Saturday, June 18, 2005

US Formula 1 Grand Prix

One reason I was glad to have moved back to the Midwest was the proximity to the US Formula 1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis. I'm a big F1 fan and all through college, I easily got up at 6 am every other Saturday and Sunday to watch qualifying and the race. Friends thought I was crazy, but they understood the passion.

My favorite team is Williams, because they seem to be true racers at heart and not necessarily running for the sponsorship money, plus they have such a rich history. And then my favorite car company is BMW, for so many reaons. When BMW paired up with Williams, I was in heaven and the cherry on the top was the signing of Juan Pablo Montoya to the team, my favoride driver. What a combo. Too bad there weren't too many victories with that combo. Now it's all split up again for 2006. Williams are paying for Cosworth engines, BMW has started it's own team and Montoya is at Mclaren, probably going to Renault next year. But this makes F1 so intersting.

For the Grand Prix each year at Indianapolis, the big car clubs (BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, MINI, etc) hold a thing called a corral, where the club members get to park on the back straight of the oval and get to mingle with other car club members. I found out about this from the MINI forum and joined in. What a thrill to be able to drive your car and park so close to the track.

Ok, and I'm such a geek but have to share this. At home when I'm wathcing a F1 race on TV, I have my laptop with me on as they have sector times and driver positions updated constantly. That's more info than you'll get from the TV and you can't really get that info when you're on the track. Being at a race is cool for the experience to hear the sounds and mingle with other fans. But if you're really interested in the race, it's actually better at home with TV commentators and info from the web. Kinda weird isn't it?

I was still going to attend the US GP in person as it's the only race in the year in the US and plus it's so close to home. Not wanting to loose the advantage of the data that I can get at home from the web, I took my laptop to the track and using my mobile phone as a wireless modem, I connected with Bluetooth to my laptop and dialed-up to an internet provider. Here I was, sitting at the track, hearind those defeaning V10's, reading all the small sponsor logos and connected to the web outdoors. Fantastic. Geeky, sure, but what do I care.

And it really paid off this time, as there was scandal brewing with not much info being given to the spectators. The 10 teams are sponsored by Michelin (7) and Bridgestone (3). Michelin tires were deemed unsafe over the weekend and the Michelin teams decided not to race for safety reasons. If the Bridgestone teams had agreed to modifying the rules (lowering the speed and changing the course layout), the Michelin teams would have ran and we would have had a show. But Ferrari, as usual were thinking only of themselves and not F1 as a whole, and thus only 3 teams ran the race. This info was not given out to the fans at the track who paid to see a full race. But.... I was there, on BBC getting the live online commentary and finding out everything as it happened. Long live technology!

The Start/Finish line

The Pagoda

It's amazing how far LEGOs have come.

This model of Jean Alesi's first win at Montreal was retailing for $700 for its rarity.

Kimi (Mclaren Mercedes) at the pit exit. Drivers were praticing race starts.

Red Bull and their cool idea for a merchandise tent. By the way, I love Red Bull.

The bridge over the back straight

On track, looking down the back straight

Watching a support race from the main grandstand across the pits

Avid Jenson Button (British driver) fans

MINIs at the MINI Meet

We had a parade through downtown Indy, escorted by the biker police

Checking one of the original Austin Mini's

With encouragement from his buddies, this copper did some stunts on his Harley-Davidson for us. Pretty cool to see.

MINI's from the car club lined up for the parade

An original Mini

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