US Grand Prix 2002, Indianapolis: A Ferrari Fix

In the run up to the return to the US for F1 racing, I’m looking for good stories that maybe veteran F1 fans want to relive and new ones can read for the first time. Most people with any vague knowledge of F1 racing in the US will know of the tyre debacle at Indianapolis in 2005 where only 6 teams ran.

Yesterday, thejudge13 published a review and some video footage from Dallas 1984, another farcical event where the track disintegrated before the drivers eys. So much so the Pole Position fastest time was set on Friday some 2.5 seconds quicker than anything possible on the Saturday – and there was no rain. (LINK)

Controversy has not been far from the US Grand Prix it seems in recent years. This race at 2002, I remember watching live and listening to the incredulous voice of the commentator who wailed in disbelief at the finish as it unfolded before his eyes. The article is from Grandprix.com but is abridged due a great level of detail some may find dull. The link to the full article is at the end for those wanting the 10th’s of seconds etc…  suffice to say the race was a fairly dull Ferrari domination (as was much of 1999-2004).

Prancing foot lands in mouth…

IT is every German working class boy’s dream: to be in the most famous racing car in the world, at the most famous race track in the world, winning a race in front of tens of thousands of cheering race fans, all of whom are planning to rush down to the local Ferrari dealership on Monday morning and place an order for a gleaming red product from the home of the Prancing Horse. You are skipping through flowery fields with everyone applauding… You are fast but you have gone beyond that. You want to be respected as well. You want to be more than just a multiple World Champion. You want to be Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Nomex overalls. The orchestra is playing a rousing tune and then someone nudges the record player. There is an unpleasant scratching noise and you wake up and you find that you have really made a mess of things…

The look on Michael Schumacher’s face at the end of the post-race press conference at Indianapolis said it all. The joy we had seen on the podium was gone. The eyes were not smiling. The face seemed suddenly taut as the realization sank in that what was meant to be a magnanimous gesture had turned into a nightmare. Michael had realized that the dreadful poltergeist that was released earlier this year when Ferrari used team orders in Austria was out of the bottle again. It was time to call in the Ghostbusters…

It was an unfortunate end to what would have been a pretty good afternoon. The two Ferraris were dominant again. No-one was going to accuse Formula 1 of being as exciting as USAC Midget racing but the fans – around 150,000 of them – would go home having seen the best of the best. The Top Guns of Formula 1. And on this occasion they had been racing all afternoon. The Ferrari team had made it clear before the event that the two drivers would be allowed to fight. And fight they did. The problem was that Rubens Barrichello is just not quite as fast as Michael Schumacher. And so he was stuck behind him for most of the afternoon.

At the final corner Michael donned his Mother Teresa gear and went out wide. Rubens went down the inside. It was a formation finish. Or was it? Was Michael letting Rubens through? Rubens did not know. He was not sure what to do. The two cars crossed the line together. Not even the drivers were able to say who had won. But the Formula 1 timing transponders can reveal the tiniest of secrets and when the names flicked up on the screen, you could almost hear the groan. Barrichello was ahead of M Schumacher. Down at the back of the Media Center you could hear the bad guys kick-starting their Conspiracy Theories. This was bad for Formula 1. This was a scandal. This was the worst thing to happen in the history of the sport. This would sell newspapers… This is the way of the media in the modern age. And Michael Schumacher should be bright enough to know that by now.

When he started to explain himself he said that he had been trying for a dead heat. Then he changed his story. It suddenly became a payback for what Rubens did in Austria. If he had been in an police investigation he would have been in the slammer because the story was not consistent.

But try as they might the Banshees of the Media Center could not turn this one into “Austria II – the payback”. This time there was no banana-munching giant on the pitwall being told what to do by a funny little Frenchman the size of Napoleon. There was no interference from the pitwall. Michael Schumacher had done it all himself.

The best thing for Michael to have done would have been to have stopped talking about being honest and fair (an odd concept in the circumstances) and been honest. It looked like he was trying to stage a formation finish and had just screwed it up. His pride probably did not allow for that. And so it looked like a staged finish and that meant that the attack dogs in the media were able to bark that the public had been cheated. It was all a great shame because Formula 1 had done as good a job as possible in the current circumstances for the F1 fans of America.

One other matter worthy of note was Pedro De La Rosa driving a woeful Jaguar suffered a seixure of the transmission and the rear end of the car caught fire and there followed an amusing piece of slapstick comedy as the marshals got excited and squirted the car with lots of extinguisher. Pedro was ushered quickly aside and told to jump over the barrier. He did so and promptly fell six feet into a drainage culvert, which they had forgotten to mention to him.

“They did not tell me there was a river next to the barrier,” he complained later. “Unbelievable”.

If you just want the Pedro De La Rosa incident start watching about 1:50 in

One can only hope that after Michael had finished talking to the media, trying to undo the harm he had done on the last lap, he went back to the Ferrari pit and was hit in the head by Jean Todt and told not to try thinking for himself in the future…

If we disregard the Ferrari fixed finish, the real closest finish ever was in 1971 at the Italian GP on the last year Monza ran without chicanes to slow down the cars.  Peter Gethin scored his only F1 win with Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley within 0.61s. Here’s a clip to gain a flavour of the time..

Now THAT’s what you call an exciting race and finish!!!!

Original Article: Grandprix.com

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