DiZinno: Reflecting 10 years on from when F1 shot itself in the foot at Indy (VIDEO)

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It was supposed to be my favorite race weekend I’d ever been to in person, as a young kid finally getting to live out a dream and attend a Formula 1 race on the ground, the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, held 10 years ago today on June 19.

It wound up ending with a colossal thud, with reverberations that have lasted until this day.

FIRST GRAND PRIX EXCITEMENT

The genesis of my motorsports journalism career began exactly this weekend 10 years ago, when I was then a wide-eyed 15-year-old who was one of three winners of a national motorsports writing contest sponsored by Red Bull, and judged by the “Dean of American motorsports journalism,” the late, great Chris Economaki.

Having been to a handful of CART races in the seven or eight years previous, I had some idea of what to expect in an on-the-ground format. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer opulence of what was coming at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Formula 1 took over the place.

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Raikkonen at speed. Photo: Getty Images

The first thing I remember was the noise. While CART’s turbocharged Hondas, Toyotas, Ford Cosworths and Mercedes engines were an excellent hook, the sheer shriek of the screaming V10s launching through Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) onto the front straight was something that sent chills down the spine… and still does all these years later even just writing this sentence.

The second was the exclusivity. It was the introduction of passes, and which pass you need to get to which zone. My cousin and I had managed to finagle our way into the media center early in the weekend by way of a mutual, well-connected friend, but it felt as though we were playing with fire.

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Scott Speed at speed. Photo: Getty Images

Later in the weekend though, when Red Bull hooked us up with temporary paddock passes – and my cousin and I engaged in a full-on sprint from the grandstands into the infield to make it in time – the dream was real. Here we were, staring full-on at David Coulthard’s Red Bull chassis, the team’s first in its first season having bought the Jaguar squad.

Later that night, we were introduced to Red Bull’s American hope Scott Speed at a dinner with Economaki. Speed had run in Friday practice and the team was fast-tracking him some laps in hopes of his F1 race debut in 2006 (which happened by way of Red Bull buying Minardi and giving birth to Toro Rosso).

That night, Economaki told me a line I’ve never forgotten and still live by to this day. When I said I was done with my most recent year in school, he replied with that twinkle in his eye and thick New Jersey accent and volume and said, “You’re never done. Done is what a turkey is on Thanksgiving.”

To this point, nothing during the weekend seemed real.

Nor did the sequence of events that continued to follow during the weekend on-track.

BUILD-UP TO CHAOS

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Trulli and Zonta backed into garage. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier on Friday, Ralf Schumacher’s crash in Turn 13 – his second in that corner in as many years – knocked him out of the race. The fun trivia fact here is Ricardo Zonta replaced him for the rest of the weekend, but the Brazilian never competed in another F1 weekend again after this.

Overall, it was the tires that suddenly became the story, with the higher-than-normal loads potentially proving unsafe for the Michelin runners.

You’ll remember at this point that 2005 was an odd year in F1 annals, where there were no in-race tire changes and teams had to make their tires last a full distance. It cost Kimi Raikkonen the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring two races earlier when his suspension failed as a result of highly degraded tires.

There was one other key point – IMS had been repaved earlier in the year with a new diamond-ground surface. Bridgestone, by way of sister brand Firestone, had had the built-in track time advantage with the IndyCars and the Indianapolis 500 a month earlier. Michelin hadn’t.

It was quickly becoming the talking point of the weekend, where if Michelin couldn’t prove its tires were safe, there’d be some serious repercussions.

So Michelin called for backup. Michelin’s replacement tires – as Michelin and Bridgestone had to select tires in advance of the two back-to-back flyaway races in Montreal and Indianapolis – appeared to have the same problem. This was not a cheap exercise.

Saturday practice followed with minimal running by the Michelin runners, and although Jarno Trulli swept through to the pole in the afternoon for Toyota’s first pole position, there was little confidence that the Michelins could last more than a certain number of laps.

I remember a dinner on the Saturday where the talk wasn’t of excitement for Sunday. It was of the potential magnitude of what would be felt if a cluster happened on Sunday. It proved prescient…

THE RACE DAY DEBACLE

Sunday dawned with, fittingly, clouds overhead. There was talk of adding a chicane, or talk of making this a non-championship race. Neither occurred.

As a fan, you were almost left in the dark with what was going on, but it was obvious this was not going to be a normal Grand Prix Sunday.

And certainly, it wasn’t.

Here was the SPEED broadcast, which featured the well justified incredulity of the broadcast team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett. Peter Windsor and Derek Daly in the pit lane were stupefied.

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The Michelin runners peel off. Photo: Getty Images

The field rolled out to the grid, still 20 cars strong. They left for the reconnaissance lap…

And then they started peeling off. One by one. Team by team.

The Michelin runners were all headed for pit lane. They were retiring before the race had even begun.

The lights went out with two Ferraris… two Jordans… and two Minardis.

Was this real life?

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This guy about sums it up. Photo: Getty Images

Certainly the situation didn’t call for fans actually throwing debris onto the track, as that would have affected the remaining runners. It was shameful, but justified in theory if not in actuality.

The paying customers – and in particular, the fans who may have been attending their first Grand Prix as I was – had a right to feel aggrieved. Most of all, they had a right to feel informed and understand what the heck actually triggered this mess.

Yes, Michael Schumacher won from Rubens Barrichello but it hardly mattered. It was Schumacher’s only win of the year. The fact they ran off the podium as quickly as they did post-race still sticks out in the mind.

On the bright side, third-placed driver Tiago Monteiro at least managed to make something of his moment in the sun in his only career podium, and the last for the Jordan team.

Minardi’s Paul Stoddart also had this memorable rant, below.

THE AFTERMATH

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First, and only, podium for Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro. Photo: Getty Images

The post-race post-mortem was intense. This race, of course, did irreparable harm for F1 at Indianapolis, and it was the latest – and probably biggest – dent in F1’s on-again, off-again history in the United States.

Michelin suffered a blow in the PR perspective even though they were not the sole culprits, in this writer’s opinion. Michelin made good by issuing refunds and purchased tickets for fans for the 2006 race at the track. Fans with tickets could use them to attend the Champ Car race at Cleveland a couple weeks later.

Michelin was out of F1 at the end of 2006, although it may one day return. Indianapolis was gone at the end of 2007, and no race in the U.S. occurred until 2012 at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, the purpose-built F1 facility this country had always deserved.

A year later, I had my first real writing gig in the sport, and that weekend helped propel me to where I am today, thanks to so many people.

But the biggest lesson I learned that weekend was invaluable.

F1’s political football is as much a part of the paddock as the on-track competition.

Ten years later, that remains truer than ever.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…