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The 2004 F1 Season
For the first time in the 2004 season, there was a hint of competition at the San Marino Grand Prix. What an excellent start Jenson Button had, despite Michael breathing down his throat at P2. But after the first round of pitstops, Michael got ahead, and then he remained uncatchable; if there is such a word.
The hallmark of Michael’s drive was his ability to get ahead from any situation, while the hallmark of Ferrari was its reliability. Let’s corroborate the reliability part with some statistics: until the 2004 San Marino GP, Michael had run more than 40 races without having to retire for any reason. Now, that’s reliability!
The BAR-Honda and Renault kept probing the Ferraris now and then, and in the process, added to the excitement. Of the previous year’s challengers, McLaren and Williams, only Williams seemed to have some performance left in them. The McLarens after four races were nowhere close to finishing in the top eight, let alone the podium. That was sad for one of the strongest and oldest constructors alongside the Ferraris.
The Spanish GP seemed to have the top spots painted red already unless some of the challengers upped their game. Could they do it? Could any of the drivers stop Michael?
Let’s find out.
The 2004 Spanish GP: Qualifying
The previous race at Imola proved to be an exciting qualifying session with Jenson Button beating Michael Schumacher to the pole. Nobody expected a BAR-Honda to challenge the Ferrari, but it did, and came out trumps too. So, such a qualifying was something people were expecting in Spain also.
The top five constructors put some excellent laps but were regularly lapping each other until Schumacher entered the track. By then the pole car was a BAR-Honda of Takoma Sato. Michael went out and put a blistering lap, almost eight-tenth of a second faster than Sato. That seemed to be the clincher, but for another interesting fact.
Montoya had not put out a lap yet, and he was some serious pole contender irrespective of when he took his car out. So, all the top teams were on the watch out for Montoya. Take a look at Montoya’s run for the pole.
Montoya was still six-tenth of a second slower than Michael but one-tenth of a second faster than Sato. That slotted him in P2 and on the front row of the grid. Jarno Trulli was on P4 and brought about the top four cars on the grid.
Take a look at Michael’s pole run too.
The screen does not show the time but enjoy the Ferrari’s roar and Michael’s superhuman handling of the car.
The 2004 Spanish GP: Race Day
Even before the race started, Renault’s launch system was the talk of the town. While it did not cause any botheration for Michael Schumacher or the Ferrari team, the Renault for the first time was quite close to the lead cars. Could they do something unexpected? It would be awesome if they did.
The turn of the lights saw Montoya and Michael getting a good start, with Michael being slightly faster than Montoya, but then an amazing thing happened. A blue-yellow Renault flew between the two lead cars as if they were standing still. Jarno Trulli had a blistering start.
Note: See Trulli’s run right at the start of the video.
By the start that Trulli had, he went one better over Mika Hakkinen. Mika had a similar start on Michael and David in the 2001 season, but he was on P3 then. Trulli did it from P4. That was one start which would be spoken about for a long time.
Takoma Sato too had a good start and went ahead of Montoya. At the front, Trulli seemed to be pulling away from Michael over the first couple of laps, but then Michael responded. The position stayed more or less the same until the pits. Trulli pitted first, and Michael pitted the very next lap. In just one lap, Michael had garnered enough advantage to pit and come out ahead of Trulli. After that, he started pulling away.
But the one who derived the biggest advantage of the day was Rubens Barrichello, who got to the second position from fifth. It was possible due to a two-stop strategy that Rubens followed. In the end, two Ferrari cars finished one and two, while two Renault cars finished three and four. Michael won yet another race, and Jarno Trulli, on the back of that incredible start, ended up on the last spot on the podium.
Back to the Pits
Michael won yet another race and made it five out of five in the 2004 season. By the Spanish GP, Michael looked invincible. Though there were good competitors, no one seemed to be able to stop Michael from taking the chequered flag. Michael’s domination continued, and so did Ferrari’s.
The Next Win..
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