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The 2004 F1 Season
Despite Monaco being the hiccup in Ferrari’s calendar, Michael did well to make up for the loss at the European Grand Prix. A well-executed race earned him another win, and that took his tally to six wins from seven races of the season. It was a great start to the season, visibly more dominating than 2002.
The Monaco race showed that there were a few chinks in the Ferrari armour, that if worked around could earn victories for other teams. Renault, at least, got that message loud and clear. The other teams watched and learned too. Winning against the Ferraris wouldn’t be a far-fetched possibility as most teams would be on a mid-season upgrade. In a way, it was for Ferrari to keep a close watch.
Ferrari, though, had the momentum going their way, with Barrichello too finding a place on the podium more often. The team was too potent a force to ignore, and if ignored for too long, they could run away with the championship.
So, the question was if the Canadian Grand Prix would be another runaway victory for the Ferraris or would a new champion emerge?
Let’s get to know how the weekend proceeded.
The 2004 Canadian GP: Qualifying
For the first time in the 2004 season, Williams drivers were doing justice to that super-powerful BMW engine under their car's hood. While both Ralf and Montoya were fast, the BAR-Honda and the Renault team closely matched them. That made an exciting competition for the front row, as no McLaren or Ferrari was in the reckoning.
A season dominated by Michael Schumacher did not have him fighting for the pole, oddly. That must be an aberration in Michael's performance or the coming of age of the competitors. Either way, Michael was more than a second away from the pole position time, sitting at P6. When was the last time anyone heard of Michael so far down in performance?
Take a look at his provisional pole lap:
Note: Video not in English.
And that’s the best time that Michael could come up with. It was not only the Ferraris who had a bad time but also Takuma Sato on a well-performing BAR-Honda. Take a look at Sato’s unlucky run:
Sato looked well set for the pole or the front row, at least, but for the unfortunate last chicane. With Jenson Button on the front row, the Honda team had some consolation.
Now it was down to the race day.
The 2004 Canadian GP: Race Day
As in much of the 2004 season, the Renault team with their launch control could spring a surprise against any team. Trulli on P3 could attack both Ralf and Button. At the turn of the lights, Trulli did just that, but his race did not even last five hundred meters. A suspension failure prevented him from reaching even the first turn. The rest of the field went through, and Michael soon was in the fifth position.
Take a look at the race highlights:
The Ferraris were on a different pit strategy as compared to most of the teams on the field. The two-stop strategy allowed Michael to emerge in the front when the frontrunners pitted. From there, it was a script that Michael had written so well all through his career – drive the wheels out of the car. Michael and Barrichello did just that and stayed ahead but for another Schumacher having a different plan. Ralf Schumacher completed his pits and split the two Ferraris to take the second spot. He continued piling pressure on Michael right up to the chequered flag. Michael, eventually, survived the onslaught and won by five seconds from Ralf.
Ferrari’s domination continued!
Back to the Pits
In a race of attrition of front runners, Michael Schumacher took another victory in the 2004 season. That made his position at the top untouchable. The relative ease with which the competition was coming close to the Ferrari’s performance was good for the sport, but a diehard Ferrari fan would not be so happy. That said, Ferrari too had to up their game as they hit the halfway mark in the season. Michael would be aware of the challenge, and while celebrating his victory would be working hard for the next race.
© 2020 S K