Michael Schumacher cruised to his third win of the season in the United States Grand Prix on Sunday as he led home a Ferrari one-two after an incident-filled race.
Schumacher beat Felipe Massa by 7,9 seconds as he took a record fifth win at the Indianapolis circuit and cut Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s lead in the World Championship to 19 points.
For Massa, second marked the best finish of his Formula One career and he comfortably held off the advances of Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, Alonso’s Renault teammate, who was another 8,6 seconds behind by the end.
For the second year running the start of the 73-lap race was a chaotic affair. Massa got the jump on his teammate as Alonso picked up two places to lie third.
But the story of the race unfolded in the middle of the pack as seven cars were eliminated in two separate accidents on the first lap.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya left his braking too late for turn two and hit the back of his Finnish McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
The impact pushed Montoya (30) into Briton Jenson Button’s Honda, whose wheels became interlocked with those of Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber, sending the German into a series of spectacular barrel rolls.
The accident also accounted for the Williams of Australian Mark Webber and the Toro Rosso of American hero Scott Speed, both of whom were collected by wayward McLarens as they tried to take avoiding action.
While all this was happening, Austrian Christian Klien, in a Red Bull, tried an optimistic move up the inside of Frenchman Franck Montagny’s Super Aguri, with both machines colliding and retiring on the spot.
Both accidents saw the safety car immediately deployed for the fourth race in a row, but the retirements were not finished as Button (26) was forced to pull his Honda out of the race due to low water pressure.
When racing resumed on lap six, Japanese driver Takuma Sato hit the rear end of Portuguese Tiago Monteiro’s Midland at turn one, damaging both cars and causing Monteiro’s retirement on lap nine.
By the time Massa made his first pit-stop on lap 29, he and Schumacher had built a nine-second lead over their nearest challenger, who was by then Fisichella, after he overtook Alonso on lap 15.
That first round of pit-stops saw Schumacher crucially jump Massa, after setting the fastest middle-sector of the race during his out-lap and immediately built a three-second gap to the Brazilian, which he extended throughout the remaining 44 laps of the race.
Behind the podium finishers, Italian Jarno Trulli had his best race of the year, using a one-stop strategy to full effect to finish fourth — after starting last in the pit-lane.
Defending World Champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso took an uncharacteristic fifth after being off the pace all weekend in his Renault.
It should have been one place lower but for German Ralf Schumacher pulling out of fifth place with 10 laps remaining.
Sixth was Brazilian Rubens Barrichello’s Honda with Briton David Coulthard’s Red Bull taking seventh place.
The final point was fought out between German Nico Rosberg and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, with Toro Rosso driver Liuzzi eventually forcing his way past Rosberg’s Williams with 18 laps left. — AFP