'It's not a great day for Formula One'
Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher emerged with the victory in a United States Grand Prix that fell little short of farce on on Sunday after the withdrawal of 14 Formula One cars running on suspect Michelin tyres left only six cars in the race.
All seven of the teams supplied by Michelin formed up on the grid, but were back in the pits at the end of the warm-up lap leaving Ferrari, Minardi and Jordan, all on Bridgestone tyres, to race.
As big-screen televisions showed the drivers climbing out of their cars, boos rang out from the crowd of more than 100Â 000 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and angry fans threw things at the track.
“It was mainly bottles, maybe some beer,” Schumacher said.
More jeers greeted the award ceremony, where Ferrari topped the podium for the first time this year after Schumacher’s 1,5-second victory over teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil and Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro. Monteiro finished a lap back to become the first Portugese driver to post a podium finish in Formula One.
“It’s not the right way to win my first one this year,” admitted Schumacher, Germany’s seven-time world champion who has now won four of the six US Grands Prix staged at Indianapolis.
“It is just a shame we could not fight in the normal way, because I think that even with the other cars we could have won.”
Schumacher jumped two places to third in the world drivers standings, with 34 points to the 59 of leader Fernando Alonso and 37 of second-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
After their one-two finish, Ferrari are tied for second with McLaren in the constructors’ championship, 13 points behind Renault.
Despite having the track virtually to themselves, Schumacher and his Brazilian teammate nearly collided as Schumacher returned from a pitstop on lap 51.
Barrichello was forced off the track and across the grass before resuming in second place.
Monteiro was followed home by his Jordan teammate Narain Karthikeyan of India in fourth, and Minardi’s Christijan Albers of the Netherlands and Austrian teammate Patrick Friesacher.
But the race will be remembered for who wasn’t there, a fiasco that dismayed Red Bull driver David Coulthard of Scotland.
“This is going to leave a long-lasting and bitter taste in the mouth, but as drivers we had to follow instructions from those above us,” he said.
“It is quite remarkable that in the interests of the sport we weren’t able to find a solution. We have upset the viewers and the spectators,” he said.
Red Bull sporting director Christian Horner said: “I have the greatest of sympathy for all the fans and supporters here today, but we were left with no other option based on the advice of our tyre supplier.
It has been a difficult situation and unfortunately, the result hasn’t been fantastic. It’s not a great day for Formula
Renault chief Flavio Briatore said they had wanted to race even if they had used new tyres and had to forfeit points under FIA rules.
“We don’t care if Ferrari would have got the points, we just wanted to race for the fans and spectators,” he said.
The mass defection capped a morning of confusion that saw the International Automobile Federation (FIA) veto the suggestion of introducing a temporary chicane before the final turn.
The chicane idea gained force when it became clear that new tyres flown in by Michelin—the use of which would have broken Formula One rules and incurred a penalty—would not meet the problem.
Even after the FIA rejection, Michelin and its teams continued to press for the addition of a chicane to slow cars heading into the banked turn, where a left rear tyre deflation led to a spin and crash for Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher on Friday.
Schumacher’s teammate Ricardo Zonta also suffered a left rear tyre deflation in practice, and despite the fact that Toyota’s Jarno Trulli claimed pole position on the same Michelin tyres, the manufacturers said they couldn’t vouch for their safety over the course of the entire race.
Minardi and Jordan joined the Michelin teams in backing the chicane solution, with Ferrari—hungry for their first win of the season—the only hold-out.
Minardi chief Paul Stoddart said he hadn’t even wanted to start the race, but went ahead when Jordan decided to go.
“This is not a race, this is a farce,” he said. “I have complete sympathy with the Michelin teams and can take neither satisfaction from, nor interest in, this afternoon’s race—if you can call it that.” - Sapa-AFP