attend a certain type of show and when they realized the hoax they lost their patience. Cans and plastic bottles flew onto the track (one exploded under Barrichello's wheels). People booed, gestured with their thumbs pointing down, shouted insults towards the innocent six, the only ones who attempted to honor their sporting commitment. The great hoax of Formula 1 had begun on Saturday morning, saturated with technology to the point of becoming a slave to it. Michelin had informed its seven customers that the tires had a defect, an unspecified problem which had caused Ralf Schumacher to crash in practice (the French technicians later discovered that it was a manufacturing defect). Regularly as Michelin ensures that - provided you change the inflation pressure and other adjustments of the single-seaters - there are no risks on a single lap. Once the pole position was archived (well done Trulli, and also clever in loading very little petrol: he had already understood that the race would not take place and he capitalized on all the glory possible), the negotiations begin, Michelin has 2000 new tires sent from France and in the meantime , invoking safety issues, calls for an exception to the regulation that allows you to change tyres. Nick Shorrock, director of Michelin Formula 1, writes to Charlie Whiting, race director and FIA delegate:
"We can't race with these tyres. We are asking for a change to the track (a chicane, ed) that reduces the speed between turns 12 and 13 (300 km/h out, ed)".
The reply is in three lines:
"The riders can slow down in that corner, use other tires, with consequent penalties, or change one worn tire at a time, provided there are valid safety reasons".
Michelin insists and the FIA's response becomes more ironic and weighty:
"We are surprised by your difficulties. Each team has two types of tires available. If one type doesn't work, the other is used, which usually has lower performance. It's hard to understand why you didn't do this after years of experience on this track. Now you can communicate to your customers what is the maximum speed at which they can enter turn 13, warning them not to hinder the passage of opponents".
Charlie Whiting also considers the tire change:
"The sanction probably wouldn't be exclusion from the softs, but in any case such as to discourage anyone who wanted to try again".
And on the question of the chicane:
"It's out of the question. We don't change a track just because some competitors weren't able to bring suitable competition material with them".
Thus, from 9:00 a.m. at 11:40 a.m. the heads of all the teams come together to find a solution. Tony George, the organizer, who already fears millionaire claims for compensation, is also present. The team managers reiterate their request for a chicane and in exchange they offer anything: they agree to be relegated to the starting grid, to leave the Bridgestone-shod teams ahead. They even give up points. George explains that the chicane can be built. The anti-Ferrari front regroups: Jordan and Minardi are open to compromise. The Maranello team does not participate in the meeting.
"Only the FIA can make such a decision. We accept what the FIA establishes. Anyone who says we oppose the chicane is lying. Sorry for the public, but the responsibilities are clear. Bridgestone did an excellent job which allowed us to get on track in total safety".
Faced with the impasse, Bernie Ecclestone is also moving. The Formula 1 owner sees his program in danger, he understands that the image, built with difficulty in an America that is a very rich market but loves other types of racing, could be compromised. Therefore, the English manager first goes to Briatore and asks him to go at least five laps. The answer is categorical:
"No, we can't jeopardize the safety of the riders and Michelin is telling us not to do it".
Ecclestone wags his finger menacingly:
"Bye-bye Formula 1".
And he leaves. Then Ecclestone finds Paul Stoddart, takes him with him to Tomita (Toyota), then to Fry (Honda). The group returns to the meeting room, and Flavio Briatore follows up. Other negotiations follow, but no one is willing to risk the accident.
"I did my best. Let's go, we'll see who wins".
Schumacher wins. Formula 1 loses.
"This has become a tire championship rather than a Formula 1 World Championship. They affect everyone too much, Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher also experienced it on Friday, we ourselves have had problems in past races".
Ferrari has clear ideas on the Indianapolis case. The Maranello team points out that:
"If we had blamed the same inconveniences experienced by the Michelin-supplied teams in the USA, the other teams would have said: take care of it, their problem".
In short, Ferrari accepts no responsibility for this mutilated race.
"There is no way that the rules are changed during the race on the Sunday morning before the race, and the attitude assumed by those who didn't race had the clear intention of forcing their hand to nullify the race or to insert an unexpected chicane".
In Indianapolis there is no jump on the top step of the podium; no splashes of champagne for Schumacher and Barrichello. A very restrained attitude on the part of the Ferrari drivers at the awards ceremony, in front of the spectators still astounded by what had happened, with the fans applauding and waving their flags, while the others, furious, do nothing but insult the organizers and anyone who happens to be there. Returning to success after a long wait, the German cannot appreciate success as on other occasions. However, after nine races the Ferrari driver breaks the negative chain, hitting his victory number 84, which coincided with the number 183 of the Scuderia Ferrari, which also increases the statistics relating to one-two wins: 69 in history, the number 24 with the current pair of riders. Michael Schumacher, at the end of the race, admits:
"It was a difficult day. A few minutes before the start we didn't know anything, what decisions had been made by the other teams. Rubens and I also tried to entertain the audience. It was a unique Grand Prix for the situation in which it was raced, but I don't want to call it a disaster. It was also nice to duel with Rubens. In the first laps we even found some beer on the track…".
To those who ask if he would have raced if Bridgestone had had Michelin's problems, the German replies:
"Certainly not. But above all, we have great respect for the regulations. It was very sad to go back to the pits and find them practically empty. From a competitive point of view, I gave my all. I wanted to win because I have to make up points in the standings, as I want to fight for the World Championship".
The American media point out to Schumacher how this race has compromised the image of Formula 1 in general, but especially in the States where he is trying hard to regain popularity.
"I am very sorry. We will try to regain the confidence next year when we return to Indianapolis. I'm sure we will. In any case, with regard to safety, I want to tell an episode: in 2000 a commissioner died at Monza hit by a wheel that had come off Frentzen's car in an accident. I was very worried and the following year on the same track I asked the other riders to go slow in the first chicane, which was dangerous. Only two or three listened to me and someone said I'm scared. However, our cars were doing very well here and I think we could have won even if all our rivals had been there".
The word sadness is the one most pronounced by Barrichello:
"A race to forget, sad, with different emotions. I also tried to win, when I found myself in the lead I tried to detach Michael, then it went the way it did. But it's meaningless on a day like this. Seeing the cars in the pits was painful, it was difficult to compete in certain conditions, to find the right concentration. Having said that, we ran the race because we had worked well with the Bridgestone and everything was working properly. I am mortified for the fans, but we are not to blame. It was right to get on track for them too".
Those words expressed during the afternoon by Jacques Villeneuve weigh like boulders as, taking off his helmet, he returns to the Sauber pits. The judgment of the Canadian pilot is one of those that do not allow replies.
"After something like this, after what happened today in Indianapolis, Formula 1 in America will never be able to recover. Formula 1 is dead".
Villeneuve also explains the reason for the withdrawal of all Michelin-shod cars:
"There were no solutions for the teams because everything was in the hands of the Federation. You could have raced with a chicane, but one team didn't accept it".
Can you name? Jacques replies calmly:
Then, at the end of the race, the joint press release of the teams that did not race is proposed:
"Sorry, but we couldn't do anything else".
This is the sense of the sheet signed by the seven teams (McLaren-Mercedes, Williams-BMW, Renault, Bar-Honda, Sauber, Red Bull, Toyota) who asked their drivers to return to the pits after the formation lap.
"The Michelin teams deeply regret the position they have taken today and would like to apologize to all viewers, present and televised, F1 fans and sponsors for not being able to attend the United States Grand Prix in Today. Following Ralf Schumacher's accident on Friday morning, we were informed by Michelin that none of the available tires could be used, unless speed was reduced at turn 13. Without this speed reduction, Michelin did not consider it safe to the run its tires. All the teams trust Michelin and trust his advice, as they know he is competent and responsible. For this reason, the written instructions not to race were accepted, unless modifications were made to the circuit".
"When, around 6:30 a.m., the final data from Michelin showed that it was not possible to guarantee the safety of the drivers, discussions and meetings began to find a safe solution to the problem. Every racing possibility was explored. The only practical solution was to install a chicane before turn 13 and nine teams were ready to race in these conditions, even giving up world championship points or handing the top positions to non-Michelin teams in grill. Unfortunately all the proposals were rejected by the FIA".
And he concludes:
"Safety is always the first concern for all the teams and for the FIA. Reluctantly, the teams were forced to follow Jacques Villeneuve's instructions: with the chicane we would have run Michelin for the race. It's sad that today we couldn't show F1 as we would have liked".
For his part, Tony George, owner of the American circuit, booed loudly by the public who asked for the money back for the tickets, through a press release discharges all responsibility, and suggests sending emails to the FIA, Michelin and Formula One Management, attaching for all websites as well. On Monday 19 June 2005, irony, contempt and accusations alternated in the US newspapers.
Headlines the Indianapolis Star. Who bids farewell to Formula 1 in the article:
"The American fans are disgusted, they made obscene gestures, they ask for their money back. Au revoir Michelin, hello Ferrari, goodbye Formula 1: don't slam the door when you leave. Nice release, Mr. Bernie Ecclestone".
Nothing compared to the reaction of the German press, which can be summarized in the heated tones of the Bild:
"Shame on Formula 1. A scandalous victory for Shumi".
No metaphor even in the text:
"We have witnessed the biggest scandal in the history of racing".
Joie Chitwood III swears revenge: he is the organizer, the president of the Indy Motor Speedway, who explains during an emergency press conference:
"The event was out of our control. We learned on Saturday evening that there was a problem, and on Sunday morning we learned that a solution was in sight. We were never informed of the negotiations. The chicane proposed by Michelin? They didn't tell us about it. We are evaluating how to compensate the spectators".
Perhaps after asking for damages from Formula 1. Michelin had invited the seven teams to which it supplies the tires not to race for safety reasons. And they all obeyed. Chitwood nods, before saying:
"Yeah, security. For us it is essential. In fact, we are the largest motor racing organizers in the United States and in this facility we host, among others, the Indy 500 and Nascar races. When we prepare for a global event, we make sure everything is in order. Someone else can't say the same".
And he mentions names and surnames: the FIA, F1 (ie FOM, the organizing company headed by Bernine Ecclestone) and Michelin. The future of the US Grand Prix?
"Five years of efforts to advertise F1 were wiped out in one day. We will see. I hope there is a future. A huge step backwards has certainly been taken. We share the discouragement of the over one hundred thousand spectators. We are victims like them".
It is difficult for the seven teams and Michelin not to have repercussions. The Federation summons all those responsible for Wednesday 29 June 2005 in Paris before the World Motor Sport Council. Someone will have to pay for the image damage, and unfortunately that's not a figure of speech: there are millions of dollars to be repaid and US lawyers are already studying the case. Failure to participate is one of the most serious faults in sport. Michelin is at great risk, just in the aftermath of the Federation's proposal to eliminate one of the two tire suppliers for economic reasons. Bridgestone, which supplies Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi, the three teams on the track, classified in order, has never given problems. On the contrary, the French already in 2003 have been forced to change the tires during the season because they were too wide, and therefore uneven. Bar-Honda is also at risk (which after the race was subjected to the throwing of cans and stones by a small group of enraged spectators): not because it behaved worse than the others, but because it is already benefiting from the suspended sentence after the disqualification of Imola. The Circus now moves to Magny-Cours, France. Clermont-Ferrand, headquarters of Michelin, is only 200 kilometers away. During the Indianapolis Show Race, someone saw Pierre Dupasquier cry. The number one in the sports management of the French company is close to retirement and never, he says, has he suffered such a disappointment. Ferrari returns to Europe with a nice booty. And with a competitive F2005, even if the regret remains for the absurd outline of the American race.
"Live by the tire, perish by the tire".
Luca Montezemolo sums it up, hoping for fair competition and clear rules. The president is certain:
"If it had happened to Ferrari, the reaction would have been: too bad for you, don't start or go slowly. This goes for everyone. Of course, the public had to be informed. This is a championship where tires have an excessive preponderance, someone was in trouble on Sunday like we have been in other races. Too much noise has been made about a story that was clear from the start: the regulation was born under pressure from a little bit of everyone, also to limit Ferrari's alleged excessive power. It is the third rule change in the past three years. We did the first races always thinking about safety and distance. I don't think Indianapolis was the first case of tires at the limit or over the limit. Impossible to change the circuit two hours earlier; as if in a football match it was decided on Sunday morning to enlarge the goals or only play on half the pitch because a team has problems. We could start, go slowly or stop as we have done many times".
"Now we hope to win the next race".
Ferrari will face the French Grand Prix with a much better standing: they jumped from fifth to second place, with McLaren, in the Constructors' World Championship; Michael Schumacher is third, followed by Rubens Barrichello. The gaps have decreased: 13 points from Renault, while the German driver is 25 points behind Fernando Alonso.
A lot, but it can be recovered and the car will improve further: a slightly more powerful engine made its debut in the United States, from Tuesday 20 June 2005 in Barcelona a new aerodynamic package will be tested for Magny-Cours. Michael Schumacher goes on to say:
"I wish I had won another way. But there are good reasons to be happy. Ferrari has suffered from the start of the season. Now there has been a turnaround. We pushed hard in the race, it was psychologically difficult to race with that void on the track but we would have fought for the victory with everyone anyway".
The German pilot also reveals a curious story:
"Bridgestone had tires that would have provided better performance. After the tests, for safety reasons, it was decided to adopt a tested type. Here too we are improving. The risk of collision with Rubens? Well, we were pushing hard, both intent on winning. But we are professionals and we do not go beyond the limits".
Rubens Barrichello, very serene, tries to forget the episode by making a joke:
"I'm too good for this team mate".
Friction between Schumacher and Barrichello? Jean Todt says:
"This is our last thought. One rightfully wants to be ahead of the other. But they respect a team in which the only tension is the will to improve. And we still have to work hard. In Indianapolis we were still competitive. Many things could happen in the ten remaining races".
Todt doesn't judge the decision of the other teams, and he has no fears if this year Ferrari finds itself alone against the majority of teams:
"It's strange that instead of adapting to the rules, someone expects the rules to adapt to situations. Ridiculous. We don't feel like we're in the dock of the accused, but we don't feel like we're in the dock of the imbeciles either. If there was a problem at turn 13, it would have been enough to reduce the speed at that point, or, as we do, increase the tire pressure. You lose in performance, but you are safe. In Indianapolis we anticipated Schumacher's pit stop to check the tyres. In Malaysia with Rubens and in Barcelona with Michael we had problems losing precious results, but we didn't ask to stop the race or change the track. We won like in boxing: by technical knockout. The first success of the season and the first brace, albeit in particular circumstances. I'm sorry for the American organizers and for the fans. Let's hope that such a story does not repeat itself. The FIA will certainly consider the situation carefully".
Following the many controversies, Michelin will decide to compensate all the tickets for the event and offer 20.000 tickets for the 2006 edition, distributed among the spectators of the 2005 edition.