Michael Schumacher was officially credited with having won the 2005 United States Grand Prix but, with only six cars taking the start, even the German appeared underwhelmed by his 'achievement'.

There was no trademark leap onto the podium, and no champagne shower afterwards, as Ferrari toned down celebrations for its 1-2 result. Schumacher and team-mate Rubens Barrichello duly lapped the field, with Jordan's Tiago Monteiro taking his first podium in joyless circumstances. Sympathy for the Portuguese rookie, who didn't know whether to celebrate or not before embarking on a one-man acknowledgement of the jeering crowd, was widespread.

Team-mate Narain Karthikeyan and Minardi drivers Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher all racked up their first F1 points after all seven Michelin teams acceded to the tyre company's advice and withdrew at the end of the formation lap.

Indeed, with the exception of a close call right at the start - which could have reduced the field by a third - and another as Schumacher robustly regained the lead from his team-mate at two-thirds distance, the 'action' took place before the lights went out.

Even before the race, there was confusion as to exactly what was going to happen. Would there be a race at all? Would the Michelin runners defy the advice of their tyre supplier and race? Would the FIA relent and allow a chicane to be built between turns twelve and 13?

As time ticked down towards the scheduled start, and the all-important television companies to be satisfied, it became clear that the latter option wasn't an option at all, with no time for construction, let alone testing. In the end, all 20 cars lined up on the dummy grid, but no-one - least of all the Michelin runners - were willing to divulge anything. Maybe they didn't really know what was going to happen, maybe they just weren't telling...

The uncertainty spilled over even onto the warm-up lap, with David Coulthard heard on the Red Bull team radio insisting that, if he were given the option to start or not, he would take the risk and race. In the end, however, the 14 Michelin runners all complied with the wishes of their teams, who had been told by the tyre company that the rubber provided could not be guaranteed to run more than ten laps without suffering the sort of problem that put Ralf Schumacher in the wall on Friday. An alternative specification had been flown in from Clermont-Ferrand but, like the chicane proposal, had been rejected as a means of ensuring a full field.

Perhaps appositely in the land of litigation, the American fans were 'treated' to the site of two-thirds of the field peeling into the pits at the end of the formation lap, the teams clearly unwilling to risk injury or worse by running on unsuitable rubber. Whether those fans who stood and booed loudly - and provided the odd 'free drink' for the withdrawn drivers - could sue for mental distress remains unclear....

With the 14 Michelin-shod cars parking up, the remaining sextet - all Bridgestone-tyred, of course - duly took their places on the grid. This naturally gave Ferrari an added headstart, with 'seventh-placed' Rubens Barrichello already ten slots further ahead of 'nearest challenger' Tiago Monteiro, but the Scuderia hardly needed any extra help. All of its main rivals were beginning to strip off their unsullied overalls, handing Schumacher and Barrichello the chance to make serious inroads into previously mountainous points deficits.

While the two scarlet cars made a formation getaway at the front, the assorted Jordans and Minardis at least gave those fans who had not already started to walk out something to watch at the start. Determined to hold or gain position, the four cars diced to the opening corner, with one near miss as Christijan Albers attempted to fend off Narain Karthikeyan close to the pit-wall. Collision avoided, that was it in terms of action until the pit-stops.

While the 'backmarkers' managed to swap positions during the fuel stops, little was expected of the battle for the lead, particularly given Ferrari's previous record of staged finishes. However, it quickly became apparent that both Schumacher and Barrichello had been given their head, at least for the opening stages. The Brazilian, no doubt sensing an opportunity for payback after Schumacher's last lap lunge in Monaco, harried his team-mate right through the first stops, eventually getting his reward by emerging in front of the world champion.

Schumacher had been delayed by an extra-long stop - later described as 'relaxed' by the team - while his mechanics checked over the left rear tyre for signs of undue wear. That was the same corner as had caused consternation for the Michelin runners, but Schumacher's concerns were more likely sparked by running over some of the detritus thrown onto the track by disgruntled fans. In all, 16 seconds were spent stationary, allowing the more hasty Barrichello to slip ahead.

Schumacher's longer stop had allowed Ferrari to give him an extra couple of laps worth of fuel, and the call came from Chris Dyer to push lest Barrichello build a decisive advantage. Clearly still racing, the pair began lapping the opposition before the second round of stops, with the gap remaining such the result was still in doubt when Schumacher made his final fuel call.

There was no delay for the German this time around, but Barrichello still appeared to hold the slightest edge as both headed for turn one from their different starting points. Even into the corner, the Brazilian appeared ahead, but Schumacher stuck the nose of his F2005 on the leader's preferred line, forcing Barrichello to take avoiding action that had him bouncing across the infield before rejoining.

That was enough for the Scuderia to issue the two drivers with the reminder that both cars needed to get to the finish, effectively sealing the victory in Schumacher's favour.

Further back, only reliability appeared likely to alter the result, and it was testimony at least to the improved performance of the backmarkers that all six starters made it to the chequered flag. Monteiro held sway for most of the race, although the pit-stops did at least allow both Karthikeyan and Albers a sniff of the podium. The Portuguese, however, wasn't quite sure what to make of his unexpected opportunity, not knowing whether to celebrate what could be his only piece of F1 silverware or not.

In the end, he decided to make the most of moment, not necessarily to the delight of those fans who had decided to get their devalued money's worth, but the Ferrari duo alongside him decided the discretion was the better part of valour, setting their trophies down on their respective steps and refusing to spray the champagne. Schumacher and Barrichello even slipped quietly away as soon as the presentation was over, leaving centre stage to their surprise companion.

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