RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN RETAINS SLIM TITLE HOPES Michael Schumacher didn't have a particularly straightforward run to victory in the United States GP -- but the Ferrari veteran kept a cool head as intermittent rain caused conditions to change frequently ...
RÄIKKÖNEN RETAINS SLIM TITLE HOPES
Michael Schumacher didn't have a particularly straightforward run to victory in the United States GP -- but the Ferrari veteran kept a cool head as intermittent rain caused conditions to change frequently and he came home almost 20 seconds clear of his rivals. Michelin drivers monopolised the leading positions in the early stages of the race -- but Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes, second) was the only one to finish on the podium.
If the Finn is to become the sport's youngest world champion, he must win the seasonal finale in Japan on October 12 and hope that Schumacher fails to score. This was the 70th win of Schumacher's career and he is poised to take a record-breaking sixth Formula One title.
BMW WilliamsF1 Team star Juan Pablo Montoya's chances of a first title are over, however. The Colombian was seriously delayed at his first scheduled pit stop and also picked up a drive-through penalty for his part in an early collision with Ferrari rival Rubens Barrichello. The Michelin driver eventually recovered to finish sixth -- but victory in Japan would not be enough to overhaul Schumacher, no matter how the German fares.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen gave Sauber its first podium finish of the season but Michelin drivers maintained their excellent scoring record with four of the top eight positions. Räikkönen and Montoya were joined by Jarno Trulli (Renault, fourth), who fought past Nick Heidfeld's Sauber late in the race, and Jaguar driver Justin Wilson (eighth), who scored the first point of his world championship career. It was the first time the Englishman has finished a race since he switched to Jaguar.
Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, ninth) was the only other Michelin driver to reach the flag. It was a difficult afternoon for the rest. David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes) gambled on sticking with dry tyres on an ever-wetter track and plunged down the order when conditions failed to improve as quickly as he hoped they might. He then picked up a pit lane speeding penalty after stopping for wets and was running well down the order when a technical problem forced him to stop.
Fernando Alonso (Renault) ran with the leaders in the early stages and was the fastest driver on the track when an engine failure forced him out on lap 46. The Spaniard was running seventh at the time.
Olivier Panis (Toyota) grabbed second at the start but subsequently had a troubled race and made the first of several pit stops at the end of lap five before eventually spinning off. Mark Webber (Jaguar) swept through the field to take the lead as the result of running an extremely long first stint, but he spun into retirement shortly after it began to rain in earnest. Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) passed Panis for second early on and moved ahead of Räikkönen after the first round of stops, but he was the first driver to crash out in the rain.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin Motorsport Director
WET AND DRY
The final result might not have gone their way, but Michelin and its partner teams performed with distinction in the rain-hit United States Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) finished second -- his ninth podium finish of the campaign -- while Jarno Trulli (Renault, fourth), Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, sixth) and Justin Wilson (Jaguar, eighth) also scored points.
Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Today's race was absolutely fascinating from a technical perspective. We set the early pace and our drivers were the quickest out there when the circuit dried towards the end. In slightly damp conditions our grooved dry-weather tyres enabled our leading drivers to run up to three seconds per lap faster than Michael Schumacher. In wetter conditions we were losing two seconds per lap on intermediate tyres compared to Michael Schumacher and one second against other competitors. This race has given us lots of useful information."
Data acquired during the United States GP will be at the forefront of Michelin's research and development programme during the days and months ahead. Pierre Dupasquier said: "The lessons learned will help us to strengthen our all-round performance and that will be a great source of motivation. Michelin thrives on competition and we have to pick up a few seconds per lap in rain conditions this winter. I assure you we will !."
Kimi Räikkönen's second place at Indianapolis gives him a chance of bringing Michelin a first Formula One world title since the company returned to grand prix racing in 2001. Depending on other results, he could become the youngest world champion in the sport's history if he wins the seasonal finale at Suzuka on October 12. Pierre Dupasquier said: "If we pick up the championship, that will be a bonus. Our main goal in Formula One, however, is to provide our five partner teams with an excellent -- and equal -- technical service. The fact that all of them have been consistently competitive throughout this season[*] proves that we have done just that."
[*] Michelin has scored seven wins and 28 podium finishes this year