Sometimes you just get a feeling about the way things will turn out, and
that was what happened in Indianapolis. All through practice on Friday Ferrari
looked strong, and the team didn't disappoint either during qualifying or during
Sunday's race. Game, set, match and 18 points to Maranello and tyre-manfacturer
Bridgestone. The result came just in time for the team to do something about
Renault's runaway progress. After Canada the scores in the constructors'
championship were 121 to 87, with Renault 34 points ahead. But they left
Indianapolis on 131 and 105 respectively. The least convincing performance of
the season by Renault and Michelin thus reduced their advantage to 26.
There was, of course, jubilation in the Ferrari camp, and rightfully so.
Bridgestone were also pretty pleased. No doubt the running they did here in last
year's race helped.
At Renault there were long faces, though long-term this may simply prove to
have been a case of Bridgestone getting the tyre situation absolutely right and
Michelin being a little too conservative. Certainly, for the first time this
year, Renault's R26 lacked its habitual poise and balance. While Ferrari enjoyed
the maximum result, 'les bleus' had to be content with a haul of only 10 points,
for third and fifth places. On this occasion factors worked in Giancarlo
Fisichella's favour; the Italian had the latest engine whereas Fernando Alonso's
was a little tired, and Fisichella was happier with his car's set-up. It wasn't
a great weekend for either of them, but equally it wasn't the end of the world.
Most other teams fared a lot worse and, for Renault, the United States Grand
Prix was probably just a glitch.
Look at McLaren, both cars wiped out in the first two corners. Or Honda,
who lost Jenson Button in the same incident. Or BMW, Red Bull, Williams, Toro
Rosso or Super Aguri who also lost a car apiece. This was undoubtedly an
expensive start to a race.
Let's look at how the first incident evolved. First of all, five or six
cars tried to go into Turn One abreast. There was the inevitable funneling and
bottling effect, as Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, Juan Pablo
Montoya and Scott Speed all got caught up behind the group comprising Rubens
Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve. On the inside, Raikkonen
had to brake. At the same time Button was looking for a way round him in the
middle of the track, with Heidfeld on the outside of him. As Raikkonen braked,
Montoya struck the back of him. Both spun. Montoya caught Button, who in turn
flipped Heidfeld into his series of rolls. Speed couldn't avoid either Button or
Further back, Klien overcooked it under braking and took out Webber before
brushing Albers, and an innocent Montagny couldn't avoid hitting Klien. The
result was immediate retirement for Raikkonen, Montoya, Heidfeld, Speed, Klien,
Webber and Montagny, while Button retired after three stops to investigate
Not long afterwards, the second Super Aguri was out of the race after
Takuma Sato's inside passing move sent him into the side of Tiago Monteiro's
Midland. The Japanese driver was out on the spot; Monteiro made a series of
stops before retiring with bodywork and radiator damage. Team mate Albers had
earlier sustained bodywork damage, and eventually succumbed to a transmission
After Heidfeld's early retirement amidst the carnage of Turn One, BMW
Sauber's chances were ruined when Villeneuve exited the fight for fourth place
thanks to engine failure.
It's funny how some races see nearly everyone finishing, and others witness
carnage. Six cars started here last year and all six finished (equalling the
1961 Dutch Grand Prix when all starters made it home); whereas this time only
nine cars finished out of the 22 that started.
Behind the Ferraris, and splitting the Renaults, Toyota's Jarno Trulli had
a great day that he could never realistically have expected after starting the
race from the pit lane. His Toyota TF106B had required some new rear suspension
parts and Trulli had been put to the back of the grid by the officials; a long
first stint hoisted him well up the depleted field, and he easily stayed ahead
of the troubled Alonso to the flag. Toyota's only disappointment was Ralf
Schumacher's demise on lap 63, but their five point haul brings them to 16
points, only three away from BMW Sauber's fifth place.
Honda had something to cheer about as Rubens Barrichello brought his RA106
home sixth. Generally, this was a better weekend for the Brackley team despite
the early loss of Button. The Brazilian reported that his car was pleasant
enough to drive in, and the resultant three points helped increase their cushion
over BMW Sauber in the constructor's championship.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso had something to celebrate, too. David Coulthard
must have grown very tired of seeing Vitantonio Liuzzi right on his tail for the
first half of the race. The Italian exploited his new engine for all it was
worth but still suffered poor straight-line speed which denied him the chance to
attack going into Turn One. Eventually Liuzzi stopped for fuel before Coulthard,
and the Scot's ability to run over eight laps more before pitting (47 to
Liuzzi's 39) settled the issue of seventh place firmly in his favour. Liuzzi
drove a blinder to haul in and pass Nico Rosberg's Williams, and scored his
first point of the season and Toro Rosso's first ever when Ralf Schumacher
retired. Rosberg, meanwhile, struggled with a poor-handling car, and to make
matter worse for Williams, Red Bull's two points took them ahead of them in the
So that's Formula One racing's North American leg over, and once again it
was beneficial to Ferrari as they scored 30 points. But Renault took away 25,
and they will be back strongly at Magny-Cours as they seek to beat the Ferrari
team on home ground.