It was quite a debacle
Do you remember the discussion about the bend at Zandvoort? There were concerns that the Pirelli tires could not handle the forces of the fast corner. Those concerns were not unfounded. Although things went well in the Netherlands in the end, things went a little differently during the American GP in 2005 at Indianapolis. In the year that both Christijan Albers and Robert Doornbos (as reserve and test driver) drove in F1, only three teams eventually finished. Fourteen drivers received a DNS. In other words, they didn’t start.
How could it come to this? Well, in 2005 F1’s tire rules were very different: there were two suppliers – Bridgestone and Michelin – instead of one. Drivers were only allowed to use one set of tires for both qualifying and the race. Overall, the seven teams riding Michelins had the advantage. The top four constructors in the standings all used Michelin. But the Indianapolis job is different from other jobs.
A blowout for Ralf Schumacher
That became very clear when Ralf Schumacher flew out in turn thirteen due to a blowout on the left rear. The German was seriously injured and was replaced by Ricardo Zonta. The Michelins couldn’t handle the forces in the fast corner. Especially not because the track had been re-surfaced. The tire brand announced that it could only guarantee safety for ten laps; the race would last 73 laps. This was a problem to say the least.
And so began the mad battle for a quick fix. The FIA suggested that the Michelin teams simply slow down, but this idea was rejected. Another compound? Not available. Remove the rule for driving with only one set of tires? Fourteen cars would then have to make eight pit stops and there were simply not enough tires available at such short notice.
A chicane to take the speed out
Finally, the teams asked if they could install a chicane at Turn 13 to slow everyone down, and then things escalated. The FIA declined because any changes to the track layout would make it impossible to guarantee safety. They even threatened to take all their staff off the track to stop the entire GP. The teams briefly wondered if they could fill all the positions with their own staff to drive a race for bacon and beans. That kite didn’t fly either.
The start of the American GP in 2005
With no compromise in sight, the teams on Michelins were advised not to race. They were all lined up on the grid as required by the rules, which made the spectators think everything was normal. But at the end of the formation lap everyone went straight back to the pits except for the Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi cars – which were on Bridgestones.
The stunned crowd watched as Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello pulled away from the front and the two remaining teams – who qualified from the back – battled for third place. In the end, it was Tiago Monteiro of Jordan who scored the third place. He is the first and so far only Portuguese driver to achieve an F1 podium. The Dutchman Christijan Albers van Minardi was fifth.
Monteiro – who had qualified 17th – didn’t hold back from celebrating his podium finish at the 2005 American GP at Indianapolis. Schumacher and Barrichello quickly retreated to the podium to a chorus of booing. Two years later, the curtain fell for the F1 race at Indianapolis. Today, drivers in the US race on the Circuit of the Americas.