19 June 2005
USA 2005: Schumacher's hollow victory.
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.
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