Rear View Mirror: Indianapolis
June 18, 2007 | 12:18 P.M. EST
Dating back to the reincarnation of the United States Grand Prix in 2000, the North American swing of Formula One could very easily have been titled "The Ferrari Tour," as the Italian outfit won 10 of 14 races in that span (four Canadian Grands Prix and six USGP’s). In fact, only once in that seven year period did Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro fail to win at least one of the two events held on the continent (2001).
But not even those impressive numbers could derail the winning train that is Lewis Hamilton and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team this season.
After performing flawlessly in Montreal, Hamilton came to the United States and put on a performance that will not be forgotten for some time – taking pole away from teammate and two-time defending World Champion Fernando Alonso on Saturday, leading 66 of 73 laps on Sunday en route to victory and holding off constant challenges on track from Alonso, who tried to get past at the start and again on lap 39 when he pulled up alongside but was unable to take the lead away.
"What a dream. To come into two circuits that I didn't know my first time, you know, to really come out with such pace to see the team moving forward always and being competitive," said Hamilton, who became the first rookie to win the USGP at Indianapolis and the second-youngest driver to win a major event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Troy Ruttman, who won the 1952 Indianapolis 500 at age 22 years, 80 days old, was younger when he took the checkered flag). "The guys here are a great bunch of guys and did a fantastic job on strategy, setting up the car. It's a perfect team, and I'm really happy I could put the icing on the cake.
"I would have never thought in a million years that I would be here today sitting against these drivers here and finishing, winning both races in North America. So a great leap in my career, in my life, and extremely proud and thankful for my family and to God and to the team.
"It just keeps getting better and better - what an amazing week this has been."
But because of that brilliant display, Ferrari’s North American dominance is over – and perhaps even their chances in the championship.
"We always worry," said Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. "We don't like to be behind. When you see our competitors in front, you always get worried. But we need to be together to improve, and I trust my team. So I know we can do, I know we have the possibilities to do. So for sure we are not comfortable, so that's clear, but we keep working." Related: Hamilton Conquers North America | Complete Results | Photos
What Do You Think?
What did you think about McLaren’s dominance at Indianpaolis? What about the rest of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix? Send your opinions to email@example.com and make sure to check back with RacingOne to see what other’s think in this week’s edition of the "Fan’s Eye View" this Wednesday.
Last week, we asked for your opinion on the Canadian Grand Prix – here is what Gary P. Joyce of Aquebogue, New York, said:
"One of the most interesting and watchable races so far (and in a long time). Almost like the old 1.5L F-1 days when things such as passing, pit stop incidents, yellow flags, vehicle reliability, driver conditioning, etc., et al, ad nauseam, actually determined the outcome of races.
"Hamilton's win, was a major accomplishment in my opinion. What state-side sports agent isn't positively drooling over signing Hamilton as a client? Hell, he'd be wearing new sneakers, hawking a restaurant chain, an AMEX credit card, a line of autos AND having his biography due out by now!
"If F-1 could hold races like this every time (hell, how about more than once a decade?!), they'd have no problem drawing the American market. I'm actually looking forward to the USGP - even after last year's debacle."
Vettel Impressive in Debut
While nobody wanted to see rookie Robert Kubica have to step away from his BMW Sauber machine as a result of his accident in Canada, there was a bit of good news that came about as a result; his replacement is pretty good.
Sebastien Vettel, the 19-year-old test driver for the team, stepped in for the Polish driver and turned more than a few heads, qualifying seventh and finishing the event eighth overall, good enough for a championship point.
After losing several spots at the start of the United States Grand Prix, Vettel was able to fight back and put himself in contention for a solid finish, one which earned his team their single point of the weekend after teammate Nick Heidfeld retired early due to a hydraulics failure.
"It was fantastic, a lot of fun but a longer race than I ever imagined it to be,” said Vettel. “I think I am quite lucky to get away with a point as the first corner was quite tight. I had an okay start, but not a very good one. When I saw the cars were close I decided to brake just a little bit later and then caught up quickly to those in front of me. To avoid an incident I decided to cut turn two and lost a lot of places.
"After that I was stuck in traffic which more or less destroyed our strategy. It is good to finish the first race and better still in the points. The car was working well. I could have been a bit quicker, but quite often I was stuck in traffic and it is extremely difficult to overtake here as the other guys are not sleeping and they know how to defend. In the end when I saw the checkered flag I was quite relieved. I am quite happy for me and the team who have done a fantastic job."
While Vettel’s performance will probably be overshadowed in the coming weeks by Hamilton’s impressive feat, it deserves praise as he became the youngest driver in Formula One history to score a point. Previously, Honda Racing’s Jenson Button held the mark (he was 20 years old when he scored his first point in the 2000 Grand Prix of Brazil).
Another Struggle for Schumacher
Nobody was happier to leave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday than Panasonic Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher. For the seventh time in eight starts at the famed speedway, Schumacher failed to see the checkered flag – and for the fourth time, it was as a result of an accident.
Starting from 12th on the grid, Schumacher started cleanly but locked up his wheels entering Turn 1, plowing into David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello.
"That was a disappointing way to end my race after a pretty good qualifying," said a dejected Schumacher. "Obviously going into the first corner it was very crowded and everyone is on cold tires. Going into the first corner I braked quite calmly but my tires locked a bit. David came around from the outside and we crashed into each other. I think it was a racing incident. It is disappointing but these things can happen easily in that kind of situation at the start of a race when everyone is trying to gain positions. It is unfortunate and a bit unlucky for us because we could have had a good race."
While it is easy to downplay the accident as ‘just a racing incident,’ it accentuates the Toyota driver’s poor form at Indianapolis, a track which sidelined him for several months after a violent accident in 2004, and also his horrible 2007 season.
Rumors have once again begun circulating about his future at the team; with some even saying he could be out as early as before the next event in France. However, the brother of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher is preparing for a test at Silverstone this week and expects to finish the season in his seat.
With so many talented young drivers available (see Vettel), expect this topic of conversation to remain alive for the next few weeks.
"I’ll be interested to see how Lewis Hamilton goes in our Grand Prix on Sunday,"' Woods said.
"I’ve been following his progress pretty closely, and I think it is great he won the Canadian Grand Prix after going close in all his previous races. Without a doubt, he is one of the most exciting talents to hit the sporting scene in recent years. Any time a rookie comes through and wins big, it is a story that captures the imagination."
With his victory in the United States Grand Prix, the seventh race of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship season, Lewis Hamilton has extended his lead in the championship standings to 10 points over Vodafone McLaren Mercedes teammate Fernando Alonso, who is the two-time defending champion. Felipe Massa remains third, albeit 19 points adrift of the leader, while Kimi Raikkonen (26 points behind) and Nick Heidfeld (32 points behind) complete the top five.
With Robert Kubica’s replacement Sebastian Vettel scoring points this weekend, there are now 16 drivers who have secured at least one championship point in 2007.
In the Constructors Standings, McLaren’s advantage has ballooned to a whopping 35 points over Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro with their 1-2 finish at Indianapolis. BMW Sauber (67 points behind), defending champions ING Renault F1 Team (81 points behind) and AT&T Williams (93 points behind) round out the top five. Standings: Drivers | Constructors
After two weeks of consecutive racing in North America, Formula One’s teams and drivers get a week respite before the running of the Grand Prix of France at the Magny-Cours circuit on July 1.
This will be the 16th running of this GP at the 2.741-mile, 11 turn circuit. While the race will feature three past winners (Fernando Alonso (2005), Ralf Schumacher (2003) and David Coulthard (2000)), there will be no repeat winner, as Michael Schumacher won this event last year.
The action gets underway on Friday, June 29, with the opening 90-minute practice beginning at 4 a.m. (ET), followed by the second 90-minute session at 8 a.m. (ET). Competitors will get one final hour long practice session on Saturday at 5 a.m. (ET) before qualifying takes place at 8 a.m. (ET).
Sunday’s 70-lap event gets underway on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. (ET). FOX will show the race on same-day delay at 1 p.m. (ET). 2007 Schedule