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The 2003 season was nothing like the dominating 2002 season that Ferrari experienced. Such was the previous season that Michael won the championship by just one point. Also, there were three contenders to the cup until the penultimate race. The 2003 season, essentially, was the season that an F1 fan would want, but 2002 was something a diehard Ferrari fan would hope for. So, how would the 2004 season pan out? We will have to wait for some more time to find out.
The initial impression even before the first race of the season was that the Ferrari team appeared solid. The other two contenders from the last two seasons, McLarens and Willaims, were also performing well. The BAR showed signs of resurgence, and how good they were would have to be seen on the track. For McLaren, Kimi Raikkonen continued to be a strong contender to the title. The Williams team was skewed in favour of Juan Pablo Montoya after his performance in the 2003 season; however, Ralf Schumacher was no pushover either. So, the Ferrari team and Michael Schumacher had a lot to watch out for.
Anyway, with such competition, the 2004 season promised to be another exhilarating one. Could Michael win despite the competition?
Let’s find out.
The 2004 Australian GP: Qualifying
After a long time, Michael and the Ferrari team came back to their enviable qualifying ways. It appeared that Ferrari found a gear from the 2002 season and put it back in the 2004 car. The car was uber-quick and after the initial few minutes the pole position attack was left to the two Ferraris.
Take a look at Schumacher’s pole lap with Martin Brundle’s voice over:
Both the Ferraris were quite well matched with Michael taking the pole from Barrichello by seven-hundredths of a second. The next car was Montoya’s Williams more than half a second behind Barrichello. It was a dead heat between Montoya and Jenson Button for the qualifying time but owing to a better first qualifying time, Montoya got P3 while Button got P4. That was the top four cars from the qualifying session.
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The 2004 Australian GP: Race Day
There wasn’t too much suspense on what could be expected from the race. It was apparent that the Ferraris would run away and the rest of the pack fighting among themselves; and, of course, getting through turn one without colliding.
Well, that’s what happened. Michael and Barrichello had a good start, but the notable battle was between Montoya and Fernando Alonso. Fernando was wheel-to-wheel with Montoya to take his position while Montoya tried to out-break Alonso. That led to Montoya overshooting the turn and running into the grass and gravel. By the time he joined back, Alonso was long gone, and Montoya had to be content with seventh place on the track.
Take a look at the race highlights:
Alonso tried to keep up with the Ferraris but that was too much of an ask considering that the cars did not match up. However, he maintained his third spot. There were other interesting developments lower down the order where Felipe Massa in a Sauber attacked and got the better of Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren. Not in a decade would have anyone seen that coming.
With all the developments down the order, the top three cars kept their places even with the pitstops. Michael took the chequered flag almost thirteen seconds from Barrichello. Alonso came in third another twenty seconds behind Rubens. Ferraris were back to their winning ways and Renault made an early mark in the season.
Back to the Pits
Michael won his seventy-first career GP in Australia. The new points system adopted since 2003 put him just two points ahead of Barrichello, but just after the first race, Ferrari had opened up a lead of nine points to the Williams BMW team. The race showed that Ferrari will not only have to watch out for the McLaren and Williams team but also the BAR-Honda and Renault. A lot of fireworks could be expected in the 2004 season.
The Next Win..
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