The Formula 1 circus is getting ready to head to Austin for USGP in about a month’s time, so I went digging through the archives to find my pics from US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2000. This was the first race that I ever went to and one of the things I remember the most was coming up the stairs to enter the grandstands and hearing those Formula 1 engines rev in the pits before the start of practice. I think I actually stopped for a second because I was so taken aback.
Formula 1 was a very different animal 15 years ago. Sure, the basic design of the car was the same as it’s been since the early ‘80s - wings at the front and back, a driver in the middle with the engine behind him, 4 wheels hanging out in the wind - but that doesn’t mean time hasn’t led to significant but subtle changes in the design of the cars. This was the V-10 era, when the only limits on revs and power were what the engineers could design. The cars and the wings were wider too, with lower rear wings that made them look much more sleek. The 2000 field also still had the grooved tires, so the cars had plenty of grip through a turn... until they didn’t anymore. Maybe because 2000 was around the peak of my interest in Formula 1 or maybe it was the cars, but these V-10 cars will always have a special place in my heart.
So will the 2000 Grand Prix of the United States. This was the first time the circus raced in the US after a 9-year break, so it was definitely a privilege to be there. The circuit and Indianapolis has had it’s ups and downs since then, but I’m glad Formula 1 is still here and the new track in Austin is spectacular. Or at least it looks great on TV. I haven’t been there yet, but I’m waiting for the day a business trip takes me to Austin on a weekend that coincides with something happening on the track.
But enough reminiscing. My pics from the race are mostly taken from two locations. Tickets for practice and qualifying were general admission, so I sat on the banked turn before the main straight as well as at the end of the straight on Turn 1. I also briefly crossed under the track to see the infield, but that didn’t last long because the view wasn’t so good. (Although I remember walking in the tunnel under the straight while the cars were on track and reaching my hand up to touch the ceiling so that I be closer to the cars.) My race day seats were on the main straight towards the middle of the pits, but I don’t have too many pics of the race because of a film malfunction. THAT’S RIGHT I SAID FILM! THIS WAS 2000!
Anyway, here are the pics
This is the McLaren pit with David Coulthard and Mika Hakinnen getting pushed back into the garages in their Mercedes-powered MP5/15s.
The guy in red was a Ferrari spy. He would occasionally walk down from their pit (right next to McLaren) and peak inside until someone chased him away. At the time, I was a rabid McLaren fan, so I hated this guy with the fire of a thousand suns.
Here Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello enter the pits in their Ferrari F1-2000s.
Schumacher took the pole position. Afterwards he came out of the pits (in jeans, of course, since this was America) to celebrate.
A Jordan-Mugen-Honda EJ10B cuts across the grass while a BAR-Honda 002 exits Turn 1.
A Williams-BMW FW22 leads a Prost-Peugeot AP03 through Turn 1.
An Arrows-Supertec A21 passes through the pits. I always liked the Arrows team because they spent more time on the track than anyone else. I assume this was because they needed the testing time. Recall that this was during the period where qualifying was one long timed session, so the top teams waited until the end of the session when the track was the fastest to set their times. Not Arrows. They needed to be out there as much as possible.
Mika Hakkinen in the pits after qualifying. I like this pic because I took it at exactly the same time as one of the photographers on the right. You can see his flash. I’ve always wanted to see that picture, but I’ve never been able to find it.
Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures of the race itself. As I alluded to earlier, the film actually broke inside my Yashica J-7, so I took a bunch of pics but the film wasn’t advancing inside the camera. Anyway, this was my view of the grid and the start, which was all I caught before I changed the roll.
The race itself was kind of a downer for a McLaren fan. David Coulthard took an early lead, but that was only because he jumped the start. He served a drive through penalty and finished fifth. Mika Hakkinen blew up on lap 25. Michael Schumacher took an easy victory over his teammate with Heinz-Harold Frentzen in the Jordan rounding out the podium.
In a way, the 2000 Grand Prix of the United States is still kind of bittersweet. Michael Schumacher took the lead in the 2000 Driver’s Championship at that race. He went on to win the title that year and ushered in a period of Ferrari dominance that marked a pretty dark time for anyone who wasn’t among the Tifosi. It was a period where everything went Ferrari’s way. And when it didn’t, things happened off the track to make sure they stayed on top. We had to wait until 2005 for Fernando Alonso to win the champioship in a Renault.
At the same time, this race was my introduction to motorsports and motorsports photography. I have many fond memories from the amazing sound the cars made to copy of F1 Racing Magazine (which I still have) that snagged on the plane after somebody left in their seatback pocket. I would definitely say that I got bitten by the bug and, 15 years later, I still think about the next race I’m going to.