The sight of Lewis Hamilton being the only driver to take the restart of Formula One’s Hungarian Grand Prix from the grid prompted some to recall the time just SIX cars started a race in 2005.
Why did Hamilton take the restart by himself?
After the red flag period for the first lap shunt triggered by Valtteri Bottas had ended, Hamilton led the remaining 14 cars around for a standing start.
However, in the 30 minutes or so that passed while the race was suspended, it stopped raining and the track quickly dried.
It was enough for Williams driver George Russell to declare “everyone is going to box [for slicks]” over the team radio.
As the field trundled around to the grid, Hamilton elected not to come in and pit.
Eventual race winner Esteban Ocon led in everyone else for dry tyres.
This led to the fanciful scene of Hamilton being the only car on the grid to take the restart, while the pack was held at the end of the pit-lane for a green light to rejoin.
Alpine driver Ocon then assumed the lead when Hamilton pitted at the end of the lap, dropping to last.
Throwback to F1’s worst nightmare
The unusual and somewhat funny image of just one car waiting on the grid for the lights to go out led some F1 fans to recall the events of the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
That day an all-round farce led to just six cars, including the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, taking to the start.
That was after tyres supplied by Michelin suffered serious high-speed failures throughout practice, with the company unwilling to rule out a repeat in the race.
Schumacher’s brother Ralf was one victim, when his left-rear tyre exploded through the banked final corner in Friday practice, ruling him out of the rest of the weekend.
His replacement, Ricardo Zonta, also had a left-rear fail, leading to Michelin bosses informing the FIA their product couldn’t last more than ten racing laps on the recently resurfaced asphalt at the speedway.
This led to conversations between Michelin, fellow tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, the FIA and teams to try to come up with a compromise.
An extra chicane to reduce speeds coming into the pit-straight was one idea but the FIA played hardball, effectively blaming Michelin for failing to bring suitable equipment to the event.
The FIA also believed the three Bridgestone teams shouldn’t be handicapped as a result of that failure.
In the end all attempts at compromise failed, with pole-sitter Toyota’s Jarno Trulli leading a mass exodus of Michelin runners into the pits at the end of the formation lap.
The likes of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard – who wanted to race despite the risk – all followed orders and came in.
Along with the Ferrari duo, both cars from Jordan and Minardi took to the start, both sensing an opportunity for a rare podium finish.
That was eventually snared by Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro as the Portuguese joined Schumacher and Barrichello on the podium.
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What happened after 2005 US Grand Prix?
Michelin’s reputation took a battering and the company withdrew as an F1 tyre supplier at the end of the 2006 season. It hasn’t been back since.
There was reported interest in doing so when the tyre contract tender was put out a few years ago, but F1 opted to stick with Pirelli.
Things were arguably worse for F1 itself, however.
It has been trying to crack the US market since the world championship was formed in 1950, but to often scant reward.
It wasn’t just that six cars took the start of the race, it was where the humiliation happened – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500.
F1 hasn’t been forgiven by some in the US for the ‘show’ it put on that day, although the series has started to repair its reputation.
The United States Grand Prix is now held in Austin, Texas, at the first purpose-built F1 track in the country.
The exposure of the championship, pushed on by the popularity of the Netflix series Drive To Survive, has led to massive growth in the US market for F1.
This has led to a second race in the country for the first time since 1984, with a circuit in Miami around the Miami Dolphins’ HardRock stadium joining the calendar in 2022.