The United States Grand Prix Preview 29 Jun 2006
How many cars will race this Sunday? Thats the only question fans here in Indianapolis want to know after the incidents in 2005. The answer, barring disasters, will be 22.
The spotlight this weekend will be very firmly on the tyre manufacturers, at least to begin with, and having reportedly spent several million dollars atoning for last years embarrassment, Michelin are determined not to suffer again.
We knew before we left Indianapolis last year what was wrong with the tyres we had taken there and what the lateral forces of Indianapolis Motor Speedways bankings did to their sidewalls, a spokesman has said, and even by the end of the season the bespoke tyres we make for each circuit were incorporating structural changes as a direct result.
"Since then, further testing has been carried out on test rigs back at our base in Clermont-Ferrand, and at Calspan in Buffalo, New York, where it is possible to spin tyres at very high speeds while applying specific loadings. We are thus confident that we will have a suitable choice of tyres for all of our teams.
Michelin have also reimbursed disgruntled spectators, and made available 20,000 free tickets for this weekends Grand Prix.
The cars have come straight from Montreal, and nobody has anything major to add to them since they all run the same fundamental low-downforce aero packages here as in Canada. Naturally, Fernando Alonso is determined to make it five out of the last five, while Michael Schumacher is hoping that Bridgestones offering for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be effective enough to enable him to qualify strongly and to fight for the victory. McLaren will also be a significant threat based on Kimi Raikkonens performance in Canada - remember that he turned the races fastest lap on the 22nd tour while running two laps more fuel than Alonso. Juan Pablo Montoya also likes the circuit very much and always goes well here.
Honda should also fare better here, but former winner Rubens Barrichello says: "I had a disappointing race in Montreal so we will be hoping for better this weekend, but it will be tough for us until we return to testing and work on improving the performance of the car."
Team mate Jenson Button says: Indianapolis always has a great atmosphere. The circuit itself is very slow with the tight in-field section. I generally prefer fast flowing circuits but you can overtake around here which should make for some exciting racing for the fans. We will be using different tyres at Indy to those we used last weekend in Montreal so I am hoping that we can have a better race here."
The Indianapolis track is largely unchanged, including the infamous diamond grading in banked Turn 13, which was the subject of much scrutiny last year.