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After the Australian GP win, Ferrari would have turned optimistic about the season. It was easy to believe that Ferrari got another excellent car at the drivers' disposal, and the fans couldn't be faulted for thinking so. However, Rubens' inability to get ahead may raise a few questions on the car's abilities. That said, it wouldn't take more than three races to conclude conclusively on how good the car was. Would Ferrari have another rock-solid prancing horse or would it be a good car like the 2003 season? We will soon have an answer.
Besides, the development of the other teams from the last season was worth a discussion. The previous season saw three teams fighting it out at the top – Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. This season, however, saw two more teams adding to the mix – BAR-Honda and Renault. Of course, each of these teams had their moments of glory in the 2003 season as well, but this time around they looked competitive, especially, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Could any of these drivers cause some hiccups for Ferrari? Possible, considering what relatively new entrants like Montoya and Raikkonen did in the 2003 season.
Either way, the build-up of competitive teams only promised an exciting season. Let's see if it comes true as the teams got ready for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 2004 Malaysian GP: Qualifying
The qualifying session saw of a mix of drivers reaching for the pole position, which was a welcome departure from the Ferraris owning the session. But when you have a champion like Michael Schumacher in the mix, it is difficult to overlook him. And he proved why.
Michael Schumacher put up some blistering Q1 and Q2 runs with the second one being more than six-tenth of a second faster than the second-placed car. And you would be forgiven to think that the P2 car was Barrichello. Why? Because it was Mark Webber in the Jaguar, who was in the second place. Nobody expected any constructor other than the top five to be on P2 and here comes Webber putting every F1 pundit to shame.
So good was Webber that he split the two Ferraris of Michael and Barrichello. As a comparison, his teammate Christian Klein could qualify only thirteenth. Take a look at Webber’s stunning P2 lap.
Of course, that was provisional pole until Schumacher went faster. But did you’ll hear the commentators? They only keep talking about him being in the fourth to fifth place category, can’t get better than that, etc. and then Webber demolishes the charts. Clearly, this run was more exciting than Michael beating his time in the end.
Well, what can we say? A great qualifying by one of the minnows. On the business end of things, Michael was once again in the front. Will this be another win or would Webber have something to say?
Let’s get to race day to find out.
The 2004 Malaysian GP: Race Day
The ability of Mark Webber to hold on to his position during the race was always a question. Getting a great time over one lap was one thing but to keep doing it through the race distance was totally another; especially, when there were five constructors with better cars on the track. Anyway, it would be a good start for the Jaguar team, if they were indeed getting better.
All eyes were on the front row cars as the lights came on one after another. When the lights went off, the Ferraris got a good start but Webber appeared to have stalled his engine. That was not the case though, as he had a problem with the start. Webber lost places even before the start. Montoya and Raikkonen were happy to gain position and come behind Michael and Barrichello.
Take a look at the race highlights:
Just when the positions were settled and the Ferraris were pulling away, the rains paid a visit but only on certain parts of the track. Barrichello had a slip up due to the wet track and both, Montoya and Raikkonen passed him. The Michellins of the McLarens and the Williams was holding on well as compared to the Bridgestones of the Ferraris. That difference in performance was visible on track as Montoya caught up with Michael quite fast. Then the pitstops followed.
Despite the changes in race order, Michael was back in the front with Montoya second. Sadly, Raikkonen retired yet again and lost a possible third spot. That promoted Jenson Button to third position who was being hunted down by Barrichello. But Button prevailed and took his first podium.
Michael won yet another race. He took two out of two wins at the beginning of the 2004 season.
Back to the Pits
Once again Michael took the top spot of the podium. Irrespective of his competition, Michael seemed to keep winning. Would this be another season similar to 2002 or would the competition rise up to the occasion and challenge the Ferraris? No matter what the answer was, Michael was back at the top and it was celebration all the way!
The Next Win..
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© 2020 S K