Full steam ahead to Indianapolis

Full steam ahead to Indianapolis

We've only just caught our breath after Canada and now it's swiftly on to America and the famous Brickyard. Indianapolis is a name that evokes a great history of American motor racing and this year we actually have an American behind the wheel, ...

We've only just caught our breath after Canada and now it's swiftly on to America and the famous Brickyard. Indianapolis is a name that evokes a great history of American motor racing and this year we actually have an American behind the wheel, albeit only for the Friday practice sessions. The appropriately named Scott Speed will once again be on third driver duties for Red Bull.

Scott Speed.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"A lot of people think there might be some pressure on me, but the amount of pressure I put on myself outweighs anything else that the situation creates -- I just concentrate on the job in hand," said Speed. "To drive an F1 car in my home country will be such a thrill, I can't wait to get back in the driving seat."

Indianapolis is another fast track, although the brake wear is not so severe as in Canada. The start/finish straight is fantastically over 20 seconds at full throttle, but followed by the twisty infield so a compromise is needed between flat out speed and aerodynamic balance. Do you go for high downforce to be quick on the infield or low downforce for sheer speed on the straight?

"To be honest, we want high downforce and high speed!" Said Renault's championship leader Fernando Alonso. "But that is impossible, and you have to find the compromise between the two different parts of the circuit: the twisty slow speed section, and the long main straight."

"The lap time depends on the aero efficiency of the car and the power of the engine, and you have to find the right balance to be able to protect your position and overtake other cars. We have a good level of potential in our car, the R25, so I think we can be strong in Indy."

Renault needs a good result at Indianapolis after the double non-finish in Montreal. McLaren has closed up to the French squad in the constructors' standings and Renault's firm grip on the lead is starting to look a little less convincing. However, McLaren needs to get Juan Pablo Montoya up there with Kimi Raikkonen -- the Finn is doing all the hard work.

"I think Indy should suit our car better than (Canada) so I think we should be stronger there," said Raikkonen, rather ominously. "Hopefully we can get both cars to the finish at the next race and try to catch up more on the Renaults, that would be good."

Welcome to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photo by LAT Photographic.

Ferrari bounced back at Montreal, although obviously Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello benefited from other cars going out. Two Ferraris on the podium was a boost for the team, but Jean Todt doesn't think Canada was a turning point and won't be happy until the Maranello squad gets its first win of the season.

"It's a new stage, each Grand Prix is a new stage, and at each Grand Prix we have a start, but in no way is the Canadian Grand Prix a turning point," he remarked. "If you want me to sum it up, a turning point will be the day when we are able to win each Grand Prix which has been the case in the past, and which has ceased to be the case since the beginning of the year."

If random acts of madness are going on, Felipe Massa is usually to be found somewhere in the thick of it but the Sauber man managed to keep surprisingly quiet throughout Canada's ups and downs. Fourth in Montreal matched his best finish in F1 and it was a calm, mature drive from the young Brazilian, despite pressure from Mark Webber at the end.

He's not had a great deal of luck at Indy though. "In my time in F1 I have only raced once at Indianapolis, and that was last year when my race lasted until the first corner!" Massa remarked. "There's a good chance I can improve on that this year -- I hope to get to the finish this time!"

Webber picked up a few points for Williams in Montreal but the team was a bit lacklustre after Nick Heidfeld's recent podiums. The German exited the last race with an engine failure, while Webber struggled from a midfield start but if nothing else the pair will at least have fresh engines for this coming weekend.

"For the BMW P84/5 engines, Indianapolis means maximum mechanical loads," said BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen. "Along the straight of the oval, drivers go flat out for more than 20 seconds. The greatest load is along the second half when the final stretch of the straight demands more than ten seconds of full-throttle driving."

Red Bull enjoyed a double-points finish at Montreal and Christian Klien is another driver who hopes for a better result at Indy than he managed last time around. "I enjoyed being there last year, although I didn't finish the race," the Austrian commented. "I had a crash at the first corner, so I certainly hope to do better this year."

Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Jarno Trulli didn't finish in Canada due to brake problems but the Italian still holds onto third place in the drivers' standings. Ralf Schumacher, who picked up a couple of points with sixth in Montreal, had a big crash at Indianapolis last year, which put him out of contention for much of the season. However, he's optimistic for this weekend.

"As the home of motor racing in the US, Indianapolis is a special venue and, like Montreal, has a unique atmosphere," Ralf remarked. "Since its arrival on the F1 calendar in 2000, Indianapolis has been an unlucky track for me. But this season is a different story and I am confident we can rectify this unfortunate record."

This season is shaping up to be one of the best battles we've seen in F1 for quite some time. Raikkonen and Alonso are fighting each other every step of the way and every race it seems that something unexpected happens. If one was to make predictions, it would appear likely that the two championship rivals will be the main protagonists at Indy -- or stranger things could happen.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams