The 2005 US Grand Prix in Indianapolis came at the peak of the tyre wars between Bridgestone and Michelin. When Ralf Schumacher crashed during practice, Michelin picked up a problem and advised teams running its tyres not to race unless a pre-banking chicane was added, slowing the cars down and lessening the tyre loads.
Ferrari and the FIA vetoed the plan and all the cars came to the start grid. At the end of the warm-up lap, the Michelin cars pulled into the pits and retired. Six Bridgestone cars completed the race and F1 and Indianapolis canned their agreement.
Quick Thinking: The Grid Walk
Former F1 Driver , Martin Brundle, was the man chosen by ITV to develop the idea of a live TV “grid walk” before F1 race starts. Broadcasters had tried it before, but run-of-the-mill TV presenters were not the right people to get in the faces of drivers in the final tense minutes before lights out. Brundle blended his understanding of the pressures that came with the job, a good sense of humour and a lightning fast ability to think on the spot and became the de-facto gridwalk persona.
The 2005 US Grand Prix gridwalk is a great example of why Brundle has been so successful. In the midst of a media frenzy, he quizzes F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone, at length, making several points on behalf of the fans without losing his cool. Brundle’s talent shines through when he asks the man who can famously arrange anything why this problem can’t be easily solved.
“Surely we just all need to take a sensible pill and then go motor racing?” says Martin. “Tell me where we can buy the pills,” replies Bernie, giving Brundle a playful dig. “Okay, we need to talk to Mrs Ecclestone,” Martin says: cheeky and quick all in one.
Thinking fast under pressure is common skill in racers. The speed of change on a racetrack means that most reactions to an emerging situation must be assigned automatically, living sufficient conscious capacity to make quick, confident decisions when faced with a series of options.
Of course, the skill is not always full developed and we often see things going wrong when a lesser decision plays out. But unforgettable moments are made when a champion driver focuses their ability to think fast and run against the odds, pulling off something that rails against our instincts.
One such moment was made at this year’s Nürburgring 24-Hour. After leading the early part of the race, Manthey Racing’s lead 911 had a puncture and was forced down the order. When Kévin Estre took over the sister car, he set a series of incredible laps, pulling more than twenty seconds back on Dirk Müller’s Black Falcon Mercedes.
Eventually the cars were line astern and fighting hard for the lead. The Porsche’s pace was mighty: Estre picked up the slipstream on Dottinger Hohe and decided now was his time. As the leader drifted left to lap a backmarker, Estre calculated that the verge would be dry. Putting two wheels on the grass and not lifting the throttle, he swooped to the lead.
The team of Estre, Christensen, Bamber and Vanthoor stayed in front until a five-minute time penalty for missed yellow flags put the Porsche out of contention. Having led the race for 105 of 157 laps, the Manthey car was forced to settle for second position. Two weeks after the ADAC Total Nürburgring 24-Hours, the number 911 car was retrospectively disqualified by DMSB officials. Manthey issued the following statement:
“The engine in our inspected #911 car complied with all the key points of the homologation. The only thing that was not consistent with the prescribed 2 x 34.6-millimetre diameter of the restrictor, which was the size we used, was the performance value calculated by the ADAC technical committee. We must accept that we did not check the plausibility of the value calculated by the organiser, neither on the test bench in Weissach nor on our chassis dynamometer in Meuspath. We accept the judgement and will not lodge an appeal.”
Disqualified from second place – does anyone really care about that? Winning is a statistic: proof you existed. But writing a move like this into the culture of motorsport is proof that you lived. Long after people have forgotten the winner of the 2019 Nürburgring 24-Hour, they will remember this pass, and Kévin Estre. So far, it’s the Porsche move of the year.
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