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Indianapolis 2004 - pain and gain 15 Jun 2005

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari celebrates victory on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004 Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR finished 3rd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams BMW FW26 crashes at turn 13.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004 Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004 celebrates with Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004 Paul Stoddart (AUS) Minardi Team Principal and Zsolt Baumgartner (HUN) Minardi celebrate scoring one point.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, United States Grand Prix, Race Day, Indianapolis, USA, 20 June 2004

Michael wins as brother survives high-speed crash

Last year’s United States Grand Prix brought mixed fortunes for the Schumacher family. A victory for Michael saw him extend his already commanding lead in the driver standings, but brother Ralf was left with fractured vertebrae after a heavy collision with the notorious Indianapolis wall in his Williams.

Rubens Barrichello was the man to beat in practice at Indianapolis last year. He topped the first three sessions, as his Ferrari team mate struggled to find a set-up to his liking. Only in the fourth session was he eclipsed, by Jenson Button, setting the stage for another Ferrari-BAR showdown in qualifying. In the end it proved a formation grid - Ferrari one-two (Barrichello, Michael Schumacher), BAR three-four (Takuma Sato, Button) and Williams five-six (Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher). Jarno Trulli was the biggest loser of the session, an electronics glitch on his Renault preventing him from setting a time.

Drama started early in the race - on the grid in fact. Montoya bailed out of his race car just seconds (less than the required 15) before the formation lap got underway, a move which saw him black-flagged 57 laps into the 73-lap race. When the lights went out it was Renault’s Fernando Alonso who stunned the pack, rocketing from ninth to third into Turn One. Chaos reigned at the rear, though, as Cristiano da Matta’s Toyota triggered a four-car incident which eliminated Jaguar’s Christian Klien, Jordan’s Giorgio Pantano, the Sauber of Felipe Massa and Gianmaria Bruni’s Minardi on lap one, bringing out the safety car for five laps.

When it came in Michael Schumacher got the jump on leader Barrichello and powered past his team mate to seize the advantage. The safety car was soon back though, after Ralf Schumacher’s Williams went into the wall at Turn 13 following a puncture - an accident that put him out for the next six races.

Michael was among those who took the opportunity to pit and so slowly did the pack weave their way through the debris that he was able to rejoin in the lead immediately behind the safety car. From there he lost P1 only briefly to Barrichello while making his second stop. Montoya looked a potential challenger to the Ferrari one-two until he was shown the black flag, leaving Sato’s charge to third the main source of entertainment. Having lost out by not pitting under the safety car the BAR driver was forced to put in some typically aggressive moves, including a strong pass on Trulli into Turn one to seize his first Formula One podium spot.

Trulli held on to fourth to bring some consolation for Renault, who had earlier seen team mate Alonso crash out with a puncture, while Olivier Panis gave Toyota their highest placing of the year with fifth. McLaren were again off the pace, but they at least brought both cars home in the points (Kimi Raikkonen sixth, David Coulthard seventh) to lift them above Sauber in the standings. The biggest celebrations were at Minardi after Zsolt Baumgartner won the Italian squad their first point in over two years. In eighth place, the Hungarian was the final driver still running when the chequered flag fell on what was a race of high attrition at Indianapolis.

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