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The 2004 F1 Season
Michael Schumacher was having a dream run similar to the ones in 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons’ starts. Once Michael Schumacher put up a gap to the next car on the track, it was impossible to close that gap leave alone overtaking. At the rate at which Michael was going, a seventh world title appeared real.
The primary competitors from the previous season, McLaren and Williams, weren’t firing all cylinders. To add to their woes, two more constructors, BAR-Honda and Renault were looking incredibly competitive. Jenson Button driving the BAR was regularly making the podium, and Alonso in the Renault was good too. Renault had 100% reliability much like the Ferraris, and that made them a team to keep a close watch.
With the first three wins, it would be tough to catch up with Schumacher in a hurry. The advantage that the top four constructors had was that they had young and aggressive drivers and they would not easily give up trying. Such a competitive mood was good for the sport, and hopefully, some challenge to Michael Schumacher’s dominance.
So, what were we going to witness at San Marino? Let’s find out.
The 2004 San Marino GP | Qualifying
All those fans hoping to see some competition were in for a treat. The Ferraris were still good, but one BAR-Honda had other ideas. Jenson Button put in a fantastic lap which baffled the entire grid. Ferraris were obviously dumbfounded.
Take a look at Schumacher trying to beat Jenson’s pole lap:
Note: The video is not in English. Viewers can mute and watch.
That was one of the rare times in the 2004 season where Michael wasn’t able to beat a provisional pole time. Of course, the video does show Michael erring in the final sector leading to him losing the run. The day was Jenson’s.
Jenson’s lap was the only one in the 1 minute 19 seconds mark and two-tenths of a second faster than Michael’s. Montoya took P3 while Barrichello took P4. That brought in the top four cars on the grid. Most fans thought that the aberration of Jenson on the pole would be wiped out on race day, as Michael would probably shoot past the BAR driver.
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Let’s find out what happened on race day.
The 2004 San Marino GP | Race Day
The grid and the atmosphere around the track were electrifying with hopes of an entertaining battle at hands. For the first time in the 2004 season, Michael wasn’t starting on pole, and it would be exciting to witness a different start to the race.
When the lights turned off, the BAR got away cleanly much to the relief of the BAR team itself. Much like the others, they were holding their breath for Jenson too. Michael was immediately under attack from Montoya, and both touched briefly, but the cars remained intact.
Take a look at the race summary over here:
Well, Montoya wasn’t kind about that touch and spoke his mind at the post-race press conference. You can watch that interview from the 6:35 minute mark. Montoya was cross indeed.
Coming back to the race, Jenson led till lap 9 when he pitted leaving Schumacher with an open track. Michael immediately drove a second a lap faster once the circuit was clear and pitted two laps later. The two free runs were enough to allow him to join back ahead of Jenson after the pitstop.
From there, Michael lost position only during the pitstop with Jenson staying close to him. That was the first time in the season that any car could keep up with Michael. The big action was for the last podium finish which Montoya defended well to take from Fernando Alonso. Fernando was just about a couple of seconds adrift of Montoya. That brought up the podium and a good race where the fans finally saw competition.
Notwithstanding the competition, the outcome remained the same. Michael won his seventy-fourth Grand Prix and was on his way to win many more.
Back to the Pits
Michael finally witnessed some challenge at the San Marino GP where he took victory for the first time when he raced against Ayrton Senna. That was a decade ago, and Michael won again at the same circuit. Michael was destined for many more wins, but how fast they would come and how many more was something no one knew back then.
The Next Win..
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