Miami GP: F1's 2005 US Grand Prix was memorable for all the wrong reasons

Miami GP: F1's 2005 US Grand Prix was memorable for all the wrong reasons

Formula 1 returns to the United States from 6th-8th May for the first of two United States-based Grand Prix in the 2022 season.

And as ever with Formula 1’s desperate desires to kick into the future and create an even more grand spectacle out of the fastest motorsport category on earth, no expenses have been spared in constructing the surroundings of the ‘Miami International Autodrome’, following its delayed introduction to the race calendar.

A ‘marina’ with fake water has been spotted in construction by locals ahead of the weekend’s race, which has attracted plenty of attention online. Still, though, a strange-looking faux marina is by far the least unusual event to come from a US-based grand prix.

In fact, that is unlikely to ever be topped when you hark back to 2005 and consider the United States Grand Prix. One of the most infamous weekends in F1 history, for all of the wrong reasons.

Where was the 2005 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix?

For all the rabid intrigue and demand for F1 around the rest of the world, the USA still was still a market that it had yet to truly capture and serve efficiently.

Introduced to the calendar in 2000, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway proved a hit in its first season as Michael Schumacher blazed around the track in his Ferrari and clinched a seventh win of the season that was crucial in his pursuit of the Drivers’ Championship, while Mika Hakkinen suffered a costly retirement.

F1 continued to visit Indianapolis, but controversy quickly followed. In 2002, Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barrichello crossed the line to a photo finish which saw the latter pick up a controversial win by 0.011 seconds. With Schumacher’s championship secured, it is believed the ending of the race was intentional to hand Barrichello a win, to the disappointment of fans.

Ferrari dominated a controversial 2002 United States Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS – SEPTEMBER 29: (from left to right) Ferrari engine director Paolo Martinelli, second placed Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher of Germany, race winner Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello of Brazil, and third placed McLaren-Mercedes driver David Coulthard of Great Britain on the podium after the US Formula One Grand Prix held on September 29, 2002 at the Indianapolis Motorspeedway, in Indianapolis, USA. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Two years later, Fernando Alonso and Ralf Schumacher crashed out of the race in Indianapolis due to issues with wear on the Michelin tyres, with Schumacher suffering concussion and fractures in his spine that kept him out of action for three months.

Then came the controversy of 2005, which significantly dampened F1’s image in the USA, almost to a point of no return.

What happened prior to the 2005 United States Grand Prix?

New tyre regulations meant tyre changes were completely outlawed for 2005. This had benefitted teams beneath Ferrari throughout the season. The ‘Prancing Horse’ fell behind on Bridgestones, which were now only being used by three teams, while the likes of Renault and McLaren looked quicker every weekend on Michelins.

Heading into Indianapolis for round nine of a 19 race season from 17th-19th June 2005, the Michelin tyres were again not up to standard to deal with the circuit, and Ralf Schumacher again crashed out at the track during the Friday practice session at turn 13 – the very same spot where he had crashed out the year before.

Unable to continue for the rest of the weekend, Ricardo Zonta stepped into Schumacher’s Toyota, but the stand-in test driver also crashed out in practice due to the same problems with rear-left tyre wear.

Michelin tyres were inadequate for the United States Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JUNE 17: Ricardo Zonta of Brazil and Toyota spins off during practice for the United States F1 Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 17, 2005 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Considering the two crashes the year before, and two more crashes before we’d even made it to a qualifying session, fans looked set for yet another disastrous weekend of racing. But more worryingly, a dangerous one if lessons weren’t learned.

Michelin representatives conceded to FIA Race Director Charlie Whitling that if cars couldn’t be slowed down through turn 13, they could not guarantee the safety of their tyre for more than 10 laps. New specification tyres were unable to be flown in and tyre changes were prohibited as per the tyre regulation changes, meaning Michelin’s last resort was requesting a track layout change at turn 13, proposing that it was instead turned into a chicane.

Race Director Whitling refused this on the grounds that the race would become unsanctioned if the layout was to change, and deemed the proposal ‘grossly unfair’ on the Bridgestone teams who had arrived with tyres that were able to hold their own on the Indianapolis circuit.

FIA President Max Mosley was also unwilling to sanction track layout changes and, after suggestions that Michelin teams would run a revised, unsanctioned race that didn’t involve Ferrari or FIA personnel, it was rumoured that he threatened to pull F1 and FIA-regulated motorsport out of the US entirely.

F1 fans were outraged at the 2005 United States Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS – JUNE 19: Fans show their disgust after all the cars on Michelin tires retired on lap one during the United States F1 Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway June 19, 2005 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

What happened on race day?

As usual on race day, all teams took to the track and prepared to line up in order before the lights went out.

Cars set off to complete the formation lap to set the grid ahead of the race start, but at turn 13, all Michelin tyre-fitted cars pulled into their pit boxes, while the three Bridgestone teams – Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi – took up their positions on the grid as expected.

We were getting a race involving just six cars.

You can only imagine the confusion and subsequent anger that clouded over the 100,000+ spectators who had bought tickets, merchandise and confectionary, filling up grandstands all weekend long.

The 2005 Unite States Grand Prix was a disaster
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JUNE 19: Ferrari, Minardi, and Jordan drivers all line up on the grid to start the race as the teams with Michelin tires all come into the pits to to retire after one lap during the United States F1 Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 19, 2005 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Despite placing only fifth fastest in qualifying, Michael Schumacher was now the pole sitter by default, with teammate Barrichello behind him. It handed Schumacher his first and only race win of an immensely difficult 2005 season for Ferrari, as fans left the stands in the hundreds and thousands out of sheer anger after choruses of boos and throwing bottles and beer cans onto the track, demanding refunds and resulting in the police being called to quell the chaos.

What happened after the 2005 United States Grand Prix?

Sports media and fans alike were perplexed at the disaster in Indianapolis.

Ecclestone conceded that the farcical events of the weekend were incidents that went above the racing teams, while also casting major doubt over F1’s future involvement in the USA, as well as Michelin’s involvement with F1 going forward. David Coulthard agreed elsewhere, as did plenty of other pundits.

After sending all of the teams who didn’t race in Indianapolis to the FIA World Motor Sport Council in the following months, they were all eventually exonerated of the charges against them surrounding their failures to see through the race and more, while fans were also compensated as a result.

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Amazingly, Indianapolis remained on the F1 calendar for a further two years. The interest in seeing that race was in the floor, however, and after being left off the 2008 calendar, it never returned.

The United States wouldn’t return to the race calendar until 2012, where it was held at COTA in Austin, Texas, and has remained since.

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