Ferrari clean up in US Grand Prix 02 Jul 2006
Schumacher wins incident-packed Indianapolis race
Michael Schumacher spearheaded a Ferrari 1-2 at Indianapolis this afternoon, as the red cars ran away and hid from their opposition.
As Schumacher clawed back six valuable points of the 25-point deficit to Fernando Alonso, he became the only man to win five big races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Legends such as A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Snr and Rick Mears were four-time winners of the famed 500 mile race, while Jeff Gordon has won four Brickyard 400 NASCAR races here too. Schumacher won the inaugural Grand Prix here in 2000, gifted the 2002 race to Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello on the finish line, and took the 2003, 2004 and 2005 races too.
A huge crowd did not have to wait long for drama to unfold after the start. As Felipe Massa outdragged Schumacher into the lead going down to Turn 1, mayhem ensued in the midfield. The first of two incidents was triggered when Juan Pablo Montoya hit the back of McLaren team mate Kimi Raikkonen. The Colombians MP4-21 then made contact with Jenson Buttons Honda, which in turn hit Nick Heidfelds BMW Sauber and sent the German into a horrifying series of rolls into a gravel bed. At the same time, Mark Webber, Scott Speed, Christian Klien and Franck Montagny got together, with the result that the track looked like the venue for a demolition derby. Particularly painful for the fans was that Speed, the first American to start a US Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever in Phoenix in 1989, went only a few hundred yards.
The safety car was deployed and stayed out until lap six. By that time Button had also joined the retirees with damage to the Honda. In 2005 only six cars started the race; already the field this time round was down to 14. That soon became 12 when Takuma Satos attempt to pass Midlands Tiago Monteiro in the first corner on lap seven took himself and Super Aguri out of the equation and led to Monteiros subsequent demise a few laps later with bodywork damage.
Massa held the lead until his pit stop on lap 30. Schumacher stopped a lap later and resumed before Massa reached the pit-lane exit, and thereafter they settled down to an easy run to the flag. On this day Bridgestone had a small but crucial advantage. Giancarlo Fisichella was clearly quicker than Fernando Alonso and breezed past him into Turn 1 on lap 15. He soon pulled away, but though the Michelin-shod Renault wasnt that much slower on lap time, the Italian couldnt close the 8-second gap to the red cars.
Alonso had a miserable time, falling behind the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher (the Italian starting from the pit lane after suspension repairs were necessary on his TF106B after qualifying), and only made fifth place after Schumacher Jnr retired in the pits on the 63rd lap.
Rubens Barrichello pushed hard early on, on a lighter fuel load than Alonso, and eventually brought his Honda RA106 home sixth ahead of the battling David Coulthard and Tonio Liuzzi. Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso monstered the faster Red Bull car all the way through to his fuel stop on the 39th lap, but Coulthard went even longer, not stopping until the 47th. That proved crucial, and the Scot was well clear for seventh by the flag. Liuzzi fought strongly to catch and pass Nico Rosbergs Williams going into Turn 1 on the 47th lap, and Schumacher Jnrs retirement promoted him to his first point of the season and Toro Rossos first. Rosberg, in ninth, was the final finisher.
The other retirements were Jacques Villeneuve, who was fighting with Barrichello and Schumacher Jnr for fifth place initially right behind Alonso, and Christijan Albers. Villeneuves BMW Sauber suffered an engine failure, while Albers made a series of pit stops before quitting with a mechanical problem.
Now Alonso leads the series with 88 points to Schumachers 69, and as Formula One racing prepares to return to Europe, Ferrari do so with greater confidence.
We can only hope to keep some of the edge we had this weekend and transform it into the European season, Schumacher said. There are eight races and 80 points to come. 19 points behind is not a lot and it is not impossible at all to fight for the title. I think we can do it.