Ferrari was victorious in the US Grand Prix with Michael Schumacher leading the team's first one-two finish of the 2006 season. Schumacher claimed his 87th career win at Indianapolis and teammate Felipe Massa scored his best ever result with...
Ferrari was victorious in the US Grand Prix with Michael Schumacher leading the team's first one-two finish of the 2006 season. Schumacher claimed his 87th career win at Indianapolis and teammate Felipe Massa scored his best ever result with second. The rest trailed in the wake of Ferrari but Giancarlo Fisichella took a solid third for Renault.
The weather continued to be hot and sunny at Indy, if slightly cooler than Saturday, with the track temperature in the high thirties. Toyota's Jarno Trulli started from the pit lane after his car needed some suspension work this morning and he went on to have a strong race. At the start pole sitter Michael fell to Massa's charge and the Brazilian took the lead.
Fisichella had a shot at Michael down the inside of turn two but the Ferrari held him off and Fernando Alonso got his Renault ahead of Rubens Barrichello's Honda for fourth. Behind them there was carnage; no less than seven cars went out of the race in the first two corners in two incidents, one a rather spectacular exit for BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.
The incident at turn one appeared to involve the Super Aguri of Franck Montagny, the Red Bull of Christian Klien and the Williams of Mark Webber. It was hard to see what happened and the second incident immediately afterwards made it all the more confusing.
Klien got shunted out at turn one. "It was a big mess, yeah," the Austrian commented. "It was very tight at the first corner. I was next to a Williams (Webber) then a lot of cars all came together at the same time. It's very slippery out there."
Through turn two there were several cars all squeezed together; the McLarens had a meeting, Juan Pablo Montoya hitting the back of Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn in turn had contact with Jenson Button's Honda, who subsequently clipped Heidfeld. The BMW launched into the air and barrel rolled three or four times before coming to rest in the gravel.
It was a shocker for Heidfeld but he was unharmed and rather entertained by it all. "It looked worse than it was, it wasn't a heavy impact," he said. "It was the first time I've ever flipped a car! I think the McLarens collided and Kimi got pushed into me." (It seemed like it was Button in actuality.)
Button tried to continue but was forced to retire to the pits. "It's very disappointing," he commented. "I don't really know what happened; I think Montoya hit my back wheel and pushed me into Heidfeld. We were trying to get back out (on track) but it would have taken too long."
Montoya obviously hit Raikkonen but in the confusion it was difficult to say who was at fault. "It's hard to say what happened," the Colombian remarked. "Kimi braked really hard and I hit him in the back and Jenson hit me. Everything from there went backwards!"
Toro Rosso's Scott Speed, after qualifying a good 13th, had a very short race indeed as he got caught up in the chaos. "We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," the American shrugged it off with remarkable aplomb. "We had a really good weekend so maybe some time soon things will go our way."
McLaren boss Ron Dennis was his usual stoic self and wasn't about to slag anyone off. "From an initial scan (of what happened) it was a chain reaction," he said. "Kimi got squeezed into the first corner and braked to avoid running into someone else. Juan Pablo was keeping an eye on Jenson, who bumped him."
"It was pretty simultaneous -- it's easy to be critical but you have to be professional about it. We were heavy (on fuel) and racing for position and a lot of cars got squeezed together."
Naturally, after all that mess, the safety car came out. The retirees were Montagny, Klien, Webber, Speed, Heidfeld, Montoya and Raikkonen, then Button shortly afterwards with related damage. Barrichello was fifth and the BMW Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve sixth, followed by Ralf Schumacher's Toyota in seventh.
When the track was clear the safety car did a rather odd manoeuvre: instead of exiting into the pits it pulled off onto a run off on the left. Massa wasn't caught out and absolutely floored it away and Michael couldn't keep up. The Renaults were scrapping and Alonso got ahead of Fisichella for third.
Further down the field Super Aguri's Takuma Sato and MF1's Tiago Monteiro clashed, resulting in both of them retiring. Monteiro was not amused. "I was really happy to get through the first mess," he said. "Then at the restart one of the Super Aguris tried to win the race on the first lap. It's not the first time."
Then the field was down to 12 runners: Massa was out front, followed by Michael, Alonso, Fisichella, Barrichello, Ralf, Villeneuve and Trulli in the last of the points positions. The Willliams of Nico Rosberg, who started at the back, was ninth, David Coulthard's Red Bull 10th, Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso 11th and the MF1 of Christijan Albers 12th.
The race then settled down a bit and everyone took a breather. Massa was doing a fine job in the lead but it was only a matter of time before Michael took over. It's not a criticism of Ferrari -- Michael is second in the title fight and it would make no sense for Massa to take points off the German, especially when Alonso was struggling.
Alonso had never finished at Indianapolis before and it was hard work for the Spaniard to make it this time. Fisichella had the measure of his teammate this weekend and Alonso had to cede to the Italian, who duly retook third. Liuzzi was harassing Coulthard and Villeneuve was the next retiree, pulling off onto the grass with an engine failure.
Rosberg was then up to eighth and Barrichello was the first to take a scheduled pit stop. Michael and Fisichella followed in quick succession and Massa was in next. He had a rather slow in lap and rejoined behind Michael. Alonso had a brief spell in the lead then he too pitted.
There were different strategies being played out: Michael was back in the lead, followed by Massa, and Trulli was third but not stopped yet. Then came Fisichella and Alonso, Ralf, Barrichello and Rosberg, who also appeared to be on a one-stopper.
Liuzzi was still relentlessly pinned to Coulthard's rear wing and the pair were closing on Rosberg. Behind them Albers was the final runner but he didn't last much longer. Trulli took his one stop, followed by Liuzzi also on the same strategy, and Albers trailed in to retire with some kind of transmission issue.
Rosberg took his one stop which put Coulthard into eighth but he too had to take his single stop. Meanwhile, at the front, Michael was leading Massa by five seconds and the scarlet pair were 11 seconds ahead of third-placed man Fisichella.
Coulthard took his stop and came out side-by-side with Rosberg. They tussled briefly and Coulthard got ahead to retain eighth. Barrichello pitted for the second time and Ralf was closing on the struggling Alonso. Liuzzi had his sights set on Rosberg and Massa was the first Ferrari in for his second stop.
Fisichella, Ralf and Michael spooled in afterwards, then Alonso who came back out behind both Toyotas in sixth. Michael went in next and retained the lead, while Liuzzi made his move on Rosberg. They went side-by-side down the pit straight and Liuzzi got up the inside at turn one to nab ninth.
Ralf was an unexpected late retiree, pulling into the pits with just eight laps to go. "I had a long brake pedal and it seemed to be a wheel bearing problem," he said. "It was a tough race, hot, but we were in a comfortable fifth position. It would have been nice (too keep it)."
That put Liuzzi up to eighth for the final points position and that was how it stayed to the chequered flag. Ferrari really was untouchable this weekend and it's good for the championship fight to bring the battle closer for the second half of the season. Michael drove well, as always, and Massa gave a very mature performance and didn't put a foot wrong.
"We prepared ourselves very hard for these two overseas races," said Michael. "We knew we had a very good car in our hands. In Canada, for whatever reason, it just didn't work out. Here, everything was just spot on and to have Felipe alongside is just a dream result and in a way, looking at the championship, and knowing Fernando finished fifth, it gives a big step towards the championship.
Massa has been steadily silencing the critics and although he drove a supporting race he did it in very fine style. "Looking at the championship situation, I think this has come at the right time so now we need to be strong in every race, to fight with them," he commented. "But I'm really happy, it's my best result and hopefully we can carry on with this pace until the end of the year."
Fisichella was the star Renault driver in America; for whatever reason Alonso just couldn't get it hooked up and Fisi made the most of it. He's not yet a threat to Alonso and Michael in the standings and has Raikkonen only a few points behind, but it was a good day's work for Fisichella.
"It wasn't an easy race, especially at the beginning. I lost a position at the end of the pit straight but I was much quicker than Fernando and then I was able to overtake him and maintain my pace. Unfortunately, the two guys here next to me were far away and the pace was just a bit stronger than my pace. I did my best. Third is the best result we can do today so I think we have to be satisfied with that. "
It was an outstanding day's work for Trulli. Starting from the pit lane is never a barrel of laughs but Trulli kept his cool and his speed and came home fourth. It's a shame for Toyota that Ralf retired as the team was on for a solid double points finish but the Cologne-based squad appears to be on an improvement curve.
Alonso started and finished fifth, which was an average exercise in damage limitation. Barrichello had a lonely and almost unnoticeable afternoon but delivered a sound sixth place. If Honda wants to reach the unreachable star they're going to have to work harder -- but they do make very entertaining television adverts.
Coulthard had another strong drive from way down the grid to two points in seventh and a big cheer for Liuzzi in eighth! A legitimate point for Toro Rosso and a feisty performance from the Italian. One can only commiserate with Rosberg, who was the last finisher and the only one not in the points.
After last year's miserable effort, F1 came good at Indy. Sure, it was chaotic and the spectators probably could have done with a few more cars to watch, but overall it made up for a lot. Final, and only, nine finishers: M. Schumacher, Massa, Fisichella, Trulli, Alonso, Barrichello, Coulthard, Liuzzi, Rosberg.