F1

Half way point at Indianapolis

Half way point at Indianapolis

There was no time to dwell on the triumphs and tragedies of Canada as the Formula One circus rolls straight on to America. The renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway is host to the ninth leg of the championship and marks the half way point of the ...

There was no time to dwell on the triumphs and tragedies of Canada as the Formula One circus rolls straight on to America. The renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway is host to the ninth leg of the championship and marks the half way point of the season. Will there be any surprises at the Brickyard?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway scoring tower.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.

Canada provided a couple of surprises, good or bad depending on your point of view. Michael Schumacher is always in contention for victory, even when starting from this third row of the grid, so the win in Montreal was not exactly a shocker. But Ferrari could be excused a gleeful titter as its main championship rivals handed the reds a huge advantage on a silver platter.

Renault's reliability failed disastrously in Canada, at a race where Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso could have both been on the podium. Jenson Button held on to the reins of BAR's challenge but yet another blown engine for Takuma Sato is seriously undermining the team's progress. And as for Williams… Doh! Canada!

Technical director Sam Michael described the brake fiasco as a 'mistake'. A very costly mistake -- Williams should now be in striking distance of BAR and Renault in the championship standings, but instead it's 19 points behind BAR. Renault's double DNF means BAR is now only six points astray -- but Ferrari is laughing all the way to the title, 63 points clear at the top.

For the competition, it's dismal. Not only is Ferrari currently the better team in performance and strategy, but rivals are helping the Scuderia win the title with their own blunders. Further down the field, Sauber also benefited from Williams' disqualification, Giancarlo Fisichella being promoted to fourth. Jordan ended up with both drivers in the points with Toyota also being excluded -- Jordan is now ahead of Toyota and Jaguar in the standings. McLaren also gained from the disqualifications and edged closer to Sauber on the constructors' table.

As Canada highlighted, it can only take one race to make a big difference. But while it could all go drastically wrong for Ferrari, what are the chances of that happening? Slim, very slim, one would have to say. Ferraris don't blow up or break down and the drivers are not prone to random acts of madness. It seems the only way a Ferrari is not going to finish a race is by fate stepping in.

This has been known to happen. The Monaco tunnel proved it can happen even to Michael Schumacher. Whether it be a random act of madness by someone else or, indeed, the weather providing a stumbling block, Ferrari may yet fail -- and if the Scuderia does fall foul of Lady Luck more than once in a season, that certainly will be a surprise.

So, on to Indianapolis, where McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was on pole and Schumacher the race winner in 2003. Indy is a fine racing circuit and it would be nice to see F1 do it justice by actually racing on it this weekend. All other woes aside in Canada, the race itself was a bit of a disappointment in regard to track action.

Pagoda and pitlane.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.

Brake wear at Indy is not so harsh as Montreal and tyres will be from the softer end of the compound range. With its gloriously long start/finish straight -- 22 seconds at full throttle -- and tight, twisty infield, Indianapolis requires a bit of a balancing act for set up.

"Because of the banked final corner that combines with the main straight and the tight infield section, the track has different characteristics," said Sauber technical director Willy Rampf. "Ideally you need low downforce for the former, but plenty of grip in the latter, and these are mutually exclusive. We will run a similar aerodynamic package to Canada as a result."

Schumacher is approaching America in an almost casual frame of mind. "Ferrari should do well," he commented. "There is no reason why we shouldn't; we ought to be competitive. In fact, I think that the car and set up are formidable on all the tracks so we shouldn't be too concerned about Indianapolis."

Putting the disappointment of Montreal behind him, Juan Pablo Montoya is looking forward to familiar territory. "Going back to race in the USA is always a great feeling, especially going back to the Brickyard," said the Williams driver. "To see all those people in the grandstands is a huge boost for me as it reminds me of my CART days and of my Indy 500 victory in 2000."

It's probably a bit of a stretch of the imagination to think that Raikkonen will be on pole again, but Indianapolis could bring more results for McLaren. It could also be the last outing of the sluggish MP4-19 before the B spec development car comes into play in France. "I think that as with the N?rburgring, the Motor Speedway will be better suited to the characteristics of our car, as it is not an out and out speed track," said Raikkonen.

Button was, naturally, happy about his Montreal promotion but not so pleased about the overall performance of the car. "Despite the result, our performance in Canada wasn't as good as we expected and we have to look at the reasons why we weren't as quick as we should have been," he said, hoping for better this weekend. "We should be quicker in the next race and Indy is quite an interesting circuit with the banking at the last turn."

With Ferrari's current form, one cannot help but expect anything other than a Michael Schumacher victory at Indianapolis. But in the land of opportunity we can perhaps hope for another surprise.

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