Updated:
Original:
Year
2005
Month Day
June 19

Controversy at U.S. Grand Prix

After 14 Formula One race car drivers withdraw due to safety concerns over the Michelin-made tires on their vehicles, German driver Michael Schumacher wins a less-than-satisfying victory at the United States Grand Prix on this day in 2005. The race, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, will go down one of the most controversial Formula One racing events in history.

Two days before the race, driver Ralf Schumacher (Michael’s brother) crashed in practice while negotiating the speedway’s banked right-hand 13th turn. Michelin, makers of Schumacher’s tires, determined that the tires they had supplied for the Grand Prix could not withstand the high speed on the turn, and asked the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sanctioning body for Formula One races, for permission to send another batch of tires. The FIA refused, citing its mandate that only one set of tires be used in a weekend. The organization also refused Michelin’s petition to build a chicane, or series of turns, designed to slow down cars before the 13th turn–despite the fact that the speedway’s chief executive and 9 out of the 10 teams in the race agreed that the track could be altered. The only team that didn’t was Ferrari, the team of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello (who ended up finishing second) and one of three teams in the race that used Bridgestone tires instead of Michelin.

In the end, 14 cars stayed in the garage for the Grand Prix; the six remaining cars were from the Bridgestone-outfitted Ferrari, Minardi and Jordan teams. The race itself featured one moment of excitement, when Michael Schumacher almost collided with Barrichello after a pit stop, forcing Barrichello off the track briefly and onto the grass before he regained his bearings. Many disgruntled fans left early, while others threw beer bottles and other debris from the stands and booed the victory ceremony, during which a subdued Schumacher declined to spray the customary bottle of champagne into the crowd.

The teams that used Michelin tires issued a joint apology to fans and sponsors, while Michelin later reimbursed some ticket holders for the event. Though many faulted Michelin for not providing adequate tires and agreed that the FIA and Ferrari team had the right to insist that the race course not be changed, many felt a compromise would have benefited Formula One racing as a whole, especially in the United States, where it was still seeking to build a solid fan base. The 2005 Grand Prix had drawn a crowd of some 100,000 fans–far less than that attracted by the Indianapolis 500 or a regular NASCAR Nextel Cup event.  

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Emperor of Mexico executed

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic. In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial ...read more

First Republican national convention ends

In Music Fund Hall in Philadelphia, the first national convention of the Republican Party, founded two years before, comes to its conclusion. John Charles Fremont of California, the famous explorer of the West, was nominated for the presidency, and William Dewis Dayton of New ...read more

USS Kearsarge sinks CSS Alabama

The most successful and feared Confederate commerce raider of the war, the CSS Alabama, sinks after a spectacular battle off the coast of France with the USS Kearsarge. Built in an English shipyard and sold to the Confederates in 1861, the Alabama was a state-of-the-art ship—220 ...read more