Andrew Maitland

Three hundred and seventy-eight days ago, darkness descended
on F1 when team bosses failed to find a solution to what became known as the
Six Car Farce. With Michelin nabbed for trading safety off against performance,
the French tyre supplier was forced to pull 14 of the 20-car field from the
race. Flying beer cans and obscenities neatly summed up how the crowd felt
about it.

A safely Bridgestone-clad Michael Schumacher, albeit in the
middle of a nightmare season, duly won, fittingly followed by Brazilian
teammate Rubens Barrichello.

A season and a bit later, nothing much had changed. Schumacher
arrived at the fabled ‘Motor Speedway’ on Thursday expecting more Montreal
treatment. In Canada a week ago, he had been trounced by the Spaniard. Here, he
had the same car, the same inadequate tyres, and no time to improve.

But Michelin, of course, couldn’t afford a repeat of 2005. “Um,
no more of that tyre-popping stuff, got it?” would have been the gist of Bernie
Ecclestone’s orders.

The F1 supremo’s recent “positioning” over a likely new GP
contract led some of the more gullible observers to surmise that Mr E wouldn’t
mind if Turkmenistan replaced the USA on the calendar. Except, of course, that
seven or eight of the millionaire cheque-writers in pitlane quite enjoy having
an annual stab at the most important market on earth.

In the end, on a scorching Sunday in July 2006, Michelin
played it a touch too safe. A shotgun, let alone Indy banking, would not have
troubled these boots, one insider noted. Bridgestone, Ferrari and Schumacher predictably
picked up the pieces, and even though only nine cars reached the chequered flag
this time around, the crowd – accustomed to Indy 500s and Brickyard 500s –
cheered raucously at the tasty 10-car bingle at the first corner.

Oh, and with Barrichello now pedalling a Honda, this time
Felipe Massa was the one observing teammate Schumacher’s clean heels. Alonso
finished fifth, but remains 19 points clear of Schumacher with eight races

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey