2005 United States Grand Prix Flashback: The Wrong Rubber

In the early 21st century, Formula One was determined to break America and the re-born USA Grand Prix was held at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By 2005 it was one of the most looked forward to races of the season and excitement was mounting as the teams arrived at Indy.

In 2005 there was a choice of tyre suppliers unlike today. Michelin and Bridgestone were the suppliers and in that particular season the rubber was designed to last for a whole Grand Prix and having to change tyres during a race meant a penalty. Indy had been re-surfaced prior to the event and early on in practice it became apparent that the Michelin-shod teams were having problems. The new surface was causing tyres to wear or even puncture in a few laps which was brought home when Ralf Schumacher crashed heavily into the inside concrete wall when a tyre blew. The Bridgestone teams had no issues whatsoever and after qualifying which saw Jarno Trulli’s Toyota on pole, urgent meetings were held between the teams, tyre suppliers and the FIA.

Michelin had stated that the tyres wouldn’t last more than ten laps and suggested a compromise wherein a temporary chicane would be put in place to slow the cars down as they entered the main oval. This was immediately thrown out by the FIA who stated it would be unfair on the Bridgestone teams who had supplied the correct tyre – a crazy situation if you think about it, was then forced upon the Michelin teams to race and risk a major accident. Obviously it was a no-brainer and after completing the parade lap so that they had officially taken part, the Michelin teams all went into the pits leaving a grid of just six cars, the two Ferraris, the two Jordans and the two Minardis.

To the boos of the crowd the farcical race started and before long beer cans and bottles were been thrown onto the track by fans who felt they had been cheated. People were seen shouting to the cameras saying they were finished with Formula One and in truth Formula One was finished in the USA until very recently. For the record Michael Schumacher won the race but nobody really cared except for Tiago Monteiro who celebrated wildly on the podium after finishing third.

Ten years on it seems incredible that a compromise wasn’t met. It certainly would have been today with people like Toto Wolff and Christian Horner in the paddock. Thankfully the USA has re-found Formula One in the superb Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas which really is a wonderful venue and even though it clashes with important NASCAR races, it sells huge volumes of tickets. In 2016 we will see an American team, Haas F1 in Formula One and hopefully the sport will continue to grow in the country.

An interesting footnote to the story is that had the Michelin teams raced they could have been prosecuted under Indiana State law for criminal liability. I wonder if they knew at the time?

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