Fernando Alonso took many by surprise when the McLaren driver announced he would be competing in the Indianapolis 500 this weekend but neither he nor F1 are strangers when it comes to racing at ‘The Brickyard.’
The Indy 500 race was part of the F1 calendar between 1950 to 1960 but its lack of European entrants meant it had next to no impact on the drivers’ championship.
But it wasn’t until the introduction of the grand prix circuit at the turn of the millennium when Bernie Ecclestone finally managed to get F1 fingerprints on the world famous track.
Despite early promise of the event finally being the one to help grow the sport in the United States, it all soon turned sour much in part to the infamous 2005 race when a tyre fiasco led to just six cars starting.
Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello’s pole position lap of 2004 was the fastest recorded at the track, and it’s a tour you can watch here. It’s also a video that might remind you of how much the V10 engines are missed.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is steeped in history going back over 100 years but Sportsmail takes a look back at the grand prix years from 2000 to 2007 in our picture special.
The GP track at Indianapolis wasn’t built until 1999. F1 cars ran clockwise (as opposed to the Indy 500 cars) around the circuit with the first right towards the infield to the top left of this picture. That followed a road through the middle of the complex which connected with another in-field section before rejoining the original track to the right of the photo
Posing in front of the famous ‘yard of bricks’ (which the track used to be built entirely out of) at the start line, the drivers line up ahead of the first F1 race on the grand prix circuit in 2000. On a wet race day only Michael Schumacher of Ferrari removes his coat among the drivers. How many of the 2000 F1 cast can you name? Answers at the bottom of the page
Despite damp weather, around 250,000 fans flocked to see the first race setting an F1 attendance record. McLaren’s David Coulthard leads pole sitter Schumacher into the first corner but the Brit had jumped the start and was later given a penalty
With Coulthard soon out the way after six laps, Schumacher led the remaining 67 to cruise to an easy victory – his second in a four-race season-ending streak that in the next event in Japan would see him win his third world championship
Sun shines on Indianapolis in 2001 but the mood was rather sombre as the race came just over a fortnight after the September 11 attacks. Jenson Button exits the Benetton garage to make his way to the circuit on race day, with his car featuring the US national flag as a tribute. Many other teams showed similar signs of respect
The last stand of a great champion. Mika Hakkinen’s triumph in 2001 came on the penultimate race of his career, with the double world champion of 1998 and 1999 flanked by McLaren team-mate David Coulthard (right) and Michael Schumacher
World champion coming through! This is an excellent photo before the start of the 2002 race as the sea of people that surround the cars part like the Red Sea to allow the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher a clear path to his pole position spot
But it was Rubens Barrichello who won ahead of Schumacher and David Coulthard, with Ferrari’s attempt of staging a dead heat resulting in the Brazilian edging ahead by just 0.011 seconds – the smallest winning margin ever to three decimal places. Schumacher had dominated, but Barrichello was owed a win having had to infamously move by for his team-mate in Austria
Ferrari dominated the early 2000s, but the 2003 championship was one of the most fascinating in recent memory heading into the penultimate race. Championship contenders Juan Pablo Montoya for Williams (left), Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher (centre) and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen pose before the race as Renault’s Fernando Alonso attempts to photobomb
The final banked turn at Indianapolis catches Ralf Schumacher out in his Williams as Michael’s brother careers straight into the wall during the 2004 race. Although he thankfully made a full recovery, the crash was measured at 78g and the German suffered concussion as well as minor fractures to his spinal column that ruled him out for the next six races
Fernando Alonso will be no stranger ahead of his travels to ‘The Brickyard’ for the Indy 500. The Spaniard never managed to win on the track during his F1 days but at least he seemed to make a few friends across the Atlantic along the way as he poses with a dancer who holds the steering wheel of his Renault R25 in the build up to the 2005 race
Not again Ralf! A year after his horrific crash in the Williams, Schumacher once again found the wall on the outside of the final banked turn in his Toyota during Friday practice. It led to the German missing the race, but then so would many of his colleagues as his Michelin tyre failure was the opening chapter to one of Formula One’s most farcical weekends in its history
The Michelin tyres could not cope with the new track surface on the banked corners, with the tyre company claiming they could not guarantee their safety. Despite emergency meetings no solution was found and at the end of the formation lap all Michelin runners peeled into the pits, leaving the Bridgestone shod Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi to start a six-car ‘race’
The scenes of the 2005 weekend could have taken up this entire article and fans reacted furiously in the stands with supporters of McLaren’s Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya impressively quickly putting together a banner on their national flag protesting against the ‘action’ on the track
Fans booed from the moment the majority of the drivers entered the pit-lane before the start and instantly demanded refunds. To make matters worse it was basically a race between Michael Schumacher and his team-mate Rubens Barrichello for the win, with one of the drivers of the field’s weakest two teams in Jordan and Minardi fighting for the final podium spot
Understanding the situation, there were no smiles on the podium from Schumacher despite claiming his only win of the 2005 season from Barrichello. Jordan’s Tiago Monteiro revels in the moment though with the Jordan driver making the most of his one and only realistic opportunity to finish on the podium of a Formula One race
Nick Heidfeld was the big loser in the first corner crash that wiped out seven cars at the start of the 2006 race. The BMW-Sauber driver got his wheel caught alongside Jenson Button, flipping him into the gravel trap. The sequence of events was started by Juan Pablo Montoya in what was to be the McLaren driver’s last race in the sport before departing for NASCAR
It appears no one wanted to communicate at BMW Sauber in 2007 as Heidfeld and Sebastian Vettel walk past team boss Mario Theissen. It was Vettel’s F1 debut and at 19 years and 349 days he became the sport’s youngest ever points scorer by finishing eighth having replaced the injured Robert Kubica following the Polish driver’s huge crash at the Canadian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton leads away from McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso on the warm-up lap of the 2007 race, which had lost thousands of spectators following the fall-out of the 2005 debacle. Hamilton would triumph in front of the Spaniard, in a race where the two-time world champion was left fuming at his team for not being allowed to pass the Brit
Hamilton’s victory was his second in the sport having triumphed at the previous race in Canada, but the look between the Brit and Alonso on the podium was a fair reflection on how the team would implode in the second half of the campaign
F1 driver line-up at Indianapolis from 2000
(Top row left-to-right) Marc Gene, Gaston Mazzacane (Minardi); Pedro Diniz, Mika Salo (Sauber); Jenson Button, Ralf Schumacher (Williams); Jean Alesi, Nick Heidfeld (Prost); Jos Verstappen, Pedro de la Rosa (Arrows.)
(Middle row) Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine (Jaguar); Giancarlo Fisichella, Alexander Wurz (Benetton); Jacques Villeneuve, Ricardo Zonta (BAR); Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jarno Trulli (Jordan.)
(Front row) David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen (McLaren); Tony George (track president), Mari Hulman (track chairman of the board), Bernie Ecclestone; Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari.)
INDIANAPOLIS (GP TRACK) RACE WINNERS
2000: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2001: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
2002: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
2003: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2004: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2005: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2006: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)
2007: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)