It happened today

It happened today – 24 September

On 24th September 2000, Michael Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix. Formula 1 had returned to the USA after a nine year break and the race was held at the symbol of American racing, the Indianapolis Speedway. For around a decade the eponymous 500 Miles had counted towards the World Championship, but the return of the highest level of motorsport would take place on a brand new track that made use of part of the oval, before turning into an infield section. The event drew a fantastic crowd, with numbers that had not been seen in Formula 1 for a very long time, both on Saturday and Sunday, when the event was a 250,000 ticket sell-out and the race did not disappoint.

The win at Monza had marked a change of fortune in the 2000 season, with Schumacher now just two points down on Mika Hakkinen. The F1-2000 was immediately competitive and on Saturday, Michael took pole ahead of the two McLarens and his team-mate, Barrichello. On Sunday, the weather added another element of uncertainty to the duel between the two Ferraris and McLarens. Coulthard clearly jumped the start, leading into the first corner ahead of Schumacher, with Hakkinen and Barrichello right behind. At first, Coulthard began to pull away from the Ferrari but, getting the call from the pits, he slowed, which allowed Hakkinen to close right up on Michael.

The Ferrari man got out of the trap, by forcing his way past Coulthard and thus going into the lead while the Scotsman dropped back after his stop-go penalty. After a few laps, once it seemed that the track was drying the tyre changes began, which did not go well for Barrichello, who was one of the first to pit and found himself down in eighth place. Unlike the others, Michael stayed out for a long time on rain tyres, building up a significant lead over Hakkinen. When Schumacher also switched to the dry tyres, the reigning world champion began to close up until he was less than 5 seconds away. But at around a third distance, Hakkinen’s engine let go, catching fire in the pit lane. From then on, Schumacher controlled the race. The only scare came a few laps from the end when Michael spun after putting a wheel on the grass: luckily the engine kept running and Schumacher calmly carried on towards the chequered flag. Further back, Rubens was passing those ahead and, with a retirement from Ralf Schumacher and a spin from Villeneuve, he took second place to give the Prancing Horse a nice one-two finish.

With ten points gained in Indianapolis and Hakkinen failing to score, Michael was back in the lead of the classification, but the apotheosis would have to wait another fortnight.