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The craziest race ever: Indianapolis 2005

Written by Thomas Bergamo, Edited by Morgan Holiday

The 2005 year showed us many battles: Schumacher versus Alonso, Ferrari versus Renault, and of course, Michelin versus Bridgestone. Indeed, 2005 was called “the tyre war year”. Ferrari and Bridgestone, until 2005, dominated undisputed. But, with the 2005 regulation changes, Renault could get close to the Italian team.

One of these changes was that the drivers couldn’t enter the pit lane to change their tyres. Bridgestone was a very fast tyre, but it didn’t last very long. In fact, Michael Schumacher won a race (Magny-Cours 2004) making four pit stops. Instead Michelin had a tyre that was a little bit slower than the Bridgestone one, but its duration was longer than its rival by far.

Now you may ask, why have you ever talked about tyre compounds? When Formula 1 arrived at Indianapolis all the paddock was thinking about a normal weekend, but during FP1 Riccardo Zonta, Toyota test driver, flattened his tyre on turn 7. Then, during FP2, Ralf Schumacher also flattened his tyre, but this time on turn 13, the last turn. Fortunately, the German driver could get out of the car without any consequence, but the doctors denied him from competing in the race. Another alarm bell was that Toyota engineers found a relevant tyre pressure drop. 

So Michelin gathered all the team principals from the teams who mounted their tyres for analyzing the datas. They found nothing “dangerous for drivers’ safety”. On Saturday, only two drivers who had mounted Michelin tyres, setted valid times. By the way, qualifyings gets on. Trulli set the pole position, the first one for Toyota. On Saturday evening arrived “the crack”: a Michelin statement which said “Following analysis of the Ralf Schumacher’s incident, we do not ensure our pneumatic energy.”

So the action moved from the track to inside the paddock. That evening, and the following morning, was only a mix of confusion. Nobody knew what to do. Then, at ten o’clock something changed. All the teams agreed on building a chicane instead of doing the last turn. But Ferrari strongly opposed it and they didn’t do anything.

During the formation lap Coulthard said to the team “Guys, I want to race”. This little glimmer of hope was immediately turned off by another team radio, but this time from Flavio Briatore to his driver, Fernando Alonso. He said “Fernando we need to retire the car”. All the cars which mounted Michelin tyres re-entered into the pits to retire their cars. Only the Ferraris, the Minardis and the Jordans stayed on the track.

The public in the grandstands were furious, and they showed it by throwing everything on the track, including a plastic bottle which hit Rubens Barrichello. Another episode was when Michael Schumacher exited from the pits and almost crashed into his teammate. By the way, the race was won by the German driver, followed by Rubens Barrichello and Thiago Monteiro, who completed that podium. The drivers of the Italian constructor didn’t celebrate that win, but the Jordan driver celebrated his first podium. Michelin was forced by the FIA to reimburse the tickets of all the fans. In 2006 the Japanese tyre manufacturer left Formula 1.

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