Rubens Barrichello took victory at the US Grand Prix by one hundredth of a second from Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher, in a finish that bemused the 170,000 strong crowd at Indianapolis. Ferrari was adamant that there were no team orders this...
Rubens Barrichello took victory at the US Grand Prix by one hundredth of a second from Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher, in a finish that bemused the 170,000 strong crowd at Indianapolis. Ferrari was adamant that there were no team orders this weekend, Michael and Barrichello were free to race and although they were close, Michael clearly had the upper hand. The reigning champion overshot his grid spot when lining up after the formation lap but got a clean start and led from start to about a metre from the finish.
Barrichello closed on his team mate on and off through the race but was hampered by traffic problems that always seemed to be Michael's advantage and not the Brazilian's. In the final lap Michael let Barrichello close up for the traditional formation finish, only for it all to go a bit pear shaped. The Ferraris were side by side heading to the line but as they crossed, the timing clocked Barrichello fractionally ahead, thus giving him the win. It seemed unintentional, an error in judgement, but there were some dismayed boos from the crowd.
In entertaining Indy fashion, Barrichello's car was hoisted almost to the podium to join in the celebrations while the additional camera angles following the on track action gave the spectators some novel views. At one point the camera shot was inverted completely, giving an upside down track that may have been a tribute to the power of downforce. Or it could have been the camera man was drunk but it made for interesting viewing.
While the Ferraris dominated, there was much on track action elsewhere. Ralf Schumacher jumped Williams team mate Juan Pablo Montoya at the start but the Colombian refused to give up. On the next lap they were side by side down the start/finish straight and went head to head into the first corner. It appeared that Ralf spun accidentally and the pair touched, Ralf losing his rear wing and Montoya dropping to seventh.
Ralf pitted for a new wing but it was effectively the end of his race: he was two laps down on the leaders when he rejoined and finished sixteenth. Despite unlapping himself round a few backmarkers, he was never in the running. Montoya continued, breezing past McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and closing on David Coutlhard in the final stages but he couldn't get close enough, finally crossing the line fourth.
Coulthard had a fairly quiet race, holding his third position from the start. He closed on Barrichello after traffic held up the Ferraris but despite Ferrari's two stop strategy and the Scot's one stopper, Coulthard couldn't gain advantage. Team mate Raikkonen had the latest in a disappointing string of engine failures, the young Finn losing time early on due to a misfire before exploding in a cloud of smoke.
"I drove as normal," a resigned sounding Raikkonen said when asked if he put too much pressure on the Mercedes engine. "And it didn't last. For the first ten laps the engine was misfiring and it just got worse."
The Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button had good starts then Trulli was promoted to fourth after the Williams' fell out. The Italian dropped to fifth but held it to the line. Button had some interesting scraps midfield with Jordan and Sauber, gaining tenth after Takuma Sato and Heinz-Harald Frentzen squabbled. Sato took Frentzen, only to go wide and lose the position to the German but not to be defeated, Sato once again passed Frentzen. Button eventually finished eighth.
The midfield was again where the action was to be found. Jordan, BAR, Sauber, Jaguar and Toyota all had plenty of fights and even Minardi got in on the scene. Mika Sao and Allan McNish were racing side by side at one point and Salo went on to fight with Frentzen. There was a string of cars jostling for position, starting with the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine, followed by McNish, BAR's Olivier Panis and Minardi's Mark Webber. Team mate Alex Yoong was not far behind.
Toyota eventually dropped off the enthusiasm, Salo finishing fourteenth, McNish fifteenth. The Jaguars failed to live up to the promise from practice sessions. Although seeing a lot of action the result was pointless, in more ways than one. Pedro de la Rosa had dropped as far as nineteenth before slowing on track and cruising to a halt with the car on fire.
"The engine was fine," the Spaniard said. "I got stuck in gear, I think it was a transmission problem. It was a shame as we had a good strategy." To add insult to injury, on departing the failed R3 de la Rosa was told to jump over a wall to head back to the pits. He did so unquestioning and promptly disappeared from view into a river. Irvine finished tenth.
BAR saw Jacques Villeneuve score a deserved point for sixth after having a good race. Panis had his fair share of midfield arguments and finished twelfth. Sauber's and Jordan's efforts were also in vain; Heidfeld ninth and Frentzen thirteenth after having an uncontrollable urge to investigate a gravel trap that lost him time. Giancarlo Fisichella and Sato were seventh and eighth.
Minardi had a horde of woes after their promising start. Webber and Yoong put in a fine show to fight with the likes of Jaguar and BAR, only to be defeated by gremlins. Webber pulled off tack with a steering problem: "A really, really strange problem with the steering," the Aussie said, enlightening us not at all. "Maybe it was the hydraulics but it wasn't safe to continue. It was good fun with the other guys on track and it's a shame as it was a good race for us."
Yoong fared no better, engine exploding in spectacular style. It was an entertaining race, Ferrari's odd finish, the midfield action and some unintentionally amusing moments made for good viewing. Michael did not need to let Barrichello win for the Brazilian to finish second in the driver's standings so presumably it was accidental. Indy was a good show even with the Ferrari domination, we need more races that provide entertainment. Final top six classification: Barrichello, M. Schumacher, Coulthard, Montoya, Trulli, Villeneuve.