US GP: Former driver thrilled by new circuit

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2000 - Andrea Montermini will have first-hand knowledge of the new Indianapolis Formula One circuit when he gives expert commentary to fans watching the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2000 - Andrea Montermini will have first-hand knowledge of the new Indianapolis Formula One circuit when he gives expert commentary to fans watching the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24 on television in his native Italy. Montermini had a short career in Formula One with the Pacific and Simtek teams in the mid-1990s and now works for digital television network Telepiu. He visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time Sept. 13 and said he was "thrilled" that Formula One was coming to the home of the Indianapolis 500.

"I think the drivers should enjoy this circuit a lot," said Montermini after cruising the new course in a road car. "Indianapolis is the best possible circuit for Formula One to go to in the United States -- for the Indianapolis name itself, of course, but also for the facilities I see around me here."

Montermini toured the 2.606-mile Grand Prix circuit in a road car and made his projections of the gear changes and speeds the 22-car Formula One field is likely to use when practice for the SAP United States Grand Prix begins Sept. 22.

"I think the track will be a big technical compromise between the mid- to slow-speed corners in the infield and the faster oval-based section," said Montermini. "The medium and slow corners, by which I mean mainly the third- and fourth-gear turns, will be the key to good lap times.

"Normally what you get from an infield circuit is not very nice, but it certainly doesn't look like this is the case here. The key for the drivers will be how to handle the straight-line speed they build up through the faster part of the circuit before they move into the infield."

Many observers think the biggest challenge the Formula One stars will face is the high-speed Turn 13 (Turn 1 of the Oval, taken in clockwise direction), but Montermini doesn't see it entirely that way.

Pointing to Turn 12, where the F1 cars will rejoin the oval, he said: "The challenge is this one - to be as fast as you can as soon as you can coming through here."

He expects the F1 drivers to be in sixth gear very early through the short chute from Turn 12 (just inside Turn 2 of the oval) to Turn 13, and to snatch seventh gear well before the start-finish line on the long main straightaway.

"All the way from Turn 11 back round to Turn 1, the speed is very high," said Montermini. "I expect to see them hit 320 km/h (200 mph) and more at the end of the straight. But then from Turn 1 through Turn 11 there is probably only one corner that they will take at more than 200 km/h (125 mph). Another big challenge is to take Turn 5 flat. Not the first day! But in qualifying I think probably they will."

Montermini confirmed the feeling that the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit offers two excellent overtaking opportunities. One comes under braking for Turn 1, coming down from over 300 km/h (186 mph) for the right-hander, the other under braking at the end of the short straight leading to Turn 8.

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Andrea Montermini