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uploaded 10/9/2001

Saturday at the USGP

Back to the USGP Start Page.

On Saturday I arrived at the media center at 7:30 am, stopped on the third floor for coffee and a blueberry muffin, and climbed the stairs to an almost deserted press room. I sat for about an hour making notes of conversations the day before. Then I walked out to the infield turns to watch the first practice session scheduled for 9 am.

Berm at Turn 11

This photo looks from Turn 11 back toward the Pagoda on the main straight. This was where the REAL FANS hung out. Compared to the intense boredom of the denizens in the paddock and garage areas, these fans exuded happy enthusiasm. Some of them had paid $5 for a big can of Fosters and were indulging themselves in a wet breakfast.

The berm at Turn 8

The same grassy berm in the first photo curves around all the way from Turn 8, in this photo, to Turn 11 in the first photo. The berms give a great view of the corners. I took some photos of cars in the corners but the fence messed them up and the light was wrong.

When the practice session started I had to get a mini-program out of my pocket so I could indentify the helmets because each team has the cars painted almost indentically. After the installation laps and some time in the garages the cars began to pick up speed. Grins appeared on all faces! People talked among themselves about the cars and drivers and the conversations were extremely knowledgable.

Turn 8 is a 90 degree left at the end of the back straight. They brake from about 180 mph to 80 for the corner in 100 feet!!!! They go down two gears during the braking and then two more at the entrance to the corners. It's extremely impressive to watch. Television just can't show the reality of these cars.

I was surprised at the differences in the cars and drivers I could see and hear. The engines varied in the crispness of the exhaust sound. The Minardis sounded rough and the McLarens and Ferraris sound clean and crisp. The downshifts were different also. I could hear the control system blip the throttle to speed up the engine during downshifts. Not so the Ilmor engine in the McLarens. During braking and corner entry I could hear a rumbling note that varied but no blips.

Turn 11 has a fast exit which leads to the last turn in the infield and then onto the oval. I heard the traction control systems working out of Turn 11. Some drivers had to lift off the throttle to get the front end to stick but others, Montoya and Hakkinen, just tossed the car into the turn and got on the gas, letting the traction control system take care of power oversteer. Michael Schumacher looked more smooth than anyone else.

Ralf coming out onto pit lane

I thought the second practice session started at 11 am so I went onto pit lane at 10 am to take some photos. The gate guard should not have let me in because my credential was only good 15 minutes before and after the sessions. So there I was at 10:15 when the cars started going on course. I took photos until a pit marshall asked me to leave. That's Ralf Schumacher above coming out of the Williams garage above.

Montoay pulls out onto pit lane

And Juan Pablo Montoya. The stands weren't full but there were many signs with happy birthday greetings for Mika and Juan.

Patrick Head

Patrick Head, Williams Technical Director, keeps an eye on things.


That's a lot of front wing area on this Jaguar. Mark Handford, ex-Lola, ex-Swift, is the aero guy now at Jaguar.

BAR Honda

This is a BAR Honda. Notice the bulkhead at the front of the monocoque. I think those bolts in the top corners are the ends of the torsion bars they used as springs.

McLaren garage

The McLaren garage. The teams bring those hanging lighing, power, etc. systems with them.

Mika in the car

Mika Hakkinen sits in the car getting ready to go out on course.

McLaren car in garage

Some teams have these cloth panels, probably carbon fiber, to hide the innards while they work on the cars.

McLaren brake calipers

Going to some effort to lower the CG of the unsprung weight, McLaren places the brake calipers on the bottom of the upright. I'm sure everything we see here is either Titanium or carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

Post qualifying press conference

The top three qualifiers in the Saturday afternoon press conference. That's Bruce Martin, writer, sitting in front of me. Chris Economaki of National Speed Sport News sat to my left.

Mika, Michael, and Ralf

Mika, Michael, and Ralf. These guys are intense even in a press conference. The Schumie boys joked and laughed among themselves. I don't know how you tell if Mika is having fun.




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