Strong feelings of patriotism often permeate races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but there was a different sort of patriotic vibe 13 years ago today.
On Sept. 30, 2001, the Formula One United States Grand Prix was held as scheduled – the first major international sporting event in the U.S. after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was the second year of what would be a seven-year run of Formula One racing at IMS.
Many in the estimated crowd of 175,000 came with their usual flags and banners supporting home nations and favorite drivers, but also spotted were messages such as “F1: Thanks for coming” and other more direct nods to the political climate of the time.
Proceedings on the track were bizarre starting in the morning warmup, where Finland’s Mika Hakkinen crashed and required fast work from his crew just to get the car ready to race. Additional adversity came from the FIA stewards, who determined that he ran a red light in getting out to the track in the warmup and as a result removed his best qualifying lap from the previous day, dropping him from second to fourth on the starting grid.
Yet Hakkinen, newly focused – “all that frustration made me go flat out,” he said — drove a steady race, had some pit strategy pay off and prevailed for what would be his 20th and final Grand Prix win. Polesitter Michael Schumacher finished second and David Coulthard rounded out the podium.
“This Grand Prix is definitely one of my important victories,” Hakkinen said. “I rate Monaco, Silverstone and Indianapolis, I think as the Grands Prix a Grand Prix driver wants to win. It’s something special. So this is something I’m never going to forget.”
Other notable facts from the 2001 United States Grand Prix:
- The Sept. 30 date is the latest for a major race at IMS. For the first four years of the United States Grand Prix the race was held on the last Sunday of September, and in 2001 that meant the very last day. From 2005-07, the race was held in June or July.
- Two drivers in the 22-man field had won the Indianapolis 500 – Jacques Villeneuve in 1995 and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000 – and four more drivers would eventually start in the race. Tomas Enge (2005), Enrique Bernoldi (2008), Rubens Barrichello (2012) and Jean Alesi (2012) each made one appearance, while Villeneuve and Montoya returned to the “500” in 2014.
- John Mellencamp performed his song “Peaceful World” before the race. He also performed it before the 2001 Indianapolis 500.