Ferrari, McLaren To Try To Hold Off Resurgent Williams At Indy INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001 - Ferrari and McLaren haven't looked over their shoulders often in Formula One in the last three seasons. The teams have monopolized first and...
Mika Hakkinen won the World Driver's Championship in 1998 and 1999 for West McLaren Mercedes, with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher claiming the honors in 2000 and in this year for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. The top tier of F1 has been a two-team party - until now.
BMW WilliamsF1 Team is back in the penthouse suite, and the team's resurgence could continue at the second annual SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. (EST) and will be televised live on ABC Sports.
Williams has claimed four victories this season, its first wins since 1997, when 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve won the world championship for the English team.
Ralf Schumacher, younger brother of World Champion Michael Schumacher, has led the Williams charge this season with three victories. The first win of his F1 career came in April at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, Italy, and he followed up with victories in the Canadian and German Grands Prix.
But the F1 world - and the racing world - is buzzing now about Ralf Schumacher's teammate, a guy who knows a lot about victory at Indy and now knows all about winning in F1: rookie sensation Juan Pablo Montoya. 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Montoya earned the first victory of his F1 career in the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 16 at Monza after starting from the pole. The victory - the first for a rookie in F1 since Villeneuve in 1996 - finally fulfilled the promise he has shown in many races this season.
Montoya has led in seven of the 15 previous Grands Prix this season but is really hitting full stride now. He has won the pole in three of the last four races, at Germany, Belgium and Italy.
And he comes to Indy brimming with confidence. After all, the last time Montoya raced at the Brickyard, he won the Indianapolis 500 in May 2000, leading 167 of 200 laps in a tour de force.
Montoya is trying to become only the fifth driver to win a United States Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 during their career. The others are Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti. That's pretty elite company.
"I'm very happy to go back there," Montoya said. "Last time I was there, I won. I've taken my first Formula One win now. The car should work pretty well there, so it should be quite interesting."
There's no question that Williams could be the car to beat at Indianapolis.
Pure speed is the common denominator between the 13-turn, 2.606-mile circuit at Indianapolis, which incorporates part of the facility's historic oval, and the other circuits on which Williams has excelled this year: pure speed.
Williams' combination of the BMW P80 engine - reputed to be the most powerful in Formula One - and Michelin tires has been the magic elixir for success on the "power circuits" of F1 this season. All of the team's victories have come on tracks in which speed is at a premium.
That suits Indianapolis perfectly. The drivers are on full power from the time they enter the oval in Turn 12 all the way through the banked Turn 13 and then down the front straightaway before braking hard to enter the right-handed Turn 1. It's the longest stretch of full power in Formula One, which plays to Williams and BMW's strength.
Michael Schumacher has dominated this season with eight victories for Ferrari. A victory at Indy would tie the all-time Formula One record for single-season victories that he shares with Nigel Mansell, who first recorded the feat in 1992. Schumacher tied Mansell's feat in 1995 and 2000.
Don't bet against Michael Schumacher at Indy. He won the race from pole last season, beating his Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, to the win by 12.118 seconds.
Schumacher is at the peak of his awesome abilities and has secured his place among the sport's true legends this season with his fourth World Championship and by passing Alain Prost as the winningest driver in Formula One history with 52 victories.
Barrichello also showed top form at the Italian Grand Prix, falling just 5.175 seconds shy of Montoya at the finish. And Barrichello lost more than that much time through a refueling problem on a pit stop, so he could contend for the win at Indy.
Ferrari's 050 engine has been a close rival to BMW, and the team's F2001 chassis has shown exquisite balance this year, which will be a great advantage in the tight infield section of the Indy course.
McLaren's season hasn't fulfilled the team's lofty expectations, as the team only has three victories. David Coulthard has won twice; Hakkinen once.
But McLaren is more than capable of a victory at Indy. Hakkinen's only victory came at the British Grand Prix on the Silverstone circuit, which has some very high-speed sections combined with a tight, twisting section, similar to Indianapolis.
Hakkinen's motivation also should be quite high, as this will be his final United States Grand Prix until at least 2003. He announced during the Italian Grand Prix that he will take a sabbatical next season, as rookie sensation Kimi Raikkonen will join Coulthard at McLaren.
While Montoya's rise to prominence has captured plenty of attention, Raikkonen also has been stunning this season. Raikkonen, from Finland, had competed in less than 30 car races in his entire life before this year, enjoying a stratospheric rise from one year of Formula Renault all the way to F1. It's akin to a Class A baseball pitcher making the majors' All-Star Game the next season.
The Red Bull Sauber Petronas team of Raikkonen and second-year driver Nick Heidfeld is rivaling Williams as the most improved outfit on the grid. The team is fourth in the Constructors' Championship after finishing eighth last year and is a threat to score points and possibly has an outside shot at a podium finish.
Villeneuve broke through this year with his first podium finish since joining British American Racing at the start of the 1999 season. He finished a close fourth last season at Indy in the Lucky Strike BAR Honda and would like nothing more than to climb the podium at the track where he earned the greatest victory of his career in May 1995.
Schedule: The SAP United States Grand Prix starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Sept. 30.
Qualifying starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Sept. 29. Practice takes place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sept. 28, and 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. Sept. 29.
Porsche Pirelli Supercup races start at 3 p.m. Sept. 29 and 9:20 a.m. Sept. 30. The Ferrari Challenge race starts at 11 a.m. Sept. 30.
On TV: ABC will carry the SAP United States Grand Prix live at 2 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 30.
Practice will air live on Speedvision from noon-4 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 28 and 9 a.m.-noon Sept. 29, and qualifications will be broadcast live from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Sept. 29. Speedvision also will televise the race-morning warm-up at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) Sept. 30
Speedvision also will rebroadcast the race at 8 p.m. and midnight (EDT) Oct. 7.
USGP tickets available: Tickets for the SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are available by calling (800) 822-INDY or by downloading a ticket form at www.usgpindy.com.