US GP Notebook (Sept. 23)

SAP UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK F1 drivers, team principals excited about warm reception from Indy fans INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2000 -- Fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have given Formula One a warm welcome, and that has...

SAP UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK
F1 drivers, team principals excited about warm reception from Indy fans

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2000 -- Fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have given Formula One a warm welcome, and that has impressed the visiting F1 drivers and teams.

A large crowd turned out for the opening day of practice Friday, and an even larger crowd was on hand Saturday to see the battle for the pole between the Ferrari and West McLaren-Mercedes teams.

"It's truly amazing," Michael Schumacher said of the reception the fans at the Brickyard gave to the F1 drivers, cars and teams. "Yesterday (Friday) we already saw a big crowd, unusual for Friday (at a Grand Prix), and I was wondering whether people will actually be satisfied with what they saw yesterday and come again today, or whether they get bored or whatever.

"But we have obviously convinced the guys to come back. Obviously, we put a good show in today, like David just did in the last couple of seconds, have a good fight for pole position. So it was a good day for all of us."

"I'm quite surprised because I've been in the States a couple times, and I' ve never been known -- I can go really go around freely. I was thinking that Americans are not really interested in Formula One. But today I have to change my mind because, I mean, they seem to be very enthusiastic about Formula One, and that's great to see coming here for the first time in 10 years."

The outpouring of support by the fans also astounded West McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard.

"This is amazing," Hakkinen said Saturday. "There were a lot of people and great atmosphere today. Everybody is cheering everybody, and it was really fantastic."

Said Coulthard: "It is similar to Monza, the whole crowd cheering. The only difference is there they are cheering for Ferrari. Here they seem passionate to any car that goes out there. I suppose (the little team) Minardi has never been so loved!"

Team owner Frank Williams said he was thrilled by the cheering from the fans as Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda left the pits in the opening practice session Friday to become the first person to drive a Formula One car on the new Indianapolis road circuit.

"Indianapolis is up there with Monaco," Williams said. "It has great appeal around the world for motorsport. If we can participate and justify our presence, F1 should have a very, very long future.

"It wasn't lost on me the cheer when the first car left the pit lane. Unfortunately, it wasn't a white and blue Williams-BMW; it was somebody else's car. But it raised a great cheer, and I thought: "'Jeepers, these people love racing.' I'm pleased to be here."

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Meeting the fans: Williams-BMW driver Jenson Button, and Orange Arrows-Supertec teammates Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa met the fans and signed autographs Saturday near the Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

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Formula One will be a success at Indianapolis: FIA President Max Mosley believes that the stable home the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can offer the United States Grand Prix will see the race become a major world event.

"The big problem for F1 historically in the USA has been that that there was never a single traditional venue," Mosley said. "That's what really builds a race-having it in the same place year after year after year until it becomes part of the culture.

"If this (race at the Brickyard) goes on, which I'm sure it will now indefinitely, it will become a major event on a world scale. To me, Indianapolis is synonymous with racing and the 500, and it is known the world over. (The United States Grand Prix) has all the potential to build into a major national world event, rather like the 500.

***

Standing starts return to Indianapolis: The SAP United States Grand Prix begins with a standing start rather than the traditional rolling start used in the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.

A standing start at Indianapolis, however, is not new. All races held at the Speedway in 1909 and 1910 used standing starts, and it was not until 1911, with the first Indianapolis 500, that a rolling start was used for the first time.

The Formula One cars will continue to race if it rains during the Grand Prix. But this would not mark the first time a race at Indianapolis has been run in wet, as both the 1935 and 1940 Indianapolis 500's continued despite rain.

But those races were run under yellow-flag conditions in the rain, with no passing allowed. Formula One races under regular racing conditions, with passing allowed, in the rain.

***

Tradition continues: Formula One requires a gantry or bridge over the start/finish line to hold the starting light system. The structure built over the main straight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this year's SAP United States Grand Prix evokes memories of the pedestrian bridge that used to cross the front stretch.

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Mosley to run for third term: Max Mosley says he will run for a third term as FIA president.

"I will stand for one more term," Mosley said, "but that would definitely be it. At the end of that term, I would be 65. That is quite a good time to stop. It's all right to go into to the driver's briefing when they are old enough to be your children, but not your grandchildren!"

***

No team orders: Although Mika Hakkinen has only a two-point lead over Michael Schumacher, it's doubtful that the West McLaren-Mercedes team will issue team orders to David Coulthard even though he is 19 points behind Hakkinen.

"Nothing has changed from the previous races," McLaren director Ron Dennis said. "The objective that David should have and does have is to qualify on pole and try and win the race.

"Of course, that's the same objective for Mika. It's easier said than done. If a situation develops where it's in the interest of the team for the team to intercede in the outcome of the race to optimize the World Championship, we'll do it. That's something that we have the contractual right to do at the first Grand Prix and any Grand Prix.

"We've done it about three times, I think, in the last 10 years, to my knowledge. The most important thing to always remember is that an incident between Michael and Mika could see David win the race, and he'd be back in championship contention. The most important thing is for him to have the best possible start, and if he can contribute following the outcome of the race, then we will step in; and if we step in, then we will make that known to all the media."

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Pedro de la Rosa , Jos Verstappen , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Frank Williams
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan