2002 United States Grand Prix
|Race 16 of 17 in the 2002 Formula One season|
|Date||September 29, 2002|
|Official name||XXXI SAP United States Grand Prix|
|Location||Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|Course||Permanent racing facility
4.195 km (2.606 mi)
|Distance||73 laps, 306.235 km (190.238 mi)|
|Weather||Sunny with temperatures reaching up to 80.1 °F (26.7 °C); wind speeds approaching a maximum of 10.1 miles per hour (16.3 km/h)|
|Time||1:12.738 on lap 27|
Rubens Barrichello took the win over teammate Michael Schumacher with the two Ferrari drivers switching positions in the final few metres of the race after Schumacher attempted to stage a dead heat with his teammate to the finish. It was Ferrari's eighth one-two finish of the season and left the team and its drivers tripping over one another to explain how the Brazilian had managed– or been allowed– to squeeze by Schumacher after the last corner, pipping him at the line to win the race by 0.011 seconds. It was the smallest margin of victory in an American Grand Prix, closest margin in the history of Formula One since the introduction of timing to the nearest thousandth of a second.
Barrichello said "To win, it was very, very, very good.... I got to the last corner, I didn't know what to do and nothing has been said. Michael was just very kind to, you know, let us finish equally. I guess I pointed a little bit in front, but, you know, what can we say?" Schumacher said "The end of the race was not planned... We tried to cross the line together but failed by a tiny bit and in fact we did not know who had won until we got out of the cars. I just felt Rubens deserved to win this race."
David Coulthard took third for McLaren, just two seconds ahead of the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya, while Jarno Trulli and Jacques Villeneuve battled throughout the race and finished fifth and sixth.
With both season titles already in Ferrari's grasp, promoters for the race urged fans to come "see history in the making" and "a sports legend...one of the greatest racing drivers...of all time," namely five-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Indeed, Schumacher topped the charts in every pre-race session and on Saturday set a new qualifying record of 1:10.790.
Despite heavy rain early Friday morning, the track was dry for the first practice and remained that way all weekend. On his first lap, Barrichello achieved the notoriety of being the first Formula 1 driver in three years of running at the renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway to hit the concrete wall in the oval section of the track. As he was about to finish his first lap, his left rear tire lost pressure and the car was flung into the outer wall at the top of the main straight, ripping off the left rear corner and front wing. Ironically, perhaps, Barrichello's car missed the energy-absorbing Steel And Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier that had been installed in front of the concrete wall in all of the oval turns the previous May. The Ferrari went across the grass at the bottom of Turn 13 (Turn 1 of the oval), up the banking, and hit the bare concrete wall at the beginning of the straight.
Eddie Irvine, fresh off a podium finish at the Italian GP, showed promise for Jaguar by posting the second best time on Friday, just ahead of the two McLarens, as Williams struggled to get in the top 10. In qualifying, however, Coulthard edged Montoya for third spot on his last lap by one one-thousandth of a second (.001). Williams did well to take fourth (Montoya) and fifth (Ralf Schumacher), while Irvine could do no better than thirteenth.
The Ferrari team had stated before the weekend that their drivers, competing only with each other for much of the season, would be allowed to do just that on Sunday. No team orders. An all-out fight for the win. From the start, Schumacher led Barrichello lap after lap and, apart from a brief stint before Coulthard's only pit stop, they completely separated themselves from the rest of the field. The gap between the two leaders, meanwhile, varied from three or four seconds to less than a second.
Meanwhile, any chance Williams had of challenging the Ferraris was taken out on Lap 2. Ralf Schumacher had made a much better start than Montoya and jumped ahead of his teammate off the grid and through the first corner. As they came down the front straight to start the second lap, however, with their BMW engines turning over 19,000 RPM, the fastest ever by any car in the history of the Speedway, the two disagreed over who would follow who through Turn 1. Montoya pulled ahead on the outside of Schumacher approaching the turn and so had the better line. When Ralf turned into the corner from his inside position, he ran over the plastic curbing and his rear end slid around and contacted the side of Montoya's car as it went by. Ralf collected himself in the grass, but he was minus his rear wing and, while he made it back to the pits for a new wing, his race was ruined.
"[Ralf] made a mistake and went wide on the last right hand before the straight, so I got behind him and drafted him," Montoya said. "I went around the outside to pass him and braked really late, and I think he spun. I'm not going to say it was completely Ralf's fault. I mean, we were racing and everything...I know I gave him plenty of room because I was right on the edge of the track. Because I braked so late, I nearly didn't even make the corner. I braked really late, just made the corner, and something hit me in the back. When I looked in the mirror, I saw Ralf."
Montoya seemed unscathed by the incident and may have been able to mount a legitimate fight for third spot, but he misunderstood a pit board message and came in for his only stop ten laps too early. "I saw a sign out and I thought I had to come in and the crew didn't know I was coming. Unluckily, it wasn't the time to come in yet." The team adjusted as well as they could, but the delay in servicing the car and the damage to their one-stop strategy meant Montoya was racing for fourth place from that point.
When the pitstops were over (two for Ferrari on Bridgestones, one for McLaren and Williams on Michelins), David Coulthard was behind Barrichello by the length of the huge main straight– 1000 meters– but he knew that if his Mercedes engine held out (unlike teammate Kimi Räikkönen's), third place was his. Montoya would close the gap a bit toward the end of the race, but he never posed a real threat for the last podium position. "For the last 40 laps, I was not pushing as hard as I could have done because I chose to look after my engine," Coulthard said afterward.
In the post-race interviews, the Ferrari drivers hemmed and hawed, changing their story of what had happened at the finish with each telling. Other teams[who?] insisted that Ferrari had made a mockery of the sport again, while some[who?] said Schumacher had simply bungled an improvised formation finish. Earlier in the year Barrichello had been ordered to let Schumacher past on the final lap so he could win the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. So many saw this result as Schumacher returning the favour.
- For the United States TV coverage, this race was televised live on ABC instead of Speed Channel. It was one of four races to be broadcast in the U.S. by ABC Sports, the others being the Monaco Grand Prix, the Canadian Grand Prix, and the Italian Grand Prix. For all four races, ABC opted to use the now-defunct F1 Digital+ feed, rather than the world feed. For the United States Grand Prix, Formula One Management served as the host broadcaster, meaning that, for the first and only time, every Formula One television broadcaster in the world transmitted the F1 Digital+ feed to their viewers.
- Toward the end, Michael Schumacher, who was leading the race, eased off the throttle at the last moment, attempting to create a "dead heat" between himself and teammate Rubens Barrichello (partially in atonement for the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix fiasco); Schumacher wound up losing the race by 11 thousandths of a second, the second-closest finish in Speedway history, beating out the historic finish of the 1992 Indianapolis 500 between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear. This was possibly the closest finish in Formula One history (the 0.01 s difference in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix was measured only to the nearest 0.01 s, so either could have been the closest), and the closest of the modern era.
- It was also the closest finish in United States Grand Prix history, beating Ronnie Peterson's 0.688 second margin over James Hunt at Watkins Glen in 1973.
- De la Rosa parked his stalled car next to the road leading to the pit. Upon getting out, he was told by the marshals to jump over the barrier. He did so, and fell six feet into a small river. The incident was humorous to those watching on television, but not to De la Rosa himself, as he complained about the episode to the press afterward, saying the marshals did not tell him what was behind the barrier.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- "Weather information for the "2002 United States Grand Prix"". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
- "Grand Prix Results: United States GP, 2002". GrandPrix.com. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
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2003 United States Grand Prix