2 July 2006
US 2006: Same result, different story for Schumi.
If the American fans that gave Indianapolis and Formula One a second chance were looking for something different this season, they only got part of what they hoped for as Ferrari again romped to a 1-2 result.
Michael Schumacher duly took his fifth USGP win at the Brickyard, but was made to work for it, at least visually, as team-mate Felipe Massa made the better start from row one and headed the polesitter for the best part of 30 laps. After the first round of pit-stops, however, normality was restored, with Schumacher not headed thereafter.
The main talking point of the race was the absence of several cars after the opening lap, but the story was, thankfully, a little different to the farce that took place in 2005. This time, however, the consequences could have been more serious than the mass pull-out of twelve months ago, and it had nothing to do with tyres.
Instead, seven cars were eliminated in a brace of first corner shunts, the most serious seeing BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld sent into a series of barrel-rolls after being clipped by a combination of Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button. The Finn had already been hit up the rear by McLaren team-mate Juan Montoya - who claimed that Raikkonen braked more heavily than he had been expecting - and was left with nowhere to go as Button tried to pass around the outside of turn two. Heidfeld was an innocent victim of their touch, as was Scott Speed - who was trying to pick his way past the initial accident when he was collected by the spinning Raikkonen. Further back, Christian Klien spun into turn one, and was collected by Franck Montagny and Mark Webber, the Frenchman enduring yet another short race for Super Aguri.
The safety car was deployed to clear away the wreckage - Heidfeld's car was in the barriers but in bits, while the McLarens were stranded on the exit kerb at turn two and those of Klien and Montagny in the braking area for turn one - and that allowed those that had started at the back to close right up on those that had avoided the incidents by being at the sharp end of the grid.
The biggest gainers included Jarno Trulli, who had been forced to start from pit-lane after Toyota had to pull his car from parc ferme to replace the damaged suspension that caused the Italian to fall at the first stage of qualifying. Nico Rosberg, who had his times stripped for missing the weighbridge, and Tonio Liuzzi, who had opted for an engine change, also closed on to the tail of the field, which numbered just 15 after the first lap carnage.
The casualty list grew further under the safety car, as Button pitted for a new front wing, only to find water leaking from a damaged radiator. With a top-up prohibited by the regulations, Honda had no choice but to withdraw the luckless Briton.
Button was classified with three laps under his belt, half the number allocated to former BAR team-mate Takuma Sato, who greeted the restart by making contact with Midland's Tiago Monteiro. As usual, views on where the blame lay differed according to which camp was asked, with Sato claiming that Monteiro left him no room after turning in on the Super Aguri, while the Portuguese accused his rival of failing to brake hard enough into the tight right-hander. Whatever the cause, the field was inching perilously close to the single figures that had caused such uproar in 2005.
What made things all the more galling for Midland and Super Aguri - which had collided on more than one occasion in the past - was the fact that this was a race in which both could conceivably have scored points. With Montagny already out, Super Aguri was going home empty-handed, while Christijan Albers' Midland was showing the scars of battle and would require four pit-stops before eventually succumbing to gearbox failure.
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