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Formula one grand prix 2004

Brazilian GP Race Report: Juan wrecks Rubinho's dream Sunday October 24 2004

Montoya wins (at last).

Juan Pablo Montoya held off the charging Kimi Raikkonen to claim Sunday's Brazilian GP, his first win of the season. In wet-dry conditions the Williams driver put in a very impressive performance to win the 71-lap race and give his team the ultimate goodbye present. Even better for Montoya is that he did it by beating his 2005 McLaren team-mate Raikkonen.

However, Montoya's win broke many hearts in the Interlagos grand stands as it meant the best Rubens Barrichello could do was third place. But at least after nine years of bad luck the Brazilian finally finished his home race and did so on the podium.

Race Report: Teams left it till the last minute before sending their cars to the grid so that they could get a good idea of the conditions on the track. The spots of rain which had been falling twenty minutes before the start, began to get heavier as the five minute board approached. But it still wasn't particularly heavy - the conditions could easily get better or worse. It seemed likely that everyone would start on intermediate tyres.

As the tyre warmers were removed on the cars for the parade lap, it was the two Renaults and David Coulthard's McLaren (the men with nothing much to lose from the gamble) that had opted to start with dry tyres, the rest of the field chosing the Bridgestone and Michelin intermediates.

When the red lights went out Rubens got away cleanly from pole position. The big loser was Juan Montoya who dropped from 2nd to 4th as Raikkonen and Massa swept past him.

Barrichello was tentative through the Senna esses and going down the hill towards Turn 4, Raikkonen grabbed the inside line and was through into the lead.

Jenson Button, whose car was emitting a huge amount of smoke on the start line seemed to have got over his temporary problems and started attacking Montoya. On the opening lap he went past both Montoya in Turn 6 (after Massa ran the BMW-Williams wide) and then Felipe Massa, and crossed the line in third place.

Further back Christian Klien and Jarno Trulli made up places, while the dry tyre runners went backwards very quickly - Fernando Alonso, Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard fell to the back of the field.

So the order at the end of the first lap was Raikkonen from Barrichello, Button, Massa, Montoya close behind Massa in 5th place. Then came Sato, Ralf Schumacher, Trulli, Klien in 9th and Michael Schumacher who'd started 18th and was already up to 10th.

Button wasn't safe in 3rd place though, as the Bridgestone-shod Felipe Massa, caught up in the fervor of his home race, immediately got it back off him. And then Jenson took it back again and then Massa passed him once more.

Rubens Barrichello was also making good use of his Bridgestone intermediates and homed in on the back of the leading McLaren. At the end of Lap 3 he was past, Kimi choosing not to fight the superiority of the Ferrari. At the same time Rubens' team-mate was having difficulty getting past Christian Klien. The World Champion put one tyre on the white line and spun round, back to 13th place.

Already Jenson Button's Honda engine was in trouble and his lap time slowed dramatically. By Lap 4 he had parked his smoking BAR-Honda at the side of the track and was planning an early flight home.

On Lap 4, the track had already dried enough for Fernando Alonso to reduce the fastest lap time to 1:19.468. A lap later and Alonso had reduced that to 1:17.692 and all the teams saw that it was time to switch from inters to dry tyres. M. Schmacher spins

For some reason Michael Schumacher got to be the first Ferrari to stop, which was to hinder Barrichello's progress. Presumably when the decision was made to bring the car in, Rubinho was past the pitlane entrance. Montoya and Raikkonen came in together and left their garages side by side. Raikkonen kept his place by virtue of the fact that he was on the inside and the corner turned left and so Montoya was obliged to fall behind. It wouldn't have looked good for the 2005 McLaren team-mates to have made contact in the pitlane...

But Juan didn't lose any time in getting past Raikkonen and pulled the same passing move on the Finn that Kimi had done on Barrichello on the opening lap. When Felipe Massa finally came in for his tyre change at the end of Lap 7 ( a bit of glory for Felipe but not much more) these two would be a long way clear of Barrichello.

Someone who didn't have to stop was Fernando Alonso. His lap times and his position were coming down rapidly.
Lap 6: 1:17.674
Lap 7: 1:15.653
Lap 8: 1:13.854

After everyone dived into the pits Fernando Alonso found himself in P1. And so the new order was Alonso, Montoya, Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher, Sato, Barrichello, Villeneuve in 7th and Coulthard in 8th place. Barrichello's hopes of snatching a home win had been severely dented and mostly because of a one lap difference in stopping for tyres.

The Michelins run much better than the Bridgestones in slightly slippy conditions that don't require intermediates and this was now the case. The leading five cars were all able to sprint away from Barrichello who was putting in 1:15 second laps compared to the frontrunners' 1:13s.

Michael Schumacher hadn't benefited from the pit-stops either and was still back in 13th place.

On Lap 13 Alonso led the race by seven seconds, but second place Montoya was closing the gap. The Colombian reduced the lap record to 1:12.706. Rubens was 23 seconds back down the road and his only chance now lay in more rain and mixed conditions that would require a change of tyres.

Because the other cars had taken on fuel with their change of tyres, the dry starters were out of sequence with the rest of the field. Before Alonso pitted for the first time, at the end of Lap 17, he was 6.5 seconds ahead. After he pitted he came out behind Rubens Barrichello and ahead of a recovering Michael Schumacher.

At the front of the field the lap record was coming down, reduced by a number of drivers
Lap 18 - Montoya 1:12.242
Lap 20 - Barrichello 1:11.986
Lap 22 - R.Schumacher 1:11.958
Lap 22 - Barrichello 1:11.672

Fernando Alonso's middle stint was a slow one and he was finding it difficult to break out of the 1:13 second lap time bracket. It wasn't good news for the Renault team who now knew there was going to be no freak result that handed them 2nd place in the Constructors' Championship. However Jacques Villeneuve showed that he could easily match Alonso's pace, compared to the Chinese and Japanese GPs where he was a second adrift.

In fact Alonso began to hold up Michael Schumacher who had a few looks into Turn 1 and Turn 4 to see if he could pass the Renault but ultimately thought better of it. He would have to wait for his pit-stop before the order shuffled.

On Lap 24, Jaguar's nightmare end to the season got even worse. The team that had only recently found out they were heading for a sale (and have yet to find a buyer) saw their team leader dive inside the team No.2 into Turn 1. Christian Klien, in 10th place, turned in as though 11th place Mark Webber wasn't there and the two collided.

Webber's nose was driven underneath his car and the Jaguar slid off the track into retirement. Klien had to head back to the pits for a new nose. It was a stupid and unnecessary end to the race. Webber sat on the grass by Turn 1 till the end of the race unable to face returning to the pits.

After the leaders had all completed their first scheduled pit-stops by Lap 30 Montoya was in the lead, 6.4 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who in turn was 6.5 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso; Ralf Schumacher was in 4th followed by Takuma Sato in 5th, Rubens Barrichello in 6th, Massa in 7th, Fisichella in 8th and Michael Schumacher in 9th.

Though Rubens was 20 seconds behind the leaders it all looked as though it was about to change as the rain started to drizzle again. The damp surface caught out Takuma Sato who went straight on when he should have been turning in to Turn 1. Rubens gratefully took the place off him.

There was consternation in the Williams pit on Lap 33 when Montoya put in a 1:15.883 second lap, not affected by lapped cars. A lap later he put in a 1:12.719 and the worry was over.

By Lap 36 it was Ralf Schumacher's turn to get stuck behind Alonso. The Williams car was held up throughout the lap, but because Alonso had such excellent traction going up the hill at Interlagos, Ralf couldn't get anywhere near him on the start/finish straight.

Had he found a way past then it would have been a Williams 1-3 instead of a Williams 1-5 at the end of the race. Instead he had to follow him all the way to lap 47 when Alonso finally pitted and got out of his way.

Montoya realising that Kimi Raikkonen was keen to reduce his 4.6 second defecit kept the hammer down and on Lap 49 set the new lap record at 1:11.473. With all the F1 engine changes due in 2005 and 2006 and the tyre and aero changes that will be brought in next season, it is a record that will stand for some time.

Most of the front-runners pitted for the final time between laps 47 and 50. Rubens Barrichello jumped from 5th to 3rd demoting Alonso and Ralf Schumacher. Ralf tried to go before the fuel nozzle had been removed from his car and delayed himself even further.

Even so he managed to get ahead of the Renault only to run wide in Turn 1 and allow Alonso straight past again. You could almost hear him shouting “Doh!” into his helmet.

The only driver not to stop was Raikkonen who kept on going. By Lap 52 he had opened up an 18.1 second gap to Montoya. By Lap 54 it was 19.2 seconds - it didn't look enough time to get in and out of the pits in front. And it wasn't.

However when he returned Raikkonen was now very close behind Montoya and gaining. Behind them Barrichello had an easy third place after a sluggish Alonso had collected a crocodile of three cars behind him - Sato, Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher.

But all eyes were at the front of the race as Raikkonen reduced the gap to 0.5 seconds on Lap 59. Though he got close and stayed close, he was never in a position to make an overtaking move - as the final 12 laps unfolded the difference was never more than 1.3 seconds.

Takuma Sato looked like he was waiting for his moment with Fernando Alonso to make a lunge for 4th, but ended up losing his 5th place to Ralf Schumacher on Lap 70.

Juan-Pablo Montoya took a deserved win ahead of his 2005 McLaren team-mate Raikkonen with a severely disappointed Rubens Barrichello in third. The race had put an immense strain on the Brazilian and he had to sit on the podium at times. Even though it was the first time he'd finished so well at his home race, he had expected much more.

However the Williams and the McLaren had looked faster on the day and, unusual for 2004, the Ferrari just didn't have the pace.

Even though the Jaguar team could only gain a 14th place with Klien, the fact that Jarno Trulli could only manage 12th place for Toyota meant they would finish the season in 7th place in the Constructor's Championship. Sato's 6th place had guaranteed BAR-Honda an amazing second place finish.

The F1 cars lining up in Melbourne would be very different to the ones finishing the 2004 season - judging by the amount of changes mooted for the sport this weekend, it could be a whole new formula we see in 2005.

Result of the Brazilian GP Race on Sunday October 24 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
1.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM1:28:01.451
2.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM+ 1.000
3.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 24.099
4.ALONSORenaultM+ 48.908
5.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 49.740
6.SATOBAR HondaB+ 50.248
7.M.SCHUMACHERFerrariB+ 50.626
8.MASSASauber PetronasB+ 1:02.000
9.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 1:03.000
10.VILLENEUVERenaultM+ 1 lap
11.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 1 lap
12.TRULLIToyotaM+ 1 lap
13.ZONTAToyotaM+ 1 lap
14.KLEINJaguar CosworthM+ 2 laps
15.GLOCKJordan FordB+ 2 laps
16.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB+ 4 laps
17.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB+ 4 laps
18.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 48 laps
19.HEIDFELDJordan FordB+ 53 laps
20.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 68 laps

Drivers' Standings after the Brazilian GP Sunday October 24 2004 - final

DriverNationalityTeam Points
Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrari148
Rubens BarrichelloBrazilFerrari114
Jenson ButtonGreat BritainBAR85
Fernando AlonsoSpainRenault59
Juan Pablo MontoyaColombiaWilliams58
Jarno TrulliItalyRenault46
Kimi RaikkonenFinlandMclaren45
Takuma SatoJapanBAR34
Ralf SchumacherGermanyWilliams24
David CoulthardGreat BritainMcLaren24
Giancarlo FisichellaItalySauber22
Felipe MassaBrazilSauber12
Mark WebberAustraliaJaguar7
Olivier PanisFranceToyota6
Antonio PizzoniaItalyWilliams6
Christian KleinFranceJaguar3
Cristiano da MattaBrazilToyota3
Nick HeidfieldGermanyJordan3
Timo GlockGermanyJordan2
Zsolt BaumgarnterGermanyMinardi1

The 2004 formula one grand prix season
There will be 18 races starting in Australia and ending in Brazil.
The dates are all Sundays with qualifying on the Saturday before.

March 7th.AustraliaMelbourne
March 21st.MalaysiaKuala Lumpur
April 4th.BahrainBahrain
April 25th.San MarinoImola
May 9th.SpainBarcelona
May 23rd.MonacoMonte Carlo
May 30th.EuropeNurburgring
June 13th.CanadaMontreal
June 20th.United StatesIndianapolis
July 4th.FranceMagny-Courts
July 11th.Great BritainSilverstone
July 25th.GermanyHockenheim
August 15th.HungaryHongaroring
August 29th.BelgiumSpa-Francorchamps
September 12th.ItalyMonza
September 26th.ChinaShanghai
October 10th.JapanSuzuka
October 24thBrazilInterlagos

Drivers and teams for the 2004 formula one grand prix season
There will be only 10 teams competing this season.

TeamDriver DriverTest Driver
FerrariMichael SchumacherRubens Barrichello
Williams BMWJuan Pablo MontoyaRalf Schumacher
McLaren MercedesDavid CoulthardKimi Raikkonen
RenaultJarno TrulliFernando Alonso
BAR HondaJenson ButtonTakuma SatoDavidson
Sauber PetronasGiancarlo FisichellaFelipe Massa
Jaguar CosworthMark WebberChristian KlienWirdheim
ToyotaOlivier PanisCristiano da MattaZonta
Jordan FordNick HeidfeldGiorgio PantanoTimo Glock
Minardi CosworthGianmaria BruniZsolt Baumgartner

Japanese Race Report: Typhoon Schumi sweeps all before him at Suzuka Sunday October 10 2004

Start of the Japanese GP

Michael Schumacher blew the rest of the field away in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, leading the race from start to finish to claim his 13th win of the season. The Ferrari driver, who failed to win any of the last three races, returned to form at Suzuka, claiming pole position on Sunday morning and the race victory on Sunday afternoon. Schumi stormed away from pole as the lights changed and continued to hold the P1 slot even when returning to the race after his three pit stops.

Ralf Schumacher had to settle for second place behind his brother, while Jenson Button, who was on a two-stop strategy, completed the podium at Suzuka.

It was a mixture of joy and disappointment for team-mate Takuma Sato, who drove strongly at his home race failed to secure the podium finish Japan so badly wanted from him. Sato finished in P4 over ten seconds behind his BAR-Honda team-mate.

Fernando Alonso finished in fifth place, while Kimi Raikkonen, who started down in P12, was the sixth driver home after a late race misjudgement from Rubens Barrichello took both him and David Coulthard out of the race.

Race Report: The ambient temperature was 28 degrees Centigrade and the track was registering 33 when Michael Schumacher led the field round on the parade lap under clear blue skies. The humidity was a massive 80% and though some had predicted light showers through the race, they managed to miss the circuit by 4 kilometres to leave a dry race.

As the red lights went out Schumacher rocketed away from pole, keeping his brother at bay without the use of the famous Schumi Schuweave which he'd used so ruthlessly on Ralf in 2003.

Into the first corner he led from Ralf and a fast-starting Jenson Button who leapfrogged Mark Webber and team-mate Takuma Sato from fifth on the grid to take third place into the first turn.

Button on the outside, and with what turned out to be a heavier car, managed to squeeze his team-mate effectively and Taku sensibly dropped behind. The big loser on the opening lap was Jaguar's Mark Webber who went from third place to eighth after a slow getaway. the Suzuka circuit

As the cars streamed across the start/finish line on the opening lap it was Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Button, Sato, Trulli, Webber, David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve, Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso in 10th, Raikkonen in 11th and Montoya in 12th.

Michael's lead over Ralf was a second at the end of Lap 1, and 1.6 at the end of Lap 2, but behind him the gaps were already stretching out. By Lap 4 the Ferrari had a 7.7 second advantage over the third placed BAR-Honda of Button, which by Lap 6 was a massive ten seconds.

Already the Schumacher brothers were embroiled in their own personal battle and the rest of the grid were just fighting for the points.

After Jenson got past Takuma Sato the Japanese driver, enjoying phenomenal home support from the fans, latched onto the back of his team-mate's gearbox. Button and the rest of the field were putting in 1:35 second laps while the two Schumachers were in the 1:33s. At this stage Sato seemed to have a faster car than the Brit.

On Lap 3 Giancarlo Fisichella overtook Jacques Villeneuve for 8th who then fell back into a tussle between himself, Alonso, Raikkonen and Montoya who all seemed quicker. This little battle was then joined on Lap 5 by Rubens Barrichello who eased himself past Olivier Panis, going rapidly backwards in his farewell GP.

On Lap 6 Alonso overtook Villeneuve with little resistance from the Canadian (suggesting that he might have got a call on the radio) and a lap later Takuma Sato came round in third place ahead of Jenson Button (suggesting he might have got a call on the radio too). Button was careful to say in the post-race press conference that Taku 'got past him' and keen not to show any kind of involvement of team orders. It was clear that the Brit was on a two-stop race strategy while his team-mate was stopping three times.

In clear air Alonso put in his fastest lap of the race, three seconds quicker than Villeneuve's pace.

Behind him it was all hell let loose as Barrichello, Raikkonen and Montoya all jockeyed for position to overtake Villeneuve next. At one point we had three cars abreast going down the start/finish straight, all this at a track that is supposedly difficult to overtake on. Raikkonen lost out to Montoya who pinched a place off his 2005 team-mate.

Michael Schumacher put in the fastest lap of the race on Lap 8 with a 1:33.397 in his attempt to lose his brother. But next time round Ralf dived into the pits - the earliest to stop - and his challenge was gone. The next time Ralf was directly behind his brother there was a 20-second gap between them; race effectively over.

David Coulthard was stuck behind the Jaguar of Mark Webber who'd managed to maintain his pace once he'd got the Jaguar on the move. On Lap 10 DC was past him (unseen by the TV cameras, as were so many of the overtaking moves during the race) and on Lap 11 Giancarlo Fisichella also got past in the Sauber.

At the end of Lap 11 Montoya and Webber pitted while the two BAR-Hondas started to lap at a similar pace. If Sato was to make his strategy stick he needed to be consistently faster than Button for long periods of the race, something he failed to do.

A lap later Michael Schumacher lowered the fastest lap of the race to a 1:32.973 as Sato, Trulli, Fisischella and Barrichello pitted for the first time.

Schumacher himself came in a lap later and rejoined the race in the lead in front of now second place Jenson Button who was yet to stop. So he had got a whole pit-stop in his pocket ahead of the second place driver. The World Champion was making it look incredibly easy.

Behind him Takuma Sato was keen to get ahead of Villeneuve after his pit-stop and managed to take 6th place off him. When Button pitted at the end of Lap 15 he emerged in 4th place behind Sato.

Giancarlo Fisichella ruined what could have been a good race for Sauber on Lap 16. The Bridgestone tyre is particularly good on green tracks where the rubber has yet to be laid down thus accounting for Schumacher's dominance and the Sauber's pace. However he ran wide and onto the gravel dropping himself from 8th to 11th and taking the endplate off his front wing.

So on Lap 17, when the first pit-stops had all been taken, the order was Schumacher, Schumacher, Sato, Button in fourth, Coulthard in fifth, Alonso up to sixth, Trulli, Montoya and Barrichello.

Villeneuve in an understeering Renault and Trulli (who was running as high as fifth early on) were the big losers in the first shuffle.

Mark Webber came back to the pits on Lap 18 far too early for a scheduled pit-stop. He returned to the race in 17th place after a brief investigation by his mechanics. On Lap 20 he was back for good reporting that he had a huge pain in his backside after his race seat heated up. The speculation was that with the lack of set-up time over the weekend the Jaguar was running too low and the titanium rubbing strips underneath the car were heating up and burning Webbo's rear end.

Messrs Schumacher were still the only drivers putting in 1:33 second laps, though now Michael had a very wide cushion to second place.

A long way further back the second Ferrari was caught up in the battle for 7th place. Juan Montoya was held up behind a fading Jarno Trulli in his first race for Toyota and he in turn had Rubens Barrichello breathing down his neck. Going into the final chicane Montoya made to overtake Trulli on the outside, who'd moved over to cover the inside line. Juan left his braking too late, running over the kerbs in the process. Montoya's loss of pace allowed first Barrichello past, and then his lack of momentum slowed him on the straight allowing Fisichella through, so he fell from 8th to 10th. At the same time Rubens dived alongside Trulli going into Turn 1 to take 7th.

Free of cars in front of him for the first time, Rubens was able to get the hammer down and join the two frontrunners in putting in 1:33 second laps.

Ralf and Michael both pitted again, on Laps 25 and 26. Schu rejoining in 1st and Schu junior slipping to fourth, behind Button and Coulthard, who were both stopping just twice, unlike Ralf who was on a three-stopper.

Jenson Button was gradually being reeled in by David Coulthard. At one stage the Scot got to within a second of the Brit before having to take his second pit-stop at the end of Lap 33.

Rubens showed what might have been had he not messed up his qualifying lap when on Lap 30 he reduced the fastest lap time to 1:32.730.

At the end of Lap 36 Button pitted and easily got out in front of Coulthard who suffered from having to run three laps with a much higher fuel load. The big question now was whether Button could snatch second place off Ralf Schumacher. Ralf was ahead of him on the road but needed to stop one more time.

Then, on Lap 38 we saw both the McLaren of Coulthard and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello crawling along, each with a front wheel bent terminally inwards. They had had a coming together at the chicane. The Ferrari crew ushered Rubens straight into the garage as Michael Schumacher was due to arrive any second for his final stop. Coulthard's race was over too.

Rubens sounded suitably contrite afterwards. “I was coming quite fast to overtake DC and I wanted to catch him by surprise," he admitted. "I don't know if he didn't see me or what. He was two seconds slower than me so I had to go for it.”

Coulthard was statesmanlike in his restraint but described the move as “optimistic”. “I suppose it's payback for China,” he said ruefully, referring to the race in which he'd punted Ralf Schumacher off by being similarly optimistic. The stewards announced they would investigate the incident nonetheless. Michael Schumacher wins (again). ahh... boring...

Soon after, Ralf Schumacher, who had been putting in some fast laps, came in for his final pit-stop and exited in front of the BAR-Honda. The race order with all the pit-stops taken was Schumacher (M), Schumacher (R) , Button, Sato, Alonso, Raikkonen sixth in what looked to be an ill-handling McLaren.

The only small moment of drama in the closing stages was Felipe Massa's pass of Villeneuve for ninth place. Massa (who'll be JV's team-mate next year) seemed to get past him into the chicane, but the Canadian wouldn't give it up and edged the place back. So Felipe simply drove past him on the start/finish straight.

After that everyone turned the engines down and there was a cruise to the finish, Schu Senior putting in a 1:36 and two 1:39s on the way to the flag. They finished in the order of Lap 42 with Michael celebrating a dominant win, his 13th of the season.

With Olivier Panis finishing his F1 career in a dismal 14th place, behind even the Jordan of Nick Heidfeld, Schu is now officially the oldest F1 driver. And Michael has now beaten Gerhard Berger's race appearances to become the 2nd most experienced driver of all time, behind only Riccardo Patrese.

His brother came home in second place to make it a family affair on the Suzuka podium, along with Jenson Button who scored his 10th podium finish of the season (having started 2004 with none).

With Alonso only managing fifth place, BAR-Honda have now got a 16-point advantage over Renault in the Constructors' Championship, requiring the French team to come first and third in Brazil to beat them. A tad unlikely.

Takuma Sato, who had promised so much early in the race, suffered from a lack of mid-race pace - BAR's achille's heel this year. His fourth place was a disappointment to the fans who had wanted him to match Aguri Suzuki's previous |Japanese GP podium finish from 1990.

He was been 6th, 5th and now 4th. The podium finish will obviously have to wait till 2005.

Result of the Japanese GP at Suzuka Sunday October 10 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 14.098
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 19.662
4.SATOBAR HondaB+ 31.781
5.ALONSORenaultM+ 37.767
6.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM+ 39.362
7.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 55.347
8.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 56.276
9.MASSASauber PetronasB+ 1:29.656
10.VILLENEUVERenaultM+ 1 lap
11.TRULLIToyotaM+ 1 lap
12.KLEINJaguar CosworthM+ 1 lap
13.HEIDFELDJordan FordB+ 1 lap
14.PANISToyotaM+ 2 laps
15.GLOCKJordan FordB+ 2 laps
16.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB+ 3 laps
17.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB+ 11 laps
18.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 14 laps
19.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 14 laps
20.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 32 laps

Chinese GP Race Report: Rubens resists big pressure to win Sunday September 26 2004

start of china gp

Rubens Barrichello claimed the victory in Sunday's inaugural Chinese GP, while team-mate Michael Schumacher had even more problems with his Ferrari, including a spin, a collision and a puncture. Barrichello survived a late challenge from Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button who applied intense pressure in the final laps of the race. However, neither driver was able to get the better of the Italian GP winner, who claimed the first back-to-back win of his career.

Jenson Button finished the race in second place, taking the checquered flag just one second behind Barrichello, while Kimi Raikkonen had to be content with third place, finishing a mere 0.4 seconds behind Button.

As for the World Champion, he failed to score a single point, coming home in 12th place. The German had a problematic race, hitting the Jaguar of Christian Klien, spinning his F2004 and later suffering a punctured Bridgestone.

Race Report: The ambient temperature was 28 degrees Centigrade and the track was up to 36 degrees as the cars lined up in bright sunshine at the hugely impressive 'Shang' circuit.

The start of the GP was relatively orderly, with Barrichello and Raikkonen holding station into the first turn and Alonso making his usual (two-car minimum) leap forward off the grid. Jenson Button was the major casualty, dropping behind Alonso and Massa - though as the pit-stops panned out throught he race, it became apparent that Button had qualified with more fuel than any of the men around him.

Michael Schumacher had qualified in 18th place with only Sato and Bruni behind him, so Ferrari opted to switch his strategy and start him from the pitlane. The World Champion had to wait for the red lights to go out before his Ferrari team could refuel him and get him underway.

The other major casualty of the start was Olivier Panis whose Toyota yet again faltered away from the startline after he'd done so well to get it up to 8th on Saturday.

Going round the long curve of the first turn Sauber's Felipe Massa, attempting to take third off Alonso, got a little nudge from the Renault, his Sauber ran wide and Button nipped past into 4th. Two corners later Massa stole it back off him.

Despite the invitingly long back straight and the tight hairpin that follows, there was little overtaking there on the opening lap. So, as they crossed the line Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari had a 0.6 second lap over Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso in third, Felipe Massa in 4th and Button in 5th. Then it was Giancarlo Fisichella from Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Zonta, Webber in 10th and Jacques Villeneuve in 11th. Takuma Sato, starting 19th, had got himself up to 14th place in the second BAR-Honda.

The returning JV hadn't made the maximum use of his Renault's phenomenal starting ability and he was destined to spend a long time with Mark Webber as a result.

Though there was a lot of attention on the battle at the front, everyone had half an eye on the red car at the back. In China, red is a lucky colour and Michael Schumacher was hoping to get lucky and put in another impressive 'burn from the stern' as he had done at Monza.

At the end of the opening lap he was 20th and he was still 20th at the end of Lap 2. By Lap 3 he'd clawed his way up to 18th, but it looked like he was going to need more quantities of luck than was available to get on the podium.

On Lap 3 Felipe Massa ran wide allowing the BAR-Honda of Button to retake 4th place. Though Massa has a look at Jenson down the back straight, the Brit already had enough air between himself and the Sauber to stay in front.

Right now the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen was the quickest man on the track with a 1:34.875 fastest lap. He put himself onto the gearbox of Rubens and they remained together like Siamese twins for most of the race.

With Button past Massa, the Brazilian then came into the clutches of Sauber team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella. Massa clearly didn't want to lose a place to Fisi and resisted him in an acceleration race out of the hairpin, even though he was now backing up a train of cars.

A lap later and both Fisi and Ralf Schumacher got him into the hairpin, though he did manage to resist David Coulthard who tried to follow Ralf through.

Button, free of Massa, set off after Fernando Alonso and reduced the fastest lap to 1:34.507 in the process. By Lap 6 he was behind the Spaniard and by Lap 7 he'd managed to nail him into the chicane. At the same time both Coulthard and Ricardo Zonta got themselves past Felipe Massa, struggling on his soft Bridgestone tyres.

Times were beginning to come down as the track rubbered in and fuel loads reduced:
Lap 8 Button was fastest with a 1:34.507,
Lap 9 Button was fastest with a 1:34.122,
Lap 10 Barrichello was fastest with a 1:33.782
Lap 11 Barrichello was fastest with a 1:33.501

At the end of Lap 11 the pit-stop strategy began to unfold and Coulthard, Zonta and Fisichella pitted. At the end of Lap 12 Raikkonen and Barrichello pitted together and exited the pits in the position they'd arrived.

While all that was happening Button stole back the fastest lap time with a 1:33.447 and Michael Schumacher made a lunge at the Jaguar of Christian Klien coming into the hairpin. Klein saw him, ran wide, but the No.1 Ferrari had left his braking too late and it thumped wheel to wheel into the Jag.

The impact was such that it broke the suspension of the Jaguar and ended Klien's race. Though it was a robust move and definitely of the 'racing incident' variety, it was surprising that the stewards didn't choose to investigate, considering a car had retired as a result. When Klien was turning in, Schumi was only half alongside.

Button reduced the fastest time to 1:33.429 on Lap 13 and there was speculation as to how much further he could go before his first stop. That ended when he came in at the end of Lap 14 and handed the lead back to Barrichello.

Whether or not Schumi's collision with Klien was a contributing factor or not, on Lap 15 Michael spun his car accelerating out of a corner. The spin during qualifying had been unexpected, but a spin on acceleration pointed to software problems with the traction control. He resumed in 11th place behind David Coulthard.

It didn't seem to hamper his speed too much though, because by Lap 17 he had taken 9th place off Fisichella. On Lap 18 he reduced the fastest time to 1:32.627 and he was up to 7th (mostly through people pitting in front of him). On Lap 19 he reduced the fastest time to 1:32.578 and he was up to 6th. Then, after passing brother Ralf, who got a friendly wave down the back straight, he dived into the pits for his pit-stop and emerged in 14th place.

On Lap 22, with all the major fuel stops done, the order was Rubens Barrichello, just 0.8 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button was in third place eight seconds back Fernando Alonso was a further 10 seconds back in fourth place.

Then it was Ralf, Fisi, DC, Zonta, Massa in 9th, Sato in 10th, Montoya in 11th and Webber 12th.

At this stage of the race Jenson Button in the BAR-Honda began to lose touch with the leaders. As Kimi and Rubens put in their fastest laps of the race so far, Button couldn't respond.

Lap 24
Barrichello 1:33.375
Raikkonen 1:33.572
Button 1:34.660
Lap 25
Barrichello 1:33.112
Raikkonen 1:33.388
Button 1:34.299

However Raikkonen suddenly broke the tow-rope that seemed to be attached to the back of the Ferrari of Barrichello when on Lap 27 he dived in for an early second pit-stop. Rubens, without Raikkonen in his mirrors, then reduced the fastest lap considerably with a 1:32.455. At the end of Lap 29 he too stopped and exited the pits well clear of the Finn.

This left Jenson Button firmly in the lead and as each lap passed it became clear that the Brit's lack of speed in the second stint was due to the fact that he was fuelled up for a two-stopper. What was more, as each lap passed he was gaining himself a bigger gap, his own fuel load going down while Raikkonen and Barrichello's was much higher.

By the time he pitted at the end of Lap 35, Button had edged out a ten second lead to Barrichello. TV cameras then switched to a slow-cruising Ferrari - Michael Schumacher had picked up a rear puncture and was cruising back to the pits. He wouldn't finish in the points today, let alone on the podium.

Raikkonen pitted for a third time at the end of Lap 36 and rejoined behind Button who was now up to second place. It was clear from Button's pace that he was not going to make an impression on Barrichello. The Number 2 Ferrari had track position on him and was going away from him at up to two seconds a lap (even if he did have to stop again).

On Lap 37 David Coulthard in the second McLaren-Mercedes had a go at passing the Williams of Ralf Schumacher before he was close enough to overtake. The Scot dived up the inside of Schu Junior going into the hairpin and whereas Klien had seen Schu Senior coming and changed his line to leave him room, Ralf chopped straight across, as he was entitled to do.

The McLaren hit the Williams side pod with its front tyres and broke the suspension. Schumacher limped back to the pits, even if the car had second thoughts about going down the pitlane and swerved all over the pitlane entrance, very much like a horse refusing a fence at a showjumping event. Welcome back to F1 Ralf.

The stewards, though they'd chosen to overlook Schu Senior's indiscretion, couldn't really ignore a much more blatant punt in the side and put the move under investigation. Coulthard himself had to pit a lap later for a punctured front tyre, which put him out of the points.

On Lap 40 it didn't look as if the race was going to be anything but a clear Ferrari win. Rubens Barrichello put in a 1:33.030, while Button could only manage a 1:35.206. Rubens had opened a big enough gap between himself and Button to take his final pit-stop and get out in front.

A lap later and the Chinese fans got to see a Minardi three-wheeler negotiating the circuit. Gianmaria Bruni's front left wheel had come loose after a pit-stop and he was trying to get back to the pits with his car intact. He didn't manage it.

At the end of Lap 42 Barrichello dived into the pits and was stationary for just 6.2 seconds. He came out with an eight second advantage over Button, who was a further 6.3 seconds ahead of a charging Kimi Raikkonen. It was now a flat out race to the finish, no engines turned down, nothing being preserved on any of the top three cars.

Button started to catch Barrichello and Raikkonen was catching Button. The gap came down consistently.
Lap 43:
RB to JB 8.2
JB to KR 6.3

Lap 45:
RB to JB 7.9
JB to KR 5.6

Lap 46:
RB to JB 7.5
JB to KR 5.8

Lap 47:
RB to JB 6.7
JB to KR 5.4

Lap 48
RB to JB 6.1
JB to KR 4.6

Lap 49:
RB to JB 5.5
JB to KR 4.0

Lap 50:
RB to JB 4.9
JB to KR 3.0

On Lap 51 there was an interesting moment when all three front-runners lapped Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen was setting personal best after personal best in his pursuit of second place and by Lap 53 had reduced his time to a 1:32.876.

As the contenders started the opening lap Barrichello had an advantage of two seconds over Button, while Button had 0.8 seconds of airspace between himself and the Mclaren Mercedes of Raikkonen.

They crossed the line in that order, avoiding a Webber vs Villenuve tail end battle. As if to prove what might have been, the No.1 Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, back in 12th place, put in the fastest lap of the race, a 1:32.238.

Fernando Alonso was a distant fourth, thirty seconds back, coming home in front of Montoya and Sato in 5th and 6th. It had been an impressive debut for The Shang, the only pity being that no Championships were still at stake - just professional pride and the other placings.

It was Rubens' 9th Ferrari victory and his first back-to-back win. Red is the colour of the Chinese nation and the People's Republic of Ferrari had come good in the first race of what will be many.

Result of the Chinese GP on Sunday September 26th 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 1.035
3.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM+ 1.469
4.ALONSORenaultM+ 32.510
5.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 45.193
6.SATOBAR HondaB+ 54.791
7.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 1:05.464
8.MASSASauber PetronasB+ 1:20.080
9.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 1:20.619
10.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM1 lap
11.VILLENEUVERenaultM1 lap
12.M.SCHUMACHERFerrariB1 lap
13.HEIDFELDJordan FordB1 lap
14.PANISToyotaM1 lap
15.GLOCKJordan FordB1 lap
16.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB3 laps
17.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB18 laps
18.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM19 laps
19.ZONTAToyotaM20 laps
20.KLEINJaguar CosworthM44 laps

Shanghai shock as Schumacher spins Saturday, September 25, 2004 Posted: 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)


Barrichello will share the front row with Finn Kimi Raikkonen

Grid Positions
1st row: 1. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari 1:34.012, 2. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.178
2nd row: 3. Jenson Button (GBR) BAR-Honda 1:34.295, 4. Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber-Petronas 1:34.759
3rd row: 5. Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams-BMW 1:34.891, 6. Fernando Alonso (SPA) Renault 1:34.917
4th row: 7. Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber-Petronas 1:34.951, 8. Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota 1:34.975
5th row: 9. David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.029, 10.Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams-BMW 1:35.245
6th row: 11. Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar-Cosworth 1:35.286, 12. Jacques Villeneuve (CAN) Renault 1:35.384
7th row: 13. Ricardo Zonta (BRA) Toyota 1:35.410, 14. Nick Heidfeld (GER) Jordan 1:36.507
8th row: 15. Christian Klien (AUT) Jaguar-Cosworth 1:36.535, 16. Timo Glock (GER) Jordan 1:37.140
9th row: 17. Zsolt Baumgartner (HUN) Minardi 1:40.240, 18. Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari no time
10th row: 19.Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR-Honda 1:34.993, 20. Gianmaria Bruni (ITA) Minardi no time.

SHANGHAI, China -- Rubens Barrichello gave Ferrari pole position for Sunday's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, but his team mate, world champion Michael Schumacher, skidded to the back of the grid.

Barrichello, winner of the last Italian Grand Prix, secured his third pole of the season with a lap of one minute 34.012 seconds.

Schumacher, winner of 12 of the season's 15 races, was last to run in Saturday's decisive session and spun off at the first corner on his fast lap.

He lost control in ideal conditions as he pushed too hard to try and reel in his teammate.

The rare error saw the German world champion's car slide away from him and career backwards onto the gravel. He was unhurt and drove back to the pit lane.

He will start in the second to last row in Sunday's 56-lap race in 18th place. Takuma Sato, who had qualified ninth, was demoted 10 places after his engine failed on Friday.

It will be the German's worst starting position as a Ferrari driver. In 1998 he had the pole position for the final race of the season, the Japanese GP, but stalled on the grid and was put to the back of the pack.

Barrichello will share the front row with Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, winner of this year's Belgian Grand Prix for McLaren.

Briton Jenson Button for BAR and Brazilian Felipe Massa, in a Sauber, filled the second row.

Schumacher has already won his seventh world championship while Ferrari clinched their sixth successive constructors' title last month.

Worst performance
It was the worst qualifying performance of the German's 210-race career and he will have to start at the rear with the struggling Minardis and fight his way through the field -- not an impossible task.

"If you know me, I never give up," said Schumacher, who has achieved 12 wins in the first 13 races of the season.

"I'm Michael Schumacher. I don't need to test my driving ability, but it's certainly interesting to do what I have to do from where I am now."

Schumacher showed what he could do in Italy two weeks ago, after spinning on the first lap and rejoining at the rear. He roared back to anchor the victorious Barrichello in an extraordinary home one-two finish at Monza.

The German also won for Benetton in Belgium in 1995 from 16th place on the starting grid.

"When he (Schumacher) spun, it was a shock," said Barrichello, who should mathematically clinch second place in the championship in Shanghai.

"Obviously he's going to have a tougher race but we've seen this year that Fisichella or Massa have started from the back and had really good races where they've finished in the top six.

"I guess the nature of the circuit will provide some overtaking and I think Michael still can be up there. Whether he can win the race or not is probably a little bit more difficult, but I wouldn't discount him."

Raikkonen, overall runner-up to Schumacher last season, was just 0.166 of a second off Barrichello's pace and sounded confident of doing well in a key race for all the major carmakers as they seek to impress a rapidly growing market.

"We have been pretty strong the whole weekend," he said. "I just made a small mistake on the last corner but I'm very confident for the race."

BAR and Renault are fighting for second place in a championship already won by Ferrari, with the Honda-powered team three points ahead.

Button's performance raised BAR's spirits after an engine failure in practice cost Japanese team mate Takuma Sato 10 places on the grid. Sato was ninth fastest but will be battling it out with Schumacher at the start.

Germany's Ralf Schumacher made a strong comeback after three months out following his big crash at the U.S. Grand Prix, qualifying his Williams on the third row alongside Renault's Fernando Alonso.

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, who will start his first race in almost a year as a replacement for Italian Jarno Trulli at Renault, qualified 12th.

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Italian GP Report: Barrichello clinches 8th Ferrari 1-2 of the year Sunday September 12 2004

Ralph and Sato

Ferrari drivers Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher fought back in sensational style from troubles at the start of the Italian GP to claim a memorable 1-2 at Monza on Sunday.

Schumacher lost control of his car, sliding into Jenson Button, which spun him round and dropped him to 15th place before even the first lap had been completed. However, Ferrari's troubles were further compounded when Barrichello, who had been leading the race, began to lose places as his Bridgestone intermediate tyres disintegrated in the dry conditions. The Brazilian was forced to pit for new tyres and he too dropped down the order.

However, both Ferrari drivers fought back, cutting their way through the field to eventually find themselves first and second, with Barrichello leading his team-mate after the final pit-stops. The Scuderia's performance may have left the tifosi smiling, however, it was disappointing for Jenson Button. The BAR driver had looked to be on course for his maiden GP victory before being outpaced by Barrichello and then Schumacher.

His team-mate Takuma Sato finished fourth after Fernando Alonso spun out of the race from a strong position.

Report: The track had been registering 38 degrees Centigrade when the cars had qualified yesterday. When they lined up on the grid in damp conditions on Sunday it was just 25 degrees.

The big question as the cars went out to the grid was, which tyres would the teams choose - dry or intermediate. It had been raining since eight o'clock in the morning and the rain had only just stopped an hour before the race.

The teams could change their minds (and tyres) up until the five minute board and as the tyre covers came off it seemed that most had opted for dry. Indeed the sun came out to further dry the track as the media were cleared from the grid.

The only problem at Monza was that with so many trees close to the track, the braking areas for the corners might stay wet.

On the opening lap it would be just Barrichello, Coulthard and Massa of the front-runners who would go down the intermediate route. (Though on the parade lap DC thought better of it and dived down the pitlane changing strategy from a two-stopper to a one-stopper.)

As the lights went out Fernando Alonso - 4th on the grid - threaded his Renault tentatively through the gap between Juan Montoya and Michael Schumacher and by the Rettifilo chicane was a clear second place. Rubens, with his tyre advantage on the opening lap was able to stay well clear.

Behind him Juan Montoya had the advantage of the inside line, closely followed by Jenson Button, which forced Michael Schumacher wide. Schumi was too late on the brakes and had to tiptoe across the apex of the chicane gaining a place on Juan Montoya, as he did so.

The Colombian, in a mood to play games didn't immediately retake third place, despite Schumi slowing down to let him past, then he swept through with Raikkonen also charging past the No.1 Ferrari. Jenson Button also took advantage into the second chicane.

Bridgestone's dry tyres lose out in performance to the Michelins in damp conditions, and Schumacher lost control of the car in the second chicane with a four-wheel slide into the side of Jenson Button's BAR-Honda. Luckily it did no damage, but Schumacher found himself spinning round in front of the field which had to take avoiding action.

Olivier Panis got his Toyota spun round in the ensuing melee, the Frenchman retiring early from his last European GP.

Schumi set off after the rest of the field and finished the opening lap in 15th place.

Rubens Barrichello finished the opening lap a massive 6.9 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was followed by Montoya, Raikkonen, Button, Sato, Massa (up to 7th on his Bridgestone inters), Trulli, Klien, Zonta in 10th, Webber in 11th and Gianmaria Bruni in 12th.

On Lap 2, Button was past Raikkonen into 4th place and Rubens Barrichello opened the gap to Alonso, in second place, to 8.2 seconds.

But by Lap 3 any advantage Rubans had with his tyres was gone, as Alonso put in the fastest lap so far, a 1:27.969, two seconds quicker than Barrichello. The gap came down to 6.6 seconds, then 2.8 seconds, at which point Rubens should have been in for a pit-stop.

On Lap 4 Jenson Button continued his progress up the order with a pass on Montoya. JPM went defensive into the second chicane and ran wide allowing Button to cruise round him. The BMW-Williams then came under pressure from Raikkonen who wanted to follow Button through. Montoya managed to pick up the pace and keep him back.

On Lap 5 Alonso's speed superiority was so great that he easily passed Barrichello for the lead before the Ascari chicane. Felipe Massa, the only other car on inters was also going backwards fast in his Sauber.

It was good news for Jaguar at this stage of the race with Klien in 8th and Webber in 9th - further back Schumi was up to 12th and DC in 13th.

Alonso in the lead started to reel off a series of fastest laps as Rubens headed for the pits (radio confusion had meant he stayed out a lap too long). At this stage of the race, with Barrichello rejoining in 9th and his team-leader behind him, the idea of a Ferrari 1-2 looked impossible. Though the two Ferraris were quick, they seemed to be just too far back.

Alonso at the front was leading the way.
Lap 6: 1:24.254
Lap 7: 1:24.016
Lap 8: 1:23.452

By Lap 9 he had a 6.1 second gap to Jenson Button and the Jaguars were up to 6th and 7th, Klien leading his team-mate Mark Webber.

At the end of Lap 10 Alonso pitted from the lead just as Button stepped up his pace with a fastest lap of 1:23.035 on Lap 11. That mark was immediately lowered to 1:22.783 by Michael Schumacher. The chase was on.

On Lap 12 Michael set another fastest lap, this time a 1:21.973.

At the end of Lap 13 Montoya, Sato and Raikkonen all pitted at the same time, while Antonio Pizzonia took 7th place off a heavily fuelled Rubens Barrichello.

Raikkonen did not emerge from his stop, though. His car had developed a small radiator leak and the team decided to retire the car before it overheated and expired.

Jenson Button had led ever since Alonso pitted on Lap 10 and he came in for his first pit-stop at the end of Lap 14. Button emerged just in front of Schumi as he made an easy pass on the unhappy Jarno Trulli (yet again a long way off the pace of team-mate Alonso).

A lap later and the World Champion was in for his first pit-stop - he'd run as high as third place before pitting.

On Lap 17 the majority of pit-stops had shaken out; Jenson Button led from Fernando Alonso, Montoya, Rubens Barrichello (slightly out of sequence having stopped so early), Fisichella (not stopped yet), Sato, Coulthard, Mark Webber with Schumi in 9th and Pizzonia in 10th.

With the leaders holding station all the focus was on Schumi's move up the field. He tried to get up the inside of Mark Webber's Jaguar into the first Lesmo bend and had to back out. But a lap later the Aussie was too defensive going into the second chicane, lost momentum and Schumacher simply drove round him.

By Lap 25 there was just four seconds covering the top four cars with Button leading Alonso, Montoya and Barrichello with Sato in touching distance in 5th place. At this stage Schumacher was 26 seconds off the lead in 7th place, having made places up on cars in front of him while they were pitting.

The BAR-Honda team had hung out a pitboard telling Button to take it easy, which was difficult considering that Fernando Alonjso was just a second behind him.

It was this middle section of the race that proved to be Ferrari's winning edge, because while the competition were putting in occasional 1:22 second laps and mostly 1:23s, the Ferraris were heading into the 1:21s.

On Lap 28 Michael reduced the fastest lap to 1:21.899. A lap later Rubens pitted for the second time, but stopped for just six seconds, meaning he would have to stop one more time before the end of the race. Two laps later he reduced the fastest lap to 1:21.778, Schumi matched it with a 1:21.801. Neither Renault, BAR-Honda or BMW-Williams could match this pace.

On Lap 31 there was the rare but frightening sight of a fire in the pitlane. Gianmaria Bruni's Minardi had been set alight when the refuelling hose came off his car still pouring out fuel. In two seconds it was doused by a team member who could see what was going to happen next. Bruni was led away coughing and spluttering having inhaled extinguisher propellant.

At the end of Lap 33, Alonso, Montoya and Sato all pitted at the same time, returning to the track in that order, as Schumi reduced the lap record to 1:21.535. On Lap 35 he whittled this down to 1:21.361.

Alonso had been temporarily held up by Antonio Pizzonia who had yet to stop, and when the Brazilian dived into the pits he continued his charge back to Jenson Button.

Schumacher pitted for the second time at the end of Lap 36 and emerged just behind Takuma Sato who had got ahead of a lacklustre Montoya. Despite Sato having warmer tyres than Schumacher, the Ferrari driver was able to sweep past the Japanese going through Curve Grande just after the first chicane.

With Schumacher's surge of pace and Button's inability to respond it was now clear that Ferrari could snatch the place off Button (and Alonso) if he wasn't careful. BAR needed Sato to keep Schumacher behind. However an immediate mistake in the first chicane allowed Schumacher straight past.

On the road Barrichello was still ahead of Button, but he needed to stop one more time. Such was his pace, though, that he was going away from the Brit at a speed that would give him the space for a quick 'splash and dash' stop.

Rubens lowered the lap record to 1:21.279 on Lap 40 and then 1:21.046 on Lap 41. He led from Button, Alonso and the fast-closing Schumacher.

Then on Lap 41 the Spaniard made Schumacher's job that much easier by losing control of his Renault in the second chicane and came to rest perched on the edge of the kerb with his back wheels in the gravel. Alonso motioned for the marshals to push him off the kerb and back onto the track because it was a very dangerous spot. They refused and Alonso had to switch off.

A year earlier Michael Schumacher had got a push out of a far less dangerous place when his car had ended in the same sort of position at the edge of the Dunlop Kurve at the Nurburgring. The points he got that day in Germany were the difference between winning and losing the 2003 World Championship.

Schumacher was already long gone, though, and homing in on the back of Jenson Button's BAR. His closing speed was enormous and Button's fate looked sealed.

At the end of Lap 42 Rubens dashed in for his splash and go, his car stationary for just 5.5 seconds. As he emerged out of the Monza pitlane, down the straight Michael Schumacher was showing his performance advantage by pulling alongside Button on the straight, miles back from the braking zone.

He had failed to get ahead of Rubens after the well-known Ferrari cut-off point for racing, the final pit-stop. The order was now Barrichello, Schumacher, Button, Sato, Montoya, Coulthard and Pizzonia. Which is how it would stay.

Though Michael cut Rubinho's three second gap on Lap 43 to a one second gap on Lap 47, both cars were now lapping in the 1:23s, when previously they'd been well inside the 1:21s. Ross Brawn told the drivers “to turn the engines down and be sensible”.

The Ferraris were sensible to the flag, while the only battle in the race was for 6th place, Antonio Pizzonia barging David Coulthard's Mclaren in his attempts to take the place going round the first chicane. He managed to clatter DC over the kerbing, by using his rear tyre as a braking point but the Scot's MP4-19B proved a lot more resilient than Raikkonen's and continued to the flag.

Had he taken the place the stewards would have most probably investigated.

So the two red cars cruised to the line and finished the race ten seconds clear of the BAR-Hondas, astonishing their technical director in the process. “I'm speechless,” admitted Ferrari's Ross Brawn, “after five laps we had a disaster on our hands and I was thinking maybe we might get a podium…”

It was the Ferrari duo's eighth 1-2 finish of the year, and definitely their most remarkable.

Jarno Trulli finished the afternoon by recording the fastest first sector time of anyone in the race. He was back in tenth place at this stage, though, a long way from the points.

Result of the Italian GP on Sunday September 12th 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.M.SCHUMACHERFerrariB+ 0'01"347
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'10"197
4.SATOBAR HondaB+ 0'15"370
5.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 0'32"352
6.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'33"439
7.PIZZONIAWilliams BMWM+ 0'33"752
8.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 0'35"431
9.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 0'56"761
10.TRULLIRenaultM+ 1'06"316
11.ZONTAToyotaM+ 1'22"531
12.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
13.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
14.HEIDFELDJordan FordB1 lap
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB3 laps
16.ALONSORenaultM16 laps
17.PANTANOJordan FordB20 laps
18.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB24 laps
19.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM40 laps
20.PANISToyotaM53 laps

Belgian GP Report: Kimi wins, but Schumi's the 2004 World Champ Sunday August 29 2004

Mayhem at the start of the Belgium GP

Kimi Raikkonen won Sunday's dramatic and incident-strewn Belgian Grand Prix, however, it was Michael Schumacher who claimed the ultimate glory, winning his seventh World title. Only ten drivers saw the chequered flag at Spa as accidents and punctures dominated the race, a race which saw three Safety Cars in the space of the 44-laps. But at the end of it all it was Kimi Raikkonen who claimed the victory, putting an end to Michael Schumacher's seven-race winning streak.

However, while he may have stopped Schumacher from adding a few new records to his tally, Rubens Barrichello wasn't able to prevent the Ferrari driver from wrapping up his record-breaking seventh World title.

Barrichello, the only man who could have stopped Schumacher from winning the title, finished in third place despite being caught up in the first lap accident that put Mark Webber, Takuma Sato, Gianmaria Bruni and Giorgio Pantano into retirement.

Report: The ambient temperature was 20 degrees and the track was at 22 degrees Celsius as the cars lined up for the start. It was a bright day in the Ardennes forest with sun and scattered cloud, but no prospect of rain during the 44 laps.

Due to the mixed weather conditions in Qualifying 2 on Saturday, when the red lights went out on Sunday there were a lot of cars on the grid that were out of their 'rightful' position, not least Rubens Barrichello in the No.2 Ferrari. Had he not overshot the Bus Stop chicane on Saturday he could have been on pole. As it was, he was the major loser into La Source hairpin.

As the cars thundered off the grid Michael Schumacher in P2 tried vainly to squeeze to the inside and stop the Renault of Fernando Alonso coming through. Alonso was immediately past him and zeroing in on team-mate and polesitter Jarno Trulli who calmly headed for La Source and the lead.

Michael's getaway was so slow that David Coulthard in the second McLaren was past Schumacher into the hairpin too and up into third.

As the rest of the cars piled in to the tight hairpin, Mark Webber in the Jaguar left his braking too late and slammed his front wing against Rubens Barrichello's rear tyre and rear wing, losing it in a shower of carbon fibre.

To their right, and virtually at the same time, Kimi Raikkonen chose a move round the outside of the Sauber of Felipe Massa. Unknown to outside observers, he had damaged the floor of his car on the way round as he took off Felipe Massa's front wing. Massa then braked extra hard and the following Jenson Button had nowhere to go and lost his front wing against Massa's rear tyre. Throughout the field there were bumps and nudges,

Olivier Panis in the Toyota pulled to the inside with what looked like missing gears and trailed after everybody else.

So as the cars streamed down to Eau Rouge there was a slow Jaguar, a slow BAR, a slow Sauber and a slowish Ferrari mixed in with the field as they headed towards F1's most fearsome corner.

Going up the hill, Webber's Jaguar with no downforce from any front wing, tagged Takuma Sato's BAR-Honda, spinning the Japanese driver side-on to the field. Miraculously everyone managed to avoid him. Gianmaria Bruni in the Minardi braked as a reaction and then was hit by his team-mate Zsolt Baumgartner and pitched into the barriers, and then by Pantano in the Jordan who ran tamely into the back of Bruni.

Webber, Sato, Bruni and Pantano were out

While Webber and Sato had been touching, Montoya took to the run-off tarmac to avoid them and get past.

With debris scattered across the track and the back of Bruni's car temporarily on fire it looked like a red flag situation and the race would be stopped. Spa is one of the fastest F1 tracks and it was an afternoon when a re-run of the Ralf Schumacher accident at Indianapolis could have proved fatal. However race director Charlie Whiting decided that with no driver injured he would deploy the Safety Car and try and sweep up.

Immediately Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Zsolt Baumgartner. Rubens Barrichello. Nick Heidfeld and Olivier Panis pitted to inspect/repair any damage.

Lining up behind the Safety Car Trulli led from Alonso, Coulthard, Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen, Montoya, Fisichella, Pizzonia and Klien. Ricardo Zonta who had started stone last was already up to 10th place in the Toyota.

Jenson Button managed to rejoin in 11th place, one place better than he started on the grid, while both the Sauber and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello stopped a second time, in Rubens' case to change the rear wing.

In normal circumstances he would have gone a lap down and his race would have been over, but with such a long lap time at Spa and the Safety Car taking 3:28 seconds to get round the circuit, the Ferrari pit crew were able to change the rear wing and get him out just in front of the Safety Car without him going a lap down. The same with Massa and the Sauber crew, thus Rubens was able to nip out in front of the slow crocodile of cars and rejoin the race at the rear.

It took just four laps of clean-up time before the cars were released again on Lap 5 and straight away Jenson Button was past Zonta into La Source for 10th place. At the same time Kimi Raikkonen caught the World Champion on cold Bridgestone tyres and took 4th place off him. So it was now two Renaults and two McLarens at the front.

On the same lap, Juan-Pablo Montoya pulled off one of the overtaking moves of the season, cruising down behind Michael Schumacher to the reprofiled Bus Stop chicane then passing him on the inside of the chicane. Luckily for the Colombian, Schumacher was fully aware of what was going on and allowed him space.

In the first lap after the re-start Schumacher was a whole four seconds slower than the Renaults who were tearing away in the lead.

On Lap 6 Raikkonen showed his true intention for the afternoon by closing in on team-mate Coulthard into Le Raidillon and easily outdragging him up to Les Combes.

Raikkonen was the fastest man on the track putting in a 1:45.647, the fastest lap of the race so far (this compared to a 1:47.418 from Schumacher).

By Lap 7 Michael was reducing his lap time, though.
Schumacher (5th) 1:47.249
Tulli (1st) 1:46.732

At this stage of the race Rubens Barrichello was back in 14th place and putting in 1:49 second laps. It certainly looked like Michael Schumacher's 7th World Championship was going to arrive at Spa-Francorchamps.

Christian Klien in the surviving Jaguar was the first to pit at the end of Lap 9 and leader Jarno Trulli followed him in at the end of Lap 10. Alonso then took the lead with Raikkonen just 1.1 seconds behind. The Spaniard didn't pit immediately after his team-mate and on Lap 11 responded to Raikkonen's pressure with the fastest middle sector of the race so far. It looked like game on.

But at the top of the hill coming into Les Combes, the Renault slithered into a spin and as Fernando took to the grass Raikkonen breezed past. It looked like a mistake, Alonso braking too late under pressure, but moments later he was spinning again, oil pouring from the Renault engine onto his rear tyres. Fernando duly spun into the gravel and retirement.

This put the two McLarens, both yet to stop, at the front of the race - except suddenly David Coulthard appeared into view with a rear puncture. Spa being the longest track on the calendar is the worst place to blow a tyre and by the time DC had limped round for a replacement he was back in 15th place and last position.

So at the end of Lap 12 Raikkonen had a 1.5 second lead over Juan Pablo Montoya with Michael Schumacher in third place.

Kimi pitted just as David Coulthard exited with his new tyres, but the McLaren pit crew coped admirably with two cars in close succession.

So now we had Montoya in the lead followed by Schumacher, Fisichella, Button, Jarno Trulli in 5th place and Pizzonia in 6th. When Montoya and Fisichella pitted on Laps 14 and 15 respectively that left Antonio Pizzonia in the second BMW-Williams in a dizzying third.

Barrichello at this stage of the race was making no impression, stuck behind the Toyota of Ricardo Zonta.

Montoya 's first pit-stop was unlucky in that he exited the pitlane (just beyond the exit of La Source), right alongside Felipe Massa's Sauber. Though they went downhill side by side, Massa on warmer tyres had the edge and took Eau Rouge in front of the Colombian.

Montoya on tyres that hadn't been 'scrubbed in' couldn't find a way past and so when Schumacher stopped for his first pit-stop at the end of Lap 16 he jumped in front of the BMW-Williams.

Jarno Trulli had been leading easily before the first scheduled pit-stops, but he was now running several seconds slower on his second set of tyres. By Lap 18 Michael Schumacher was able to drive right round him before braking into the Bus Stop, such was his advantage in speed.

So on Lap 19 the order was Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button (out of sequence having taken fuel on board when he replaced his front wing) Michael Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Felipe Massa (also out of sequence), Montoya, Pizzonia, Fisichella. Rubens Barrichello had made his way up to 10th.

Massa then pitted and on Lap 20 his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella got it wrong at the Fagnes chicane, bouncing his Sauber across the kerbs and losing a lot of his turning vanes/bargeboards. At the same time Juan Montoya, who had caught up with the very slow Trulli, tried the same trick he'd worked on Michael Schumacher at the Bus Stop chicane. The difference was that this time round Trulli wasn't expecting it. Montoya stuck the nose of his BMW-Williams alongside the Renault which duly chopped across the front, sending himself into a spin and stopping Montoya.

It was an optimistic move from Montoya, and slightly impatient given that the BMW-Williams had a clear speed advantage. As Montoya recovered his momentum, and Trulli reversed away from the barrier, Antonio Pizzonia passed them both. The incident would be investigated by the stewards afterwards. Trulli continued but at the same reduced pace he'd been running since before the incident, fading steadily backwards.

At the end of Lap 21 Jenson Button pitted leaving clear air between Raikkonen and Schumacher. On Lap 23 the difference was 11.9 seconds, by Lap 24 it was 12.5 seconds, by Lap 25 it was 13.1 seconds; whereas in previous races Schumacher had just driven away from the opposition, at Spa for once, the opposition was driving away from him.

On Lap 26 Raikkonen's lead was 13.7 seconds and then Michael, determined to erode the gap, reduced it to 12.6 seconds. On Lap 28 Michael put in the fastest lap of the race - a 1:45.503 to which Raikkonen responded with a 1:45.960.

At the end of Lap 29 Kimi Raikkonen came in for his second and final pit-stop, Montoya too. Further round the track Jenson Button's BAR-Honda was heading for Les Coombes at 205mph with a punctured right rear tyre...

The first thing Button knew about it was when he felt a bump from the back of the car and then suddenly the car snapped away from him and speared right into the unfortunate Zsolt Baumgartner, who he was lapping at the time. Both cars were out on the spot and more wreckage was strewn across the track.

Button described it as his greatest racing escape. “It would have been horrific if I'd hit his (Baumgartner's) rear tyre. I don't think I've ever been so lucky in an accident.”

The Briton, like Coulthard, had most likely picked up carbon fibre shards which had been left after the first lap incident further back down the hill either at La Source, or Eau Rouge. If true, it would be a damning endictment for the race director who'd allowed the race to continue. Button was very lucky to escape without injury.

With more debris on the track the Safety Car was deployed for the second time. Immediately Michael Schumacher took advantage of it and pitted at the end of Lap 30, as did Pizzonia, Zonta and Massa.

All of a sudden Raikkonen's 11-second lead was down to nothing with the World Champion elect coming out right behind the Finn.

As they cruised round on Lap 31 the order was now Raikkonen from Schumacher, Pizzonia, Montoya, Barrichello, Zonta, Massa and Fisichella. Everyone was now fuelled to the finish. The greatest beneficiary of the stops had been Rubens Barrichello who was now up to an incredible 5th place. Also keen to get amongst the points but further back were Christian Klien and David Coulthard.

Before the race restarted, Pizzonia waved his team-mate through at La Source and pulled his BMW-Williams over to the side of the road. All of a sudden he'd got a car with no gears, or no drive, or both. Antonio had been looking at his first ever podium finish and now it had all ended in tears. The red-eyed Brazilian climbed onto the tyre barriers and contemplated his bad luck.

At the front Kimi Raikkonen was keeping Michael Schumacher's attention focused by braking and accelerating behind the Safety Car - what you might call 'payback time' for all those times he'd been on the receiving end.

The race re-started for the second time on Lap 35 and Raikkonen eked out as big an advantage as he could at the start of the lap. As he went over the line on Lap 36 the gap to the Ferrari was 1.3 seconds, with Montoya 2.6 seconds further back.

David Coulthard picked off Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis and then closed on the Jaguar of Christian Klien. Despite Fisichella's self-made aerodynamic adjustments the Austrian couldn't find a way past the Sauber in front of him and fell back into the clutches of the Mclaren..

A race that had seen as much incident as the previous five events then got some more. Juan Montoya became the third driver to pick up a puncture going up the hill towards Les Combes and had to tour back to the pits. So all of a sudden Ricardo Zonta was an amazing 4th place for Toyota having started last.

It was a disaster for Jaguar who are only one point behind Toyota in the Constructor's Championship, all of a sudden the Japanese team were going to get five, half their season's haul.

Then a lap later more drama. David Coulthard came up behind the Jaguar of Christian Klien as they sped up the hill through Le Raidillon aiming to put a move on him. It looked like the Scot simply got too close before pulling out, he jinked to the left of the Jaguar just as the Jag moved left. The result was that the McLaren tagged the back of the Jaguar at high speed and Coulthard's front wing flew off and wrapped itself round his rear wing.

DC had to take to the grass but managed to keep it out of the barriers. Klien continued, seemingly in one piece.

The Safety Car was deployed for the third and final time of the afternoon so that marshals could recover the debris which was now all over the fastest straight on the circuit. Coulthard headed off to the pits and, just as Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa had done before him, got his car fixed and raced round to join the back of the pack again before the Safety Car came in again.

On Lap 41 the order was Raikkonen from Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello (an utterly incredible 3rd now) Zonta, Massa, Fisichella, Klien and Panis.

Action was resumed on Lap 42 with a three-lap sprint for the finish line. Could Raikkonen hold off a threatening Michael Schumacher? As they crossed the start/finish line to commence racing, the gap was just 0.7 of a second between the McLaren and the Ferrari.

Further back there was agony for Toyota and ecstasy for Jaguar as Ricardo Zonta's Toyota engine blew up and he retired from 4th place. Christian Klien was now up to 6th place (his first ever World Championship points).

Kimi Raikkonen scorched round the lap in a fastest ever 1:45.108 seconds and opened up a 2.3 second gap to Michael Schumacher. There would be no catching the Finn now. It was a remarkable demonstration of pace.

On the final lap team-mate David Coulthard relieved Olivier Panis of seventh place as race marshals leaned out to give Kimi Raikkonen the thumbs up.

Raikkonen duly crossed the line in first place to a joyous reaction from neutral fans and McLaren mechanics. It was hard to believe it was only his second ever race victory. It had been a race of epic proportions that was brought into even greater perspective when McLaren boss Ron Dennis revealed that Raikkonen had had to spend the race fiddling with his differential after the first corner bump with Massa's Sauber. He'd also had to counteract an intermittent fault with his gear downchange.

It was also an epic race for Rubens Barrichello who must be the first driver to ever get a podium place having had a rear wing replaced during a pit-stop.

But the real moment of history was reserved for the man coming home in second place. It had been the race where Michael Schumacher clinched his seventh World Championship. Though he has won championships earlier in the season before, this was easily his most emphatic victory. All season there had been nobody in his class - until today.

Fittingly on the day Ferrari contested its 700th GP, Michael Schumacher rewrote more pages in F1's history books. And it doesn't look like the Scuderia's star driver is anywhere near his final chapter.


Result of the Belgian GP on Sunday August 29th 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
1.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM1h32'35"274
2.M.SCHUMACHERFerrariB+ 0'03"132
3.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'04"371
4.MASSASauber PetronasB+ 0'12"504
5.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 0'14"104
6.KLEINJaguar CosworthM+ 0'14"614
7.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'17"970
8.PANISToyotaM+ 0'18"693
9.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'22"115
10.ZONTAToyotaM3 laps
11.HEIDFELDJordan FordB4 laps
12.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM7 laps
13.PIZZONIAWilliams BMWM13 laps
14.BUTTONBAR HondaB15 laps
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB16 laps
16.ALONSORenaultM33 laps
17.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM44 laps
18.SATOBAR HondaB44 laps
19.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB44 laps
20.PANTANOJordan FordB44 laps

Hungarian Report: Schumi & Ferrari make history Sunday August 15 2004

Happy fan at Hungary

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari wrote their names into the history books on Sunday when the German claimed win number 12 of the season and Ferrari the 2004 Constructors' title. Ferrari's 1-2 at the Hungarian GP also earned the Italian team the honour of becoming the first team in the history of F1's Constructors' Championship to win the title six years running.

Going into the Hungarian race the Scuderia needed only ten points to bag the Constructors' title. But in true 2004 Ferrari fashion they secured maximum points thanks to Michael Schumacher's victory and Rubens Barrichello's second placed finish.

Schumacher's win was another dominant performance in a season of record-breaking achievements. Fernando Alonso, last year's Hungarian GP winner, had to settle for third place, Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth, Jenson Button fifth and Takuma Sato sixth.

Report: Almost all of the major drama in the race came in the first two laps of the race, indeed as Michael Schumacher led the parade lap away Rubens Barrichello was slow to get off the grid. His Ferrari didn't leave the line till the fourth and fifth cars were in front of him.

Thankfully he got the F2004 going and was able to regain his place as P2 in the field. Further back down the grid Gianmaria Bruni was even slower away for Minardi, but had managed to tag onto the back of the 19 cars by the time Michael slowed the field onto the grid for the start.

When the lights went out, as predicted, the two Renaults started their meteoric rise up the order. Fernando Alonso, starting from 5th on the grid jinked into the closing gap between the BAR-Hondas of Button in 4th and Sato in 3rd.

Ahead of him, Rubens Barrichello, starting from 2nd (and the dirty side of the grid) got away well and was able to block the line down the inside into Turn 1, even though it meant a slight lock-up into the corner.

Alonso, who had to take avoiding action to keep himself clear of Sato on his way through, was certain that the loss of impetus into the corner cost him second place, and without it, he would have had the pace to take 2nd from Rubens.

Further back Jarno Trulli was quickly past Fisichella in 8th and menacing the back of the BAR-Hondas by Turn 1.

Another great start from Juan-Pablo Montoya saw him past Button on the exit of Turn 1 and by Turn 2 he'd managed to nail Sato. Takuma resisted and lost momentum coming out of Turn 3 and was instantly swallowed up by Trulli and a fast-starting Kimi Raikkonen.

Further back Ricardo Zonta marked his return to F1 for Toyota by touching Mark Webber's back wheel and spinning. Though there was carbon fibre deposited across the road the Toyota continued.

So as the cars crossed the line on the opening lap Schumacher had a 1.1 second lead over Rubens Barrichello, followed by Alonso, Montoya, Button, Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen, Takuma Sato in 8th, Fisichella 9th and a slow-starting Antonio Pizzonia in 10th.

All the overtaking for position from the front-runners had been completed - only Felipe Massa starting from the back of the grid in the Sauber would overtake in anger from here on in.

The race, run in sunny conditions after Saturday's gloom, started with a track temperature of 42 degrees Celsius and by the sixth lap it had risen to 46 degrees, better suiting the harder tyres of race leader Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher had opted for the harder Bridgestones, while his team-mate Rubens Barrichello was on the softer option. By Lap 7 the times of the Ferraris were really coming down.

Schumi started successively lowering the fastest lap time.
Lap 2: 1:20.128 (1.6 second gap to Barrichello)
Lap 3: 1:19.921 (2.5 second gap to Barrichello)
Lap 7: 1:19.678 (3.6 second gap to Barrichello)
Lap 8: 1:19.506 (4.4 second gap to Barrichello)
Lap 10: 1:19.412

On Lap 5 the Ferraris were lapping over a second quicker than anyone else and it was clear there were going to be two races at the Hungaroring, Schumi vs Barrichello and the rest versus each other. The only curiosity was that Barrichello, on softer tyres than his team leader, was never faster than him at any point in each stint, though occasionally in one or two sectors of a lap.

On Lap 10 Fernando Alonso pitted for the first time, along with Giancarlo Fisichella in the Sauber. It had been presumed that Sauber would do their usual routine of fuelling the cars up, so seeing Sauber in early was unusual.

Kimi Raikkonen, who had started well, suddenly put in a 1:34 second lap and dropped to 11th place. At the same time on Lap 11, Barrichello, Montoya, Button, Trulli and Coulthard pitted together and then departed without changing positions.

When Raikkonen emerged from his pit-stop two laps later he was going very slowly and on Lap 14 brought his car in to retire, the Mercedes engine having started to misfire. Raikkonen tactfully put it as “maybe a software problem”.

Back in the Ferrari garage, there was concern about Rubens Barrichello's fuel rig. Though the team had got enough fuel into the No.2 car, the rig had developed a leak dispensing fuel onto the floor of his stop box. It was then decided to dismantle Rubens' rig to look for the problem while opting for the safety of using Michael's fuel rig when it came to the second stops.

With the first pit-stops completed the order was Schumacher from Barrichello, Alonso, Montoya, Button, Trulli, Sato and Pizzonia who had stopped an impressive three laps later than Montoya. It meant the Brazilian had outqualified his Colombian team-mate with three laps more fuel.

On Lap 20 the gap between Schumacher and Barrichello was 4.2 seconds with a massive 20 seconds to Alonso in third place, 33 to Montoya and 35 to Button.

Three laps later Felipe Massa brought his Sauber into retirement with a “long brake pedal”.

Mark Webber had been closing on 10th place David Coulthard but on lap 26 fading rear tyres caused him to spin. He didn't lose his 11th place, but all thoughts of moving up the field (barring the retirement of others) was gone.

In his second stint, as the fuel load diminished, Michael Schumacher put the hammer down once again. On Lap 27 he lowered the lap record to 1:19.324 (2.3 seconds quicker than the 2003 pole), two laps later he reduced it to a 1:19.071. Barrichello responded with a 1:19.213 but the gap was consistently going out.

The second pit-stops started to be taken from the end of Lap 29, with Alonso in first, then Montoya and Button a lap later, Barrichello at the end of Lap 31 and Schumi at the end of Lap 32. Neither of the Ferraris were delayed by the earlier refuelling rig drama.

On Lap 33 Ricardo Zonta's return to F1 came to an early halt when he had to park his Toyota at the side of the track.

By Lap 34 the second round of pit-stops had played out and the big winner was BAR-Honda's Takuma Sato, who had jumped the Renault of Jarno Trulli and was now into sixth place, while the late-stopping Antonio Pizzonia had grabbed seventh for BMW-Williams. Trulli was going very slowly and both Renaults were complaining of graining tyres.

However by Lap 39 Trulli was lapping three seconds slower than team-mate Alonso and he clearly had a problem. Jarno pitted for a third time on Lap 42 a long way ahead of schedule. By Lap 44 he was parking his car against the pitwall at the start of the start/finish straight with an engine failure, the fourth retirement of the race and a blow to the team who want to fend off BAR-Honda for second place in the Constructor's Championship.

There were few battles on the track but by Lap 43 Jenson Button was quietly closing in on the BMW-Williams of Juan Montoya. Both cars were putting in sequences of fastest laps. When Jenson got to within 3.2 seconds of Juan-Pablo, Montoya pulled out a 1:20.823, his own fastest lap of the race.

Ahead of them Alonso responded by setting his own personal best. So on Lap 46 we had three driver setting their fastest times of the race so far.
Alonso: 1: 20.520
Montoya: 1:20.748
Button: 1:20.722

Button couldn't close the gap by the time the third and final pit-stops came round between Laps 48 and 53.

When the pit-stops had shaken out there was no change in the order and on lap 54 Schumacher led Barrichello by 19.4 seconds, Fernando Alonso was 50 seconds behind, Montoya over a minute behind and Button a further five seconds back.

The only dice that looked likely was that between Takuma Sato and Antonio Pizzonia who fancied Taku's sixth place. But on lap 55 Pizzonia ran wide and off-track trying too hard to get back on terms and from then slipped further behind.

On Lap 60 Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn settled back in his seat on the 'prat stand' and ate his banana, an event covered in close-up by the race TV director. Such was the lack of action on the track that a Ferrari team member eating fruit was more exciting than any of the activity on the circuit.

Though in the last ten laps David Coulthard, in the remaining McLaren-Mercedes, closed on Giancarlo Fisichella's Sauber intent on taking 8th place off him, it was unlikely he would have been able to do anything had he got close.

Schumacher slowed in the last two laps to allow Barrichello to close up and the two Ferraris crossed the line a handful of seconds apart for yet another Scuderia 1-2. It had been a powerful demonstration of Ferrari/Bridgestone superiority a year after Fernando Alonso had lapped Schumacher on the way to one of the Italian team's worst performances in recent years.

One year on and Schumacher had clinched his 12th GP victory of the season, his seventh in a row; Ferrari had won their sixth successive constructor's title, their 14th in all.

“It's been a fantastic year and a 1-2 in Hungary, after what happened last year, is terrific,” said Ross Brawn after the race. “It's just an amazing group of people we've got here.”


Result of the Hungarian GP on Sunday August 15th 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'04"696
3.ALONSORenaultM+ 0'44"599
4.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 1'02"613
5.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 1'07"439
6.SATOBAR HondaB1 lap
7.PIZZONIAWilliams BMWM1 lap
8.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
9.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
10.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM1 lap
11.PANISToyotaM1 lap
12.HEIDFELDJordan FordB2 laps
13.KLEINJaguar CosworthM2 laps
14.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB4 laps
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB5 laps
16.PANTANOJordan FordB22 laps
17.TRULLIRenaultM29 laps
18.ZONTAToyotaM39 laps
19.MASSASauber PetronasB49 laps
20.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM57 laps

German GP Report: Home win sees Schumi equal GP record Sunday July 25 2004

Jenson Button on his way to 2nd place

Michael Schumacher equalled his own record for the most number of wins in one season when he won Sunday's German GP, his eleventh win of the year. Despite Hockenheim being the Ferrari driver's bogey track a calm Schumacher tore away from his P1 slot on the grid and never looked back. It looked as if no one could touch Schumi bar Kimi Raikkonen, however, the McLaren driver's pressure was short-lived.

Raikkonen crashed out on lap 14 after his MP4-19B's rear wing broke off at the end of the high-speed main straight resulting in a huge impact with the barriers. It also left Schumi without any clear challengers for the remaining 53 laps and he drove his F2004 to win number eleven.

Jenson Button claimed second place after a stunning battle with Fernando Alonso. The duo tussled for the second spot, swapping places and running side by side several times in the season's best duel so far. The BAR-Honda driver finally took matters into his own hands when on lap 52 he pulled off a brilliant move to take second place. Alonso then faded and finished third.

As the red lights went on for the start of the race, there was a solo hand seen waving from a mid-grid car. Olivier Panis had stalled his Toyota which obliged race director Charlie Whiting to abandon the start and send the cars round for another parade lap.

Panis should have gone to the back of the grid, but as he stuttered away, it was clear he wasn't going to catch the rest of the field up again and he was pushed into the pitlane to start his race from there.

Immediately the 67-lap race was reduced to 66 tours.

As the lights went out for real Juan Montoya was very slow away from P2 and was immediately swallowed up by the cars behind. Raikkonen, Alonso, Trulli, Coulthard and Barrichello stormed past him.

With the removal of Panis (9th) Mark Webber had the advantage of no-one in front of him for the start and he was able to get a run up the inside of Sato coming into Turn 2 with Antonio Pizzonia hot on his tail

As the cars hurtled towards the hairpin for the first time, Schumacher led from Alonso, Raikkonen, who'd dropped behind the Spaniard into Turn 1, Trulli, who'd jumped ahead of the other McLaren into Turn 1, Coulthard, a fast-starting Barrichello, Webber and Sato.

Rubens Barrichello, who'd finished in the points at the previous 11 races, completely misjudged his braking into the hairpin as he tried to go for a gap that wasn't there. He banged into the rear wheel of David Coulthard and shed his front wing which clattered across the track right in front of his friend Juan-Pablo Montoya's car.

Montoya had the choice of driving over it or driving round it, he chose to drive round and it delayed him so much that Mark Webber nipped past to take 6th place.

Jenson Button, who started back in 13th place following his 10-place grid demotion for a change of engine on Friday had a miserable opening lap. With the removal of Panis he was effectively 12th as the lights went out, but at the end of the opening lap he was 13th behind Cristiano da Matta.

But that was all to change…

As the field crossed the line for the first time it was Schumi, from Alonso, Raikkonen, Trulli, Coulthard, Webber, Montoya, Pizzonia, (who'd got himself ahead of Sato) Sato and Christian Klien.

Rubens Barrichello headed for the pits and a new nose. He rejoined in 20th place.

On Lap 2 Kimi Raikkonen signalled his intention by muscling his way past Alonso. Two laps later Juan Montoya set Mark Webber up perfectly. Mark had to cover the line into the hairpin and came in tight and ran wide. Juan took his car out wide on the approach and then nipped inside and outdragged Webber to the next turn.

At the front of the race Schumi wasn't getting it all his own way, Kimi Raikkonen was trading fastest laps with him. On Lap 4 Kimi stuck in a 1:14.083 just as Button was taking 10th place off Christian Klien. A lap later Michael Schumacher claimed fastest lap back with a 1:13.783 (a leap of 1.2 seconds quicker than 2003)

With Sato just in front of Button and Jenson lapping so much quicker it wasn't long before the Brit was up 9th.

In front of him Mark Webber was holding up Antonio Pizzonia and Jenson Button joined the queue just as the first pit-stops started to be taken.

At the end of Lap 9 Fernando Alonso was the first man in for a scheduled pit-stop followed by Antonio Pizzonia. A lap later and Michael Schumacher was in too. The Ferrari was stopped for an unusually long 9.8 seconds before he rejoined.

Just as this happened there were shades of Michael Schumacher from his rival Raikkonen as Kimi put in a new lap record of 1:13.780 while Schumi was pitting.

Kimi Raikkonen pitted at the end of Lap 11 and rejoined closer to Schumacher than the 3.3 second gap that existed before the first round of pit-stops. Neither man was in the lead, though.

That fell to Mark Webber who promptly pitted leaving Jenson Button out in front. Button didn't come in for his first pit-stop until the end of Lap 14. So, given that he'd qualified third with substantially more fuel than his rivals, pole position on Saturday could potentially have been there for the taking had he run lighter.

But the strategy of running heavier because of the grid demotion was already paying dividends. When Button rejoined he'd jumped Webber and Trulli and was up to 5th place.

Ahead of him Kimi Raikkonen was not letting Schumacher out of his sight but on Lap 14 Raikkonen was nearing the turn-in to Turn 1 when the main plane of his rear wing flew off the McLaren-Mercedes. The Finn was launched into the tyre barriers not far away from where he ended up last year.

The high speed accident (not far off the same kind of impact that Ralf Schumacher suffered at Indy) was warmly welcomed by the jubilant German crowd who let off their air horns and cheered. This infuriated a thankfully-uninjured Raikkonen who got out of his car and slammed his expensive steering wheel back into the cockpit.

Effectively the race for first place was over as Raikkonen looked to be the only driver capable of matching Schumacher's pace. Though the race behind had a lot of action still to come.

Schumi began to edge out his lead. On Lap 16 it was 10.4 seconds, by Lap 20 it was 14 seconds. However Button was moving towards him. On Lap 22 Montoya made a mistake and ran wide in the Mercedes corner allowing the BAR-Honda through into 4th place

Jarno Trulli in 6th was fading badly and was holding up Webber, Fisichella and Sato. Webber couldn't get past, then outbraked himself into the hairpin and Takuma Sato came up the inside.

Trulli was lapping in 1:17.3 while Sato was two seconds quicker and leader Michael Schumacher was three seconds quicker.

Sato finally nailed Trulli on Lap 26, virtually taking to the grass to make sure he was on the inside as the cars swooped down to the hairpin. Sato was in front early and so Trulli was about to follow him through the apex when he found Mark Webber coming through at the same time. The Renault driver lost two places in one corner.

Sato wasn't ahead for very long, because he was into the pits at the end of Lap 27. Trulli came in at the end of Lap 29 and all of a sudden the reason for his lack of pace became clear. Renault changed the nose of his car after it turned out that he had a piece of Kimi Raikkonen's broken McLaren wing jammed in it.

David Coulthard also sustained damaged; once when Barrichello's tyre thumped into his wing endplate, then also when he ran over Raikkonen's debris. So during his second pit-stop McLaren engineer Pat Fry made sure he gave the rear wing on the Scot's car a quick once over. Though how he could tell if there had been a problem with the carbon fibre bonding process from a quick look is anyone's guess.

Schumacher was in for his second pit-stop at the end of Lap 28. There was a fear at the back of his mind that Jenson Button was two-stopping. Button didn't come in again till the end of lap 33, at which point the Ferrari team could breathe a sigh of relief, there being no way the BAR-Honda would run 33 laps to the finish.

Takuma Sato then entertained the fans at the entrance to the Stadium section by swapping ends with his BAR006 and turning through 360 degrees, which dropped him to 7th place.

When Jenson came out the second time he had jumped Coulthard for third place and was right behind the Renault of Fernando Alonso. By Lap 36 he was challenging the Spaniard into the hairpin and got alongside him at the exit. The big surprise was that in a straight drag race, the acceleration of the Renault was superior to the BAR-Honda.

Button tried it again on Lap 37 and again the same result, though this time Button tried to carry on the move into the Mercedes corner and gave Alonso too much room to make the move stick. Alonso easily got through on the inside. With Michelin tyres blistering in the 46 degree track heat the team advised Button to hang back. Given his progress in the race he would probably nip past in the next round of pit-stops.

On Lap 39 da Matta had a moment when a puncture sent his Toyota spinning on past the apex of the hairpin, onto the run-off and into retirement.

By Lap 40 Button's charge on Alonso had faded away and he was 2.5 seconds behind the Renault. BAR technical director Geoff Willis was as mystified as anyone else at Renault's ability to out-accelerate his car in a straight race. “I think we're surprised as well,” he cautiously admitted, “we will have to look at our mid-range power, and our traction out of the corner.”

On Lap 43 the gaps were as following: Schumacher led Alonso by 16.1 seconds, Alonso was 2.7 seconds ahead of Jenson Button, Button was 3.2 seconds clear of Coulthard who was 11.7 seconds ahead of Montoya.

The third and final pit-stops started at the end of Lap 46. Ferrari worked very quickly to get the two-stopping Barrichello in and out and then cope with Michael Schumacher a half a lap later( and it's a short lap at Hockenheim).

Alonso stopped earlier than Juan Montoya who was in 5th place and found himself out on the track just in front of the Colombian who raced past him on much warmer tyres at the hairpin. Geoff Willis would have been interested to note that in a straight drag race to the next turn, the Renault was also quicker than the BMW-Williams and Alonso took his place back.

At the end of Lap 50 Button pitted, but when he rejoined the track he was exactly in the same place as when he'd exited after pit-stop No.2 - right behind Alonso. So if Jenson wanted second place he'd have to do it the old-fashioned way and overtake.

It became noticeable from Button's two in-car cameras that he was holding on to his tear-off strips on the helmet visor on the faster sections of the track. In fact he was driving one-handed for big chunks of the lap.

It transpired that his helmet strap had come loose and through the fast sections, the wind was pushing his helmet back so much that the strap was pulling against his throat and he couldn't breathe. By holding the side of his helmet it alleviated the pressure and he could breathe reasonably.

On Lap 52 he again tried to come alongside Alonso into the hairpin and again the Renault outdragged him. But the BAR-Honda was much quicker into the slower corners and coming into the Mercedes corner Jenson dived up the inside and was past.

So after the final pit-stops, on Lap 53, we had Schumi leading from Button, Alonso, Coulthard, Montoya, Webber, Sato and Pizzonia in 8th. Rubens Barrichello had made his way up to 9th place and was 9.2 seconds away from Sato.

Immediately he'd lost second place Alonso began to fall off the pace, but although David Coulthard closed to within 0.2 seconds at one stage, he couldn't find a way past, and in the closing stages the Spaniard had a comfortable gap of 2.8 seconds.

On Lap 61 Antonio Pizzonia got past Takuma Sato to take 7th place. The Japanese driver's HANS device had slipped off, and so both BAR drivers were finishing the race in discomfort. Taku went on to finish 8th.

Though Rubens Barrichello closed to 3.9 seconds at one stage, his tyres were shot and he had a big lock-up into Turn 2. When he crossed the finishing line at the end of the race he immediately parked his car with a punctured rear and clambered back through the fence.

All the excitement in the closing stage was provided by Antinio Pizzonia who was closing in on Mark Webber's Jaguar for 6th place.

There is no love lost between Pizzonia and Jaguar after Pizzonia's recent slagging off of the team that sacked him last year. On the penultimate lap both drivers put in their fastest laps of the race.
Webber 1:14.883
Pizzonia 1:14.586

Pizzonia was right behind Webber at the finish but couldn't make it past and take 6th place. Though at the close 'Jungle Boy' was only 19 seconds behind his more illustrious Colombian team-mate who claimed 5th.

David Coulthard finished fourth, behind Alonso, Button and the man in red.

Three years ago was the last time Michael Schumacher suffered a mechanical failure. It is now 50 races since he broke down. Though he was only 8.3 seconds ahead of Button at the finish this was his race from the moment that Raikkonen slammed into the tyres at Turn 1.

Had Button started from third on the grid and Raikkonen's wing stayed intact then it might have been a different story. But F1 is full of 'what ifs'. Michael Schumacher made it 11 race wins out of 12 and though Ferrari couldn't quite close out the Constructors' Championship, it won't be long till both titles are the Scuderia's.


Result of the German GP on Sunday July 25th 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 8.300
3.ALONSORenaultM+ 16.300
4.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 19.200
5.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 23.000
6.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 41.100
7.PIZZONIAWilliams BMWM+ 41.900
8.SATOBAR HondaB+ 46.8
9.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 67.1
10.KLEINJaguar CosworthM+ 68.5
11.TRULLIRenaultM+ 70.2
12.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 73.2
13.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
14.PANISToyotaM1 lap
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB4 laps
16.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB4 laps
17.PANTANOJordan FordBlap 60
18.HEIDFELDJordan FordBlap 43
19.MATTAToyotaMlap 39
20.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesMlap 14

British GP Report: 80th win for Michael Schumacher Sunday July 11 2004

start THe winner again

Michael Schumacher claimed his 80th grand prix victory at Silverstone on Sunday, beating Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello.

Opting once again for a different strategy to his rivals, Schumacher blasted ahead of pole sitter Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, in the first round of pit-stops. He continued to lead after his second and last stop, knowing that the chasing pack would have to stop one more time.

However, a huge accident for Jarno Trulli nullified Schumacher's lead as Raikkonen, Barrichello, Button and others stormed into the pits for a free stop when the Safety Car was deployed after Trulli's accident, leaving the stage set for a grandstand finish...

At the start of the race weathermen gave a 20% chance of rainfall in the race. On the ground it seemed less likely. After all the wet races we enjoyed in 2003, even the rain-sure British GP looked like it wasn't going to deliver an unpredictable surface. At the start of the race the ambient temperature was 17 degrees Centigrade with 30 degrees on the track surface.

As the cars sped away from the line a very unusual thing happened. Jarno Trulli didn't gain any places. The Renaults have been good for taking two or three places per race, but this time Trulli was away slowly. The beneficiary was Michael Schumacher who was free to duel with Jenson Button into Copse Corner.

Ahead of them both, Rubens Barrichello and polesitter Kimi Raikkonen held their positions. Raikkonen in fact, went off like a scalded cat and at the end of Lap 1 was a massive 3.5 seconds ahead of Barrichello.

Further back Juan-Pablo Montoya had a look round the outside of David Coulthard, ran onto the grass and lost ground, allowing Takuma Sato in the BAR-Honda to gain a place.

So, at the end of the opening lap it was Kimi Raikkonen from Barrichello, Jenson Button with Michael Schumacher not far behind, Trulli in 5th, Coulthard, Sato, Montoya, Webber and Massa. Fernando Alonso starting back in 16th place after a 10-place grid demotion for a changed engine, was only up to 14th place.

On Lap 3 Takuma Sato went too quickly into the Becketts sweeps, ran onto the grass before rejoining the track and immediately let Montoya back into 6th place.

It was at this stage that Rubens Barrichello began to peg back the gap to the leader and put in a series of fastest laps.
Lap 3: 1:19.825
Lap 4: 1:19.606
Lap 6: 1:19.558
Lap 7: 1:19.463
Lap 8: 1:19.296

Raikkonen too was pushing as hard as he could, so Rubens' gain was only gradual. Then, at the end of Lap 9 Barrichello came in for his first pit-stop, which saw him take on about 55 kilos of fuel, enough for a three-stopper. Schumacher stayed out, though.

The World Champion did what he normally does in these situations and put his foot down. On Lap 10 he eclipsed Rubens' fastest time with a 1:19.241.

David Coulthard came in at the end of Lap 10. At the end of Lap 11 Kimi Raikkonen chose to pit from the lead of the race, along with Jenson Button. When he returned to the track Raikkonen was immediately stuck behind the BAR-Honda of Takuma Sato who was running a two-stop race.

All the while Raikkonen was being held up, Schumacher was putting in fastest lap after fastest lap.
Lap 10: 1:19.241
Lap 12: 1:19.223
Lap 13: 1:18.918
Lap 14: 1:18.739

Having spent a lot of time on Sato's gearbox, the Finn made an incredibly brave overtaking move into the 160mph Copse corner and was past. Such was his hurry to get through that he dived inside a Minardi going through Becketts on Lap 15.

At the end of Lap 15 Michael Schumacher came in for his first pit-stop. The fact that he was stationary for over nine seconds indicated that, unlike Barrichello, this was going to be a two-stop race for the No.1 Ferrari. The difference between Schumacher's and Barrichello's qualifying pace was also explained.

Barrichello had lost out after pitting earliest and had lost road position to Jenson Button, but when Schumacher stormed back down the pitlane he emerged in first place.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn explained that they had made the move, “to get out of phase with the others” and it certainly worked. “Michael makes us look very good,” he grinned. In Magny-Cours they had four-stopped the World Champion, now they were going the other way and two-stopping him.

Michael admitted to being “amazed” that they had made the leap into first place after the first round of pit-stops. He thought it would come later in the race.

With road position over Raikkonen and only one more stop to make compared to the McLaren driver, it was all looking very easy.

On Lap 17 Olivier Panis became the first retiree of the race parking his Toyota on the ouside of the circuit near Becketts after his cockpit fire extinguisher went off. A lap later Giorgio Pantano put a wheel of his Jordan-Cosworth (soon to become a Dubai-Cosworth?) on the outside of the circuit and tried to turn in. The resultant spin flat-spotted his tyres.

So the position on Lap 20 was Michael Schumacher leading from Raikkonen, Button, Barrichello, Fisichella (yet to stop) in 5th place, Montoya, Coulthard, Trulli (losing out badly in the pit-stops), Webber and Alonso in 10th.

Schumacher, having led Raikkonen by a consistent gap of around a second suddenly was just 0.6 seconds up with the Mclaren driver right on his tail. It looked like having established road position on the others he was backing the field up, so that 4th place Barrichello would be in striking distance of Raikkonen after the next round of pit-stops.

He and Kimi were lapping a second slower than Button and Barrichello.

On Lap 27 Button pitted for the second time, then next time round both Rubens and Kimi came in together. This time the tables were reversed and Rubens Barrichello got the jump on Button to grab third position, but there was still a gap to Raikkonen.

On lap 31 Gianmaria Bruni tried to leave his Minardi pitbox with the fuel line still attached to his car. He knocked mechanics over, but did no long-term damage. With team manager John Walton dying suddenly of a heart attack on Friday night the cars' rear wing was adorned with 'JohnBoy' in memory of a much-loved team member. It was unlikely that the team would get near the points today, though.

Fernando Alonso had started the race in 16th and had pitted very early at the end of Lap 8. His race wasn't panning out as expected and he was still back in 13th place, staring yet again at the rear of Cristiano da Matta's Toyota. Montoya was stuck behind two-stopping Giancarlo Fisichella who had started the race from the back of the grid and was making the most of his superior Bridgestone tyres.

On lap 37 Schumacher pitted for the second time and was able to rejoin in the lead just as Raikkonen came through Copse corner. So he had kept the lead with all his closest rivals needing to pit one more time.

Though the McLaren MP4-19B was able to close up right up to the back of the Ferrari he could find no way past. The scene was set yet again for Michael to go subtly slower and allow Rubens Barrichello to close right onto the gearbox of the McLaren. By lap 40 Rubens was just one second behind.

And then Jarno Trulli's suspension appeared to give way just as he came out of the high-speed Bridge corner, the Renault rotated violently towards Brooklands corner then hit the gravel trap, dug in somersaulted and twisted before landing in a shattered heap.

Trulli emerged dazed but completely unhurt and was ushered away by a doctor within seconds of his car coming to rest. There were bits of Renault all over the track and a wheel close to the apex of Brooklands corner.

The Safety Car was immediately deployed and everybody who needed to stop one more time dived for the pits to make their final stop. Raikkonen and Barrichello had a pit-stop race, but the McLaren made it out in front of the Ferrari.

When they all emerged behind the Safety Car we had a race on our hands again. It was Michael Schumacher from Kimi Raikkonen, Barrichello, Button, Montoya, Fisichella, Coulthard, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa in 9th. Everyone had made their final pit-stops and it was going to be a sprint to the finish.

The race was restarted on lap 46. Could Raikkonen challenge Schumacher?

No. His best chance was when the Bridgestone tyres were cold, as he proved on the opening lap when he pulled out 3.5 seconds on Barrichello. He had two cars between himself and Schumacher when the race restarted and both Klien in the Jaguar and da Matta in the Toyota weren't as obliging as they could have been. By the time Raikkonen was past them he had los this edge.

Brazilian Da Matta was a disgrace, braking on the racing line and making cars go round him.

As the final laps ticked away instead of closing up, most of the field spread gently apart with the gaps going out between drivers and Schumacher under no threat. In the last few laps, though, Barrichello closed up to Raikkonen but was in no position to pass or even look at the kind of pass he'd made on Jarno Trulli so successfully in France. Given three more laps it might have been a different matter.

Home boy Jenson Button never looked likely to challenge for third place after the second pit-stop and complained that each set of new tyres was worse than the one before. “It was weird,” said Jenson afterwards, “each time we put on a new set of tyres, the car felt worse.”

Giancarlo Fisichella finished strongly and was right on the back of Juan Montoya as they crossed the line in 5th and 6th. David Coulthard will be disappointed with 7th unlike Mark Webber who will be pleased to inch Jaguar's points total up from 3 to 4 with his 8th place.

Michael Schumacher had clinched his 80th GP win, his third at Silverstone and his 10th of the season. But for the intervention of the Safety Car he would have won the race by a lot more. However the emergence of McLaren as a potential race winner will give him a slight cause for concern as F1 heads off towards Hockenheim for the German GP.


Result of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 11th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'02"130
3.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'03"114
4.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'10"683
5.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 0'12"173
6.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 0'12"888
7.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'19"668
8.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 0'23"701
9.MASSASauber PetronasB+ 0'24"023
10.ALONSORenaultM+ 0'24"835
11.SATOBAR HondaB+ 0'33"736
12.GENEWilliams BMWM+ 0'34"303
13.DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap
14.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
15.HEIDFELDJordan FordB1 lap
16.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB4 laps
17.PANTANOJordan FordB13 laps
18.TRULLIRenaultM21 laps
19.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB31 laps
20.PANISToyotaM44 laps

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French GP Race Report: Schumi wins despite an extra stop Sunday July 04 2004


Michael Schumacher proved on Sunday why he's a six-times World Champion and won the French GP even though he made an extra stop.

While the rest of the Michelin runners opted for three-stop strategies, Ferrari chose to put Schumi on a four-stopper. Once the third round of pit-stops had been completed, Schumacher still had time to make one more tyre change ahead of the hard-charging Renault of Fernando Alonso.

Try as the Spaniard might he was unable to regain the lead he'd lost half way through the race and had to content himself with second place. Adding to Renault's disappointment over losing the win, Jarno Trulli lost third place in the final corner of the race to Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian admitted his last second passing move was "risky", but it earned him a podium finish from 10th on the grid

Jenson Button was fifth, while David Coulthard claimed sixth place in the new McLaren MP4-19B.

The track temperature was up to 43 degrees Centigrade by the time the lights went out at Magny Cours and immediately polesitter Alonso was away and off down the road. Michael Schumacher slotted his Ferrari in behind the Spaniard's Renault while on the second row David Coulthard got away very slowly in the McLaren MP4-19B.

“We had a terrible start,” said a downbeat Coulthard afterwards, “we have to look at the software and try and understand what happened.”

As a result of his sluggish getaway Button nipped past him into third place for a few metres before Jarno Trulli in the second Renault came round the other side of the McLaren to take the place from him. Though the BAR and the Renault ran side by side into Turn 2, it was Trulli who had the inside line and was always going to come off best.

At the back of the grid and possibly starting his last French GP, home boy Olivier Panis got away slowly in his Toyota and at the end of the opening lap was in last place.

As the rest of the field headed down towards the Adelaide hairpin race rusty Marc Gene, standing in for Ralf Schumacher, lost places, while Mark Webber took his Jaguar up the order.

At the end of the first lap it was Alonso, from Schumacher, Trulli, Button in 4th, Coulthard, Montoya, Raikkonen, Sato, Barrichello in 9th and Mark Webber in 10th.

In the very early stages of the race there were few moves, but by Lap 3 Barrichello had disposed of Sato and moved up to 8th place. Already there were signs that Alonso and Schumacher were going to make it a private battle at the front, with the rest simply following in their wake.

On Lap 3 Schumi was fastest with a 1:16.309, on Lap 5 Alonso was fastest with a 1:16.077, then on Lap 6 it was Alonso again with a 1:16.054. Then on Lap 7 Schumi lowered it to 1:15.950 and on Lap 8, to 1:15.761. There was a one second gap between the first two drivers and another six seconds back to Jarno Trulli.

Gradually Schumacher closed in on Alonso until there was just a 0.6 second gap between first and second on Lap 10.

But at the end of Lap 11 he was in for his first pit-stop of what proved to be four. Though Schumacher said that the team didn't choose to opt for four stops till midway through the race, it is very likely that the four-stop option was Plan B right from the start.

The Ferrari team would have known they would not get ahead of the fast-starting Renault on the opening lap, and Schumi had opted for the softer Bridgestone tyre. He also had the rear suspension torsion bar set up to suit the softer tyre, so if it wasn't the plan right from the start, the tyre wear visible at the end of the first stop would have been the deciding factor.

Renault engineering director Pat Symmonds says the team knew straight away from the fuel loads going into the Ferrari that they were going to stop four times and that it was always an option at Magny Cours because of the short pitlane.

However Raikkonen, Gene and da Matta also pitted at the end of Lap 11 yet stopped just three times.

On Lap 12 Coulthard and Barrichello pitted, on Lap 14 Trulli came in, while Alonso pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 15.

Though the Saubers were sticking with their two-stop strategy, they were the only Bridgestone runners to do so, the Minardis and the Jordans also stopped four times in the course of the race.

On Lap 17 when the first round of pit-stops had shaken out (with the exception of the Saubers) Alonso had a lead of 3.1 seconds over Schumacher, Trulli was in 3rd, Button 4th, Coulthard 5th, Montoya 6th, Barrichello 7th, Massa (yet to stop) in 8th and Raikkonen 9th.

Sato had disappeared with a smoking engine on Lap 16, yet again just after a pit-stop.

Juan-Pablo Montoya had been complaining about the balance of his car in very colourful terms to his team on the pitwall. A year earlier he had expressed himself in much the same way when he had been told to keep station behind Ralf Schumacher. It was that race, which made him decide to sign for McLaren. A change of tyres after his first stop hadn't altered the balance at all and on Lap 18 he spun his car at the final chicane and dropped from 6th place to 9th. He was only to get one of those places back through the course of the afternoon.

Raikkonen, Montoya and Webber were then held up by the trundling, two-stopping Massa. Raikkonen got past, but Montoya and Webber had to wait till Massa dived into the pits at the end of Lap 21.

Through the second stint Schumacher had closed down the gap between himself and Alonso. Even though Olivier Panis - circulating in a dismal 15th place - contrived to get in Schumacher's way, the gap narrowed and on Lap 28 it was down to just 0.7 of a second.

A lap later and Michael was in the pits for his second stop. Alonso's tyres were clearly giving him trouble and he was missing apexes and running wide round the circuit. As usual, in-laps and out-laps are the World Champion's speciality and Schumacher came out with the hammer down and broke the lap record with a 1:15.479 on Lap 32 and again a lap later with a 1:15.377 on Lap 33.

By the time Alonso had pitted at the end of Lap 33 he could only rejoin with a three second deficit to Schumacher. That looked to be the race over.

After the second pit-stops the order was Schumacher, Alonso, Trulli, Button, Barrichello (ahead of both McLarens now), Coulthard, Raikkonen, Montoya and Webber.

Though Alonso narrowed the gap to the leader to 2.1 seconds on Lap 35, it then began to stretch out again.

But on lap 42, after just a 13-lap stint, Schumacher was back into the pitlane for his third stop having stretched out a seven second advantage. His pit-stop didn't look nearly long enough to give him the fuel to last the 28 laps to the finish.

When Schumacher rejoined, Alonso had an 11.1 second lead and both drivers had to stop one more time. The Renault driver was immediately held up by Felipe Massa and Alonso wasted fractions of a second by waving his fist at him as they slowed into the braking zone of the Adelaide hairpin.

Behind them the battle for third was between Trulli, Button and Barrichello who were running in a train thirty seconds behind the leaders.

On lap 46 Alonso came in for his last stop and rejoined with an 11.5 deficit to Schumacher who had to stop one more time. It didn't take Schumi long to stretch out the advantage he needed to make his final stop and still come out in the lead. By Lap 54 it was a 17.6 second gap. By Lap 55 it was an 18.9 second gap, by Lap 57 he had 21.7 seconds in the bag.

On Lap 58 the Ferrari was in and out in 5.8 seconds and rejoined the track with a seven second lead. It was a repeat of the brilliant strategy that had taken race victory at the Hungarian GP in 1998 when the team had also made four stops work.

With Coulthard and Raikkonen circulating in 6th and 7th, with Montoya 8th, the only thing to decide now was who was going to get 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Trulli had pitted at the end of Lap 49, Barrichello at the end of Lap 51 and Button came in at the end of Lap 52.

Rubens hadn't made it back out in front of Trulli, but where would Jenson Button come out when he rejoined the battle? The answer was right in the middle of Trulli and Barrichello.

The BAR-Honda mechanics had taken the tyre warmers off Button's car a whole lap early and as he exited the pits the car stuttered as it picked up speed. Had Button got the perfect getaway, the end of the race might have been different, because he exited the pitlane just as Trulli came alongside on the race track. In the run down to the Adelaide hairpin, Barrichello on warmer tyres, easily overhauled the BAR-Honda and Button reacted too late.

So in the closing stages, Trulli led Barrichello who led Button. It looked like they were going to finish in that order until the very last corner when Jarno Trulli failed to cover his line and left himself open to a last-second lunge from Rubens Barichello.

“It was risky,” admitted Rubens, “but I thought it was worth it.”

Had Trulli turned in when he should have, we would have had an accident very much like Sato's clash with Barrichello at the Nurburgring; the difference was that Trulli, seeing Barrichello make the move, altered his line.

Schumacher had already cruised over the line for his 7th French GP victory, his 9th race victory of the season, and a canny one at that. Ferrari were expecting to celebrate a 1-4 and all of a sudden they had a 1-3 on their hands. Though it was expected to be one of the closest races of the season, only Fernando Alonso got close to the World Champion all afternoon. It might have looked tight at times, but ultimately Schumacher retained control of the race from the second pit-stop onwards.


Result of the French Grand Prix at Magny-Courts on July 4th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2ALONSORenaultM+ 0'08"329
3.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'31"622
4.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'32"082
5.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'32"482
6.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'35"520
7.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'36"230
8.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM+ 0'43"419
9.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 0'52"394
10.GENEWilliams BMWM+ 0'58"166
11.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
12.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
13.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
14.DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap
15.PANISToyotaM2 laps
16.HEIDFELDJordan FordB2 laps
17.PANTANOJordan FordB3 laps
18.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB4 laps
19.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB39 laps
20.SATOBAR HondaB55 laps

Now let's hear what you've got to say about this story... or anything else happening in the world of F1. Send your opinions, rants, praise or abuse to letters@planet-f1.com

U.S GP Report: A tale of two Schumachers Sunday June 20 2004

The winners, Michael Schumacher, Barichello and Sato

Michael Schumacher made it eight out nine at Indianapolis on Sunday, winning an incident-filled US GP ahead of his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. The German took the lead from Barrichello at the end of the first of two Safety Car situations and although Barrichello attempted to challenge his team leader after his second pit-stop it was to no avail. Michael went on to claim the victory with Barrichello second. Third place went to BAR-Honda driver Takuma Sato who finally made his first visit to the F1 podium.

The race began with a bang and a Safety Car, when four drivers were taken out after a second turn incident provoked by a suddenly-slowing Toyota of Cristiano da Matta. Christian Klien's Jaguar collected the Sauber of Felipe Massa and Giorgio Pantano's Jordan, while both Minardis clashed.

The Safety Car then made its second appearance on Lap 10 in the wake of Ralf Schumacher's high-speed accident at Turn 13 - the FW26 swapping ends before impacting the concrete wall backwards. It came to a stop in the middle of the 200mph start/finish straight.
Ralph Schumacher crash wreckage on the track

It was a chaotic race of attrition in which the F1 field were obliged to travel through the wreckage of Ralf Schumacher's accident for several laps, allowing them the chance to pick up carbon fibre debris on their tyres and potentially suffer the same fate as the hospitalised Ralf.

As the parade lap started, much of the speculation was on how far the Ferraris could go on their Bridgestones without blistering them and whether there would be a Sato vs Ferrari tussle into Turn 1.

Before they could get away, though, there was frantic work going on near car no. 3, Juan-Pablo Montoya's BMW-Williams. Juan suddenly leapt out of his car and sprinted across the grid. A piece of equipment installed in the back of the FW26 to turn the engine over (part of the starting procedure) had fallen off. He would have to start in the spare car (set up for him as he was highest on the grid) from the pitlane.
Medical activity around Ralph and the safety car is out (Ralph is OK)

The grid formed up and the lights went out. Michael Schumacher immediately tried to squeeze Takuma Sato between himself and the wall, leaving just enough space for the Japanese driver but no more.

He and Rubens Barrichello already had the legs of the BAR-Hondas, though, and the Ferraris swept towards Turn 1 unchallenged. Behind them Jenson Button had got a bad start and fallen back from 4th to 6th.

The most meteoric start was made by Fernando Alonso, who shot down the inside from 9th on the grid, then swapped sides and came round the outside of Takuma Sato through Turn 1.

Sato, driving maturely, knew to give up the place and fall behind the Renault. So Alonso was third. Kimi Raikkonen moved up to 5th, while Jenson Button managed to keep a challenging Olivier Panis behind him and this in turn led to Ralf Schumacher slipping through to 7th.

However it was Panis's Toyota team-mate da Matta who caused the mayhem. His sudden lack of drive as the cars headed for Turn 2 left Jaguar's Christian Klien - directly behind him - no place to go.

Da Matta was up against the kerb and had Klien been more experienced he might have chosen the grass on the outside. But he braked hard, turned inside, lost control of the car and collected the Jordan of Giorgio Pantano and then the Sauber of Felipe Massa. At the same time, and seemingly for very little reason, the Minardis of Bruni and Baumgartner touched lightly and Bruni was out.

So as the main field sped off through the infield section the order was Barrichello, Schumacher, Alonso, Sato, Raikkonen, Button, Ralf Schumacher, Panis, Webber and David Coulthard in 10th.

Jarno Trulli starting from 20th for Renault was already up to 11th, while Montoya had avoided the carnage and was in 14th.

With vehicles and carbon fibre littering the track the Safety Car was deployed. We were already reduced to 16 runners, the kind of numbers that have been finishing races in 2004.

An unscathed da Matta returned to the pits to have his gear problem sorted out, but his race was not to last that much longer.

The Safety Car came back in at the end of Lap 5 and it was here that Michael Schumacher made his genius move/had a piece of luck - whichever way you like to look at it. Though Barrichello had tried to back the field up, when the race went Green again, as the cars crossed the start/finish line, the World Champion was already halfway through a passing manouevre.

Going down the Indy straightaway Schumacher flashed across the line side by side with the official race leader. He was not allowed to overtake until that point, but as the cars went over the line there was only 0.0 seconds difference between them. The official F1 timing computer had Rubens in front but the gap was less than 0.1 of a second.

Had Rubens decided to lift for a fraction of a second, then his team-mate would have been facing a drive-through penalty. Schumacher took the lead and the significance of this was about to hit home a few laps later.

By Lap 7 Rubens was pressing with a fastest lap of 1:10.399, Alonso was already 2.9 seconds back. Then on Lap 9 at the end of the straight Alonso's Renault picked up a puncture just as it came into the braking zone, the tyre burst off the rim sending the car into the wall and the Spaniard into retirement. On the pitwall team boss Flavio Briatore gave it the Italian - mamma mia - hands. Given Trulli's subsequent race pace a win was potentially on the cards today.

Then on Lap 10 Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams came spinning through the apron of Turn 13 at 190mph, rotated through 540 degrees and slammed heavily into the concrete wall backwards. For a second nothing happened and Ralf's car was left isolated in the centre of the track with no marshals approaching. There was debris everywhere from the wreckage of the car and slightly worryingly, no movement from Ralf.

It seemed like an age for the Safety Car to be deployed and the medical car to get to Ralf's stricken car.

Shockingly, with one clear puncture-related accident already (Alonso) and Ralf potentially another, Race Director Charlie Whiting allowed the Safety Car to haul the entire field through the debris of the accident scene for the next nine laps. He could have taken them down the extremely wide Indy pitlane, but didn't.

Ralf's radio had partly been broken in the accident and technical director Sam Michael asked him to raise his hand if he was okay. This he did, much to the relief of the team.

With Ferrari on a three-stop strategy to make the most of their potentially blistering tyres, they immediately took advantage of the Safety Car to make their first stops. Schumacher dived into the pits and Barrichello queued up behind him. They had been caught out at Monaco when this happened and they weren't going to let it occur again.

The fact that Michael was now leading meant that he got first crack at the tyres and ultimately this won him the race.

At the same time Raikkonen, Trulli, Panis, Heidfeld, Fisichella and Coulthard all pitted. Sato, Button, Webber and Montoya did not and this was also to effect the outcome of the race.

When the cars lined up behind the Safety Car mysteriously Michael Schumacher was still leading on the road. Given that it takes 30 seconds to make an Indy pit-stop and he had only a 7 second lead over Sato before Ralf's impact with the wall it was a mystery as to how he'd managed to make his pit-stop and still keep the lead.

They lined up: Schumi, Sato, Button, Webber, JPM, Raikkonen, (who stole a march on Barrichello because he got out of the pits faster) Barrichello, Trulli, Panis and Heidfeld.

Mark Webber had to pit for fuel in Lap 16 and rejoined the race in last place.

Meanwhile back at the crash scene there was great relief to see that Ralf was moving, looked a bit shaken up and concussed but was not a major casualty. Every time his brother flashed past behind the Safety Car he gave an anxious look across to see how Ralf's removal from the car was going.

The German was strapped into a stretcher with an inflatable neck support collar and taken off to the medical centre. Given the recovery time of Ralph Firman and Jenson Button in 2003, it is unlikely the younger Schumacher will be racing in France or even Britain.

When the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 19 Rubens wasn't in a position to do to Michael what Michael had done to him. Even so, the BAR-Hondas, which now had a lot less fuel than Schumacher were clearly the quickest cars in the race.

They climbed all over the back of the leader round the twisty in-field section but could find no way past.

However they didn't have much time 'left on the meter' because at the end of Lap 24 Button was in and a lap later Sato followed. They rejoined in 12th and 11th places respectively. This left the so far unstopped Montoya in second place, having started the race from the pitlane.

Sato, despite having a greater fuel load than the cars he was overtaking, began to make his way aggressively - but not dangerously - through the field, while Jenson Button seemed a bit reticent to follow him through.

Then on Lap 28 we found out the reason for Button's lack of speed, a gear problem sent him down pitlane and straight into his garage and retirement.

By Lap 30 Sato had already made his way into 6th and was the fastest man in the race. It was clear from his lap times that had he taken his pit-stop with Schumacher on Lap 10, there could have been a different race outcome. “In retrospect we maybe should have taken one car in during the Safety Car period,” admitted BAR technical director Geoff Willis afterwards.

On Lap 32 Schumacher had a seven second lead over a still unpitted Montoya with a further 14 seconds back to Barrichello in third. When JPM came in for his inevitable pit-stop on Lap 35 he was able to rejoin in 6th place. Kimi Raikkonen was also in and out of the pits, very much like Montreal, stopping for the team to make technical checks and pressurise his hydraulic system .

Then on Lap 41 the message came across that the race stewards were investigating an incident involving car No.3, Montoya.

Toyota's Olivier Panis was a dizzying fourth for Toyota and came under pressure from Takuma Sato. Going down the back straight he moved across to take his line for the corner, then as he saw Sato coming flicked his Toyota out towards him. Sato was ready for it and took avoiding action, but it was an outragreous move by the Frenchman and went seemingly unnoticed by the race stewards. Whatever the case Sato was past and was going to get past come what may.

On Lap 42 Schumi came in for a 10.3 second stop which saw him fuelled to the end of the race on Lap 73. When he came out Rubens Barrichello was almost two seconds a lap quicker than his team-leader. Comparing times, Schumi did a 1:12.098 on Lap 48, Rubens did a 1:10.496.

On Lap 49 Giancarlo Fischella, who had been making quiet progress into the points punctured a rear tyre and limped back to the pits.

By Lap 50 Rubens had a 22.6 second lead over Schumacher before he dived into the pits for his final stop. He came out only 3.4 seconds adrift and on fresh rubber instantly closed.

The new Bridgestones are quick from their first lap and on Lap 51 Barrichello challenged Schumacher into Turn 7 only to have the No.1 Ferrari chop right across the No.2. He tried again into Turn 5 on the following lap with a similar result. Schumacher was now clearly holding Barrichello up and very keen to keep his place.

By Lap 54 it all went quiet and a Ferrari spokesperson said that... “we now have to conserve the cars till the end of the race,” which was seemingly an admission that team orders were in play.

On Lap 57 the stewards finally issued the Black Flag that was to end Montoya's race. Incredibly they had taken from the start of the race to Lap 57 (and 14 of those were very slow laps) to work out that the Colombian had not cleared the grid in the mandatory 15 seconds he needed under Rule 85.

Juan had made it off in his sprint to the T-car in something like 13 and a half seconds. And so in a race that was ultimately to see only 8 cars finish, a healthy car was taken out of the proceedings. The fact that team orders are also not allowed under the same rulebook or that Panis had made a double movement, veering his car at Sato, seemed to pass the stewards by.

But the incidents didn't finish there. On lap 61 Trulli slowed suddenly allowing Sato to close up to the Italian. Mark Webber's Jaguar caught fire going down the main straight and he was out.

Sato and Trulli then staged an outbraking contest through Turn 1 at the end of Lap 62. Both cars went straight on as Takuma tried a pass and rejoined the race via the grass with his car intact.

On Lap 67 Giancarlo Fisichella's Sauber started touring slowly - there were now just nine cars left and the ninth was that of Zsolt Baumgartner in the Minardi. They hadn't scored a point for the last two seasons, but on lap 69 the Cosworth-engined Minardi passed the dying Sauber and they were into the points again.

Four laps later he had become the first Hungarian to score a World Championship point and had made Paul Stoddart a very happy man.

Michael Schumacher duly came home in first place with Rubens Barrichello obliged to finish second and Takuma Sato 22 seconds back in 3rd place. It was the first Japanese podium since Aguri Suzuki's third place at Suzuka in 1990 and a much better drive by Taku. Had the team tactics been different he could have got more.

Ferrari scored their sixth 1-2 of the season, Michael made it 78 wins and Ferrari notched up their 175th GP victory. For the thrill-seeker it was an event packed with incident, but as a race it was less than it could have been. Only when Rubens Barrichello is fully let off the corporate leash can that be said. But compared to the two previous grands prix it kept spectators gripped all the way through. And that's something in 2004.


Result of the USA Grand Prix held at Indianapolis on June 20th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'03"600
3.SATOBAR HondaB+ 0'19"500
4.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'33"200
5.PANISToyotaM+ 0'37"100
6.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
7.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
8.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB3 laps
9.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB4 laps
10.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM10 laps
11.MONTOYAWilliams BMWM13 laps
12.HEIDFELDJordan FordB27 laps
13.BUTTONBAR HondaB44 laps
14.DA MATTAToyotaM53 laps
15.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM61 laps
16.ALONSORenaultM62 laps
17KLEINJaguar CosworthMout of the race
18.MASSASauber PetronasB71 laps
19.PANTANOJordan FordB71 laps
20.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB71 laps

Williams & Toyota Disqualified From Canadian GP Sunday June 13 2004

Jenson Button is third

Williams and Toyota have both been disqualified from Sunday's Canadian GP. Stewards deemed that both teams had used illegal brake ducts during the race and following a investigation disqualified the two sets of cars.

"The two Toyotas and two Williams have been excluded," a FIA spokeswoman confirmed.

It means that Williams have lost the second-place of Ralf Schumacher and the four points that Juan Pablo Montoya would have accrued after finishing fifth in the race.

Toyota lose their points-finishing result, Cristiano da Matta's eighth place, with Olivier Panis, who was tenth, also thrown out.

Williams' new Technical Director Sam Michael said the team accepted the decision.

"The front brake ducts of Ralf and Juan Pablo's car are not in accordance with the regulations. It was a mistake and it was unintentional. There was no performance gain and no gain for brake cooling because the inlet area was not bigger.

"However, the duct is not in compliance with the technical regulation and we accept the FIA decision."

The revised result of the race promotes Rubens Barrichello to second and Jenson Button to third. McLaren's David Coulthard and Jordan duo Timo Glock and Nick Heidfeld move up into the top eight, with Glock scoring points on his F1 debut.

Canadian GP Race Report: Schumi secures sublime seventh Sunday June 13 2004

Dangerous tactics from Jaguar's Christian Klien

Michael Schumacher claimed his seventh victory of the season in Canada on Sunday, once again writing his name into the history books as the only man to have won a single event seven times.

Though it was a race celebrated by Canadian F1 fans just glad to have their own GP after it was earlier removed from the F1 calendar, it was another grand prix that lacked overtaking moves and incident.

Schumacher's two-stop strategy had the edge over his rivals. Though had the Renaults, who also opted for two-stoppers, not been plagued with reliability problems, the finish might have been considerably more exciting. Jarno Trulli exited from the race on the opening lap and Alonso on the 45th.

Brother Ralf Schumacher brought his Williams home in second place, losing out to Michael for the second successive season. Rubens Barrichello made it a Ferrari 1-3, though at one time he actually attempted to pass his team leader! The Brazilian looked the fastest driver in the race and went on to prove it two laps from home with a new lap record of 1:13.622.

The Race:

Speaking on the grid before the start Jenson Button was expecting Jarno Trulli to come roaring past both him and BMW-Williams polesitter Ralf Schumacher to take the lead, but when the red lights went out Trulli was up alongside Button before falling away and steering to a safe place on the infield, his suspension having failed.

It was an odd place to have a suspension break, considering the car must have felt all right on the way to the grid and around the parade lap. He wasn't hit and there were no kerbs involved, it was purely the load of the Renault's acceleration that did it.

So Ralf and Jenson got away cleanly, Fernando Alonso, fifth on the grid, eased his Renault past Juan Montoya. Both Ferraris came under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes which nipped by Barrichello and got the inside line on Michael Schumacher's Ferrari going round Turn 2.

It looked like the Finn would have snatched 5th place, but Michael managed to outdrag him to Turn 3 and Raikkonen had to fall behind and settle for 6th place on the opening tour.

In terms of meaningful overtaking moves that was it for the afternoon. Later on in the race, unseen by the TV cameras, Button got his BAR 006 past the Toyota of da Matta, and David Coulthard made a lot of progress though the field early on, but there were no moves to speak of from the front runners

Speaking of Coulthard there was a nasty second corner incident that looked for a moment like it might cause the Safety Car to make an appearance. Jaguar's Christian Klien excited by the prospect of starting the race in front of his experienced team-mate tapped the back of David Coulthard's McLaren and pushed it into a spin in Turn 2.

It was a stupid move and was nowhere near a pass. Klien simply nudged the McLaren round, like they were both in touring cars and DC instantly lost 8th place as he spun round 180 degrees. In so doing Klien went round the back of the McLaren and hit his team-mate Mark Webber who was trying to avoid the accident by going round the outside.

What was even more perplexing was why the stewards didn't call Klien in for causing an avoidable accident. If this wasn't an example of it, then what is…?

So at the end of the opening lap it was Ralf leading with a 1.1 second gap to Button, Alonso was third, Montoya 4th, Schumacher 5th, Raikkonen 6th, Barrichello 7th, da Matta 8th, Panis 9th, Heidfeld 10th and starting his first ever GP, Timo Glock was already up to 11th.

Takuma Sato had opted to start his BAR-Honda from the pitlane and as Mark Webber limped round, he and Coulthard set off after the leaders. At the end of the first lap Sato was 15th and DC was 16th. By Lap 2, Coulthard had disposed of Sato and was up to 13th.

Already the speculation was that the BARs and the Williams were on 3-stoppers and the significantly-slower-in-qualifying Renaults and Ferraris were on 2-stoppers, and so it proved.

Even though he had a lot more fuel on board Rubens Barrichello was quickly onto the back of Raikkonen's McLaren and on Lap 7 got a good run out of the Casino Hairpin and passed him on the back straight. Raikkonen looked to have a problem, and maybe not top gear, because the Ferrari was able to sweep past and then pull back in front of the Finn before the final chicane. It was more like a move on a

Raikkonen would go on to change his steering wheel twice during the race to counteract the problem. Mark Webber had to change a tyre on the opening lap but by Lap 9 he was back in the pits again and into retirement.

By lap 10 Ralf had developed a 3.7 second lead over Jenson Button with his brother only 6.5 seconds off the lead.

On Laps 12 and 13 the two Mclaren-Mercedes came in for their first pit-stop and on Lap 14 it was Jenson Button and Montoya in. After his pit-stop Button came out directly behind Toyota driver Cristiano da Matta, but only took two laps to find a way past.

At the same time Zsolt Baumgartner was proving that he doesn't need a bigger engine in his Minardi, he just needs bigger mirrors and an awareness of what blue flags are for as he proceeded to block the leading three runners - Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Barrichello.

Ralf had disappeared from the lead on Lap 15 when he took his first pit-stop, leaving the three two-stoppers on their own at the front. In fact Alonso looked in a good position until he came in on Lap 17. The refuelling hose wouldn't go on his car and the team had to opt for the spare. A 16-second stop looked to have wrecked his chances of winning.

At the same time Raikkonen came under investigation for crossing the pit exit line with a rear tyre. In-car repeats showed that he might have put his tyre on the line, but not necessarily over it. Given that the stewards had failed to notice Klien's second corner move on his team-mate it was bizarre to say the least and no footage of the incident (such as we had in 2002 at Magny Cours with Michael Schumacher) was offered.

Then we got a familiar situation; with Michael Schumacher's nearest rival Rubens Barrichello diving in for a pit-stop Schumi put in a new lap record of 1:13.630. Unluckily Rubens came out just behind Juan Montoya while Schumi leapfrogged him.

Even though the pit-stops were out of synch, after the first stops Ralf still led from Button, Schumi, Montoya, Barrichello, Alonso in 6th after his dreadful pit-stop, Raikkonen 7th despite a drive-through penalty and da Matta in 8th.

On Lap 21 we had the sight of a Jordan mechanic sprawled on the pitlane. The Jordan lollypop guy inexplicably raised it while the refuelling crew were still at work and understandably Heidfeld stuck his foot down.

In the middle section of the race Michael Schumacher began to come under pressure from Montoya who was now sandwiched by the two Ferraris. While his fuel load was considerably less than theirs he was able to pressure the World Champion and from lap 28-31 he was right under his gearbox and looking for a way past.

At the end of Lap 31 he peeled into the pitlane and it was Rubens Barrichello's turn to close up. In two laps he was in the position that Montoya had previously occupied. While Michael was putting in a 1:15.306 on Lap 33, Rubens cruised up behind with a 1:14.736.

By Lap 38 Rubens had clearly had enough of tooling around behind his team-mate and charged up the inside of Schumi going into the final chicane. He didn't make it through. He continued to pressure Schumacher until the end of Lap 44 when he came in for his second and final pit-stop.

Though Jenson Button had looked good in the BAR-Honda in the opening stages of the race and kept in touch with the lead, by Lap 42 it was clear that he would be lucky to get a podium place today. He was lapping consistently in the 1min 15 second bracket while the rest of the top 5 were in the 1 min 14secs. He also looked like he might fall into Montoya's clutches.

After Rubens' second pit-stop the Brazilian got his second bit of bad luck. He got stuck behind Juan Montoya again. Though Juan needed to stop one more time and so in effect Rubens was a lot further down the road this time round, he could still not get past him.

This delay - and a self-inflicted excursion onto the grass - was enough to drop him off the back of Schumacher and put him behind Ralf Schumacher when the final pit-stops shook out. The sheer timing of his pit-stops and a mistake took him from almost first to third place.

Just after Rubens pitted we saw a rare sight - two Renaults retiring from the same race. Fernando Alonso had started to put the hammer down and was clocking his fastest laps of the race when his driveshaft failed and he had to park up, In the closing stages of the race with Schumacher nursing his brakes it might have given race fans the hint of excitement, but it was not to be.

On lap 49 Montoya and the slipping-back Button took their pit-stops together. It was a mechanics race to get the drivers out and BAR won it.

On Lap 52 Sato blew his Honda yet again. Ten laps earlier he'd given Panis a fright by coming up the inside into the hairpin and then spinning straight on, through a gap between Panis and a Jordan they were both about to lap. It was a neat trick to pull off without damaging any car but it didn't look very professional.

On Lap 52 with all pit-stops made, Schumi led by six seconds from Ralf Schumacher, who was seven seconds ahead of Barrichello, who was nine seconds ahead of Button who held a two second advantage over Montoya. Raikkonen was 40 seconds back in 6th place, two-stopping Fisichella in 7th with da Matta 8th and Coulthard 9th.

Though Michael was said to be nursing his brakes he was still the fastest man on the track. Montoya versus Button was the only battle to be played out in the final stages of the race, but Button kept his nerve and his place.

There was no major overtaking move all race, let alone in the remaining 18 laps. The only final excitements were Raikkonen coming for his third steering wheel and his fifth pit-stop of the race and a Sauber going off-track. Felipe Massa went straight on at the end of the back straight and thumped the tyres hard in his Sauber C23 on Lap 65. Though the Safety Car was put on standby it was not needed, Massa got slowly out of the car. Replays showed that he might have had a suspension failure.

On Lap 68 Rubens Barrichello put in a mystifying fastest lap of the race - a 1:13.622 lap record. It was strange to be stressing the engine and the brakes late on when he was five seconds adrift of Ralf Schumacher and unlikely to catch him.

Michael Schumacher duly crossed the line and went into the record books as the only F1 driver to win a GP seven times. Considering he doesn't like the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve it was not particularly fitting, but Michael will take any F1 record that is thrown at him.

It may have been his worst grid position of the year and he did come under pressure to do it, but in the end it looked a fairly straightforward day in the office. Michael has already won more grands prix than he did in the whole of 2003 and we're only halfway through the season.

It looks like seven wins at one GP won't be the only record he sets in 2004.


Result of the Canadian Grand Prix on June 13th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 0'01"000 disqualified
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'05"100
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'23"000
MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM+ 0'24"200 disqualified
4.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
5.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap disqualified
6.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
PANISToyotaM1 lap disqualified
7.GLOCKJordan FordB2 laps
8.HEIDFELDJordan FordB2 laps
9.KLEINJaguar CosworthM3 laps
10.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB4 laps
11.MASSASauber PetronasB8 laps
12.SATOBAR HondaB22 laps
13.ALONSORenaultM26 laps
14.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB40 laps
15.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM64 laps
16.TRULLIRenaultM70 laps

European GP: F1 returns to normal as Schumi cruises to victory Sunday May 30 2004
Start of European Grand Prix

Sunday's European Grand Prix saw F1 return to normal as Michael Schumacher claimed win number six of the season, and Jenson Button his fifth podium of the campaign after Takuma Sato self-destructed. After the drama and razzmatazz of Monaco, the Formula One spectacle was given a sharp dose of reality in the cool hills of Germany as Ferrari clinched their fourth 1-2 of the season.

Once again, Rubens Barrichello took on the role of dutiful understudy as Michael Schumacher delivered his seemingly inevitable riposte after last Sunday's Monaco setback with the 76th victory of his career.

Few, though, can be as comfortable as this.Victory appeared as effortless as it was imperious. Once the first-corner threat had been swiftly averted with a regal swipe of the steering wheel, this was a cruise for Schumi in front of his adoring subjects. It would be an exaggeration to say that after half-way avoiding the backmarkers was the extent of his challenge because that was probably the case long before the halfway stage.

If there was any hope of Schumi being beaten, and it was a slender hope, it had to be at the first corner, with the unpredictable Takuma Sato lining up astern of the Ferrari and Jarno Trulli directly behind.

But after all the hype and expectation, the threat into the first corner never materialised.

The Renault's start control is the fastest on the grid, but Schumacher's was still fast and savvy enough to cover it. Leering across to his right off the line - an indication, perhaps that he regarded the Renault as a bigger threat than Sato, although it's just as likely that he was simply intent on keeping as far away from Sato, who had banged his wheels off the line at Monaco, as possible - the Ferrari baulked the Renault's charge and moved smartly into the first corner.

In that moment, the outcome of the race was confirmed.

As it transpired, the threat was to Trulli and not from the Italian. Sato had fought off Kimi as the lights went out and, with his foot to the floor, his deeper lunge into the first corner squeezed out Trulli.

The Renault responded but as the cars appeared out of the fourth corner - after what we can presume was a clash, although the incident was completely missed by the TV cameras - Trulli was suddenly swamped and demoted to seventh. Kimi was propelled to second and Fernando Alonso, after a relatively tardy start off the line, third. Jenson Button had slumped to sixth.

Back at the first corner, Ralf Schumacher found himself performing his now-traditional Sunday role at the centre of yet another accident. On this occasion, however, the German was blameless. Williams team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya outbraked himself into the first corner on cold, unresponsive tyres, and slapped Ralf into a spin with Cristiano da Matta the second, unwitting victim.

"I was just a passenger. I didn't even see Cristiano," lamented the hapless Ralf.

It was a valid defence, although it was also the case that Ralf then compounded da Matta's woe by revving his engine and rolling the FW26 over the TF104's wing as they sat miserably by the side of the track. Their race was over, Montoya's wrecked - the Colombian only able to continue almost a lap down on the rest of the field after pitting for an emergency pit-stop.

Schumi, though, was enjoying the dividends of an ideal start.

This may have been McLaren's most competitive display in 2004 but essentially all it meant was that Raikkonen formed the perfect foil for Ferrari and Schumacher by foiling the pursuit of the Renault and BARs.

After the first lap, Schumi lead by 2.4 seconds to Kimi; 3.9 by the second, 9.7 by the fourth.

Not that Kimi was preventing a meaningful chase, though. Schumacher's pace was in a different league to the rest of the field's - setting 1:29.00s compared to 1:32.00s.

On lap eight, he pitted and emerged directly behind Trulli's Renault. Had the Ferrari qualified with an ultra-low level amount of fuel on board? It was wishful thinking. Within a lap the Ferrari's superior pace was laid bare as Trulli and Raikkonen pitted simultaneously.

They may have weighed the same but this still was a fight that still resembled a heavyweight taking on a flyweight with only the undercard holding the promise of a competitive bout.

Schumacher was simply on a different race to the rest of the field and for F1's bright young things this was an afternoon to forget.

On lap ten Kimi's engine expired in spectacular style. Considering the number of times his engine has caught fire already in 2004, Raikkonen's nickname of the 'Ice Man' will soon be viewed as a snide joke.

Fernando Alonso's star has also waned in 2004, and shortly after his first pit-stop Fernando made an inexplicable error, outbraking himself and giving up position to team-mate Trulli. The afternoon then descended into mediocre anonymity for the Spaniard.

Jenson Button's stock, meanwhile, has risen so dramatically this season at BAR that even after ultimately taking his fifth podium of 2004 he will have much to rue about his race at the Nurburgring.

After failing to make an impression in the early stages, the Englishman emerged from his first stop behind the McLaren of David Coulthard, who, having started at the back of the grid was surprisingly high up the field because of a two-stop strategy and a rapid start after taking the advice of his engineers and charging up the inside as the lights went out.

In the ensuing laps in which Button had to follow the McLaren - not so much biding his time as losing it - his challenge dissipated. It was only on the lap that preceded DC's first pit-stop that Button was able to make his response, a ballsy move round the outside of the McLaren at the first corner, and began the task of hauling in Barrichello, another two-stopper.

In clear air, Button immediately slipped into the 1:31s along with Sato, but whereas Sato was in the low 1:30s, Jenson was in the mid-1.30s. It was a blistering performance from the Japanese driver and arguably, at this stage, the best of his performance. Alas, it goes without saying, though, that Schumi was still able to lap a few tents of a second quicker still.

The shake out from Schumi's/Sato's/Button's second pit-stop found Rubens five seconds behind his team-mate in second, Takuma a further ten seconds adrift, and Jenson a total of 30.

Moments later came the all-too familiar sight of a plume of smoking pouring out of the back of Coulthard's crippled McLaren.

Rubens, out of sync to the rest, had pitted with twenty-two laps remaining and, unfortunately for Sato's hopes of wrestling second away from the second Ferrari, repearred just in front of Button. The significance of that moment was confirmed when Sato pitted for the third and final time with 16 laps remaining and emerged just behind the Ferrari.

With Schumi on cruise control, a fight for second did at least promise some much-needed drama for the closing laps.

If Sato felt the excitement, however, he was unable to contain it.

Considering that the BAR was the faster car, thus putting Sato in a position in which he could wait for an opportunity to appear rather than force the issue, his response was reckless. Launching a manoeuvre that was at best ambitious, he lunged into the first corner with shattering results. The BAR smashed into the side of Rubens as the Brazilian took up his normal racing line. Punishment was instant. The remnants of Sato's front-wing flew up into the air, and with it went his hopes of a first-ever podium finish.

Two laps and a nose-cone change later Sato's afternoon was over when his Honda engine expired for the third time this season.

Hero to zero in a blink and another casestudy in the great Takuma Sato debate.

Sato's demise had let in Juan Pablo Montoya to take the final points-position, but Williams' dissatisfaction from taking a single point will have been augmented by the sight of a Sauber and Jaguar in front.

For the two-stopping Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber it had been an uneventful race, but a profitable one.

For Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, another run-of-the-mill afternoon at the office had delivered the maximum profit.

It may have appeared remarkably easy, but his remarkable skill is making it look so easy.

Result of the European Grand Prix on May 30th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'17"989
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'22"533
4.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'53"673
5.ALONSORenaultM+ 1'00"987
6.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 1'13"448
7.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM+ 1'16"206
8.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM1 lap
9.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
10.HEIDFELDJordan FordB1 lap
11.PANISToyotaM1 lap
12.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
13.PANTANOJordan FordB2 laps
14.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB3 laps
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB3 laps
16.SATOBAR HondaB13 laps
17.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM35 laps
18.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM51 laps
19.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM60 laps
20.DA MATTAToyotaM60 laps

Monaco Grand Prix: Maiden victory for Trulli on Sunday May 23 2004

Jarno Trulli claimed his maiden grand prix victory in Monaco on Sunday, leading the accident-filled race from pole to finish. Jenson Button came within half a second of taking the lead away from the Italian, but had to settle for the second runner-up finish of his career. Rubens Barrichello completed the podium.

However, the race was made remarkable more by the accidents than the close racing. The first of the three major shunts was the result of a blown Honda engine for Takuma Sato. Giancarlo Fisichella and David Coulthard were caught up in the chaos, all three retiring.

The second shunt involved Fernando Alonso, who crashed out of second place while trying to lap Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel. Instead he understeered off the racing line and slammed into the barriers inside the tunnel. While that accident was being cleared the third big shunt took place.

Michael Schumacher crashed out of the lead after appearing to lock his brakes in the middle of the tunnel, while following the safety car. Schumi's sudden drop in pace caused the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya to pull up alongside him and Schumacher was pushed into the wall, wrecking the front left of his car.

However the World Champion, aiming for six wins out of six, had already lost the strategy battle with Trulli and Button who had both taken advantage of Alonso's accident and pitted for the second time. They were just yards behind Schumacher who still had a stop to make.

The first race start was aborted when Olivier Panis's Toyota didn't line up in its correct grid slot. Panis, it turned out, had stalled the car.

The 78-lap race immediately became a 77-lap race. Cameras instantly homed in on the back of polesitter Jarno Trulli's Renault which was pumping out excess fluids onto the track, though his car was to hold together to the end.

On the re-start Panis stalled again and he was pushed off to the pit exit to start his race from there.

The track was at 43 degrees centigrade and the air temperature at 23 degrees when the red lights finally out went out for real.

Kimi Raikkonen accelerated past a slow-starting Michael Schumacher to grab 4th place, but both he and Michael Schumacher would have been surprised to see Takuma Sato rocket from 7th place on the grid between them.

The Japanese driver bounced Schumacher's tyres on the way through and he was perhaps fortunate that Schumi wasn't diving across the track as he often does at the start of races, because otherwise it would have been a spectacular shunt between the two of them with everyone piling in from behind and no room to avoid a massive accident.

David Coulthard was convinced that the Japanese driver had jumped the start, yet there was no penalty from the stewards.

Sato was through from 7th to 4th and he looked like he might even be trying to take 3rd off team-mate Jenson Button as he shaped up round the outside of Button going into Ste Devote. As predicted (by Button) Fernando Alonso had swept past him for 2nd place and the two Renaults went on their serene way up the hill towards Massenet.

Back down the field there were no casualties, save for the Ste. Devote rubber bollard. The order as the cars screamed up the hill was; Trulli, Alonso, Button, Sato, Raikkonen in 5th, Michael Schumacher 6th and Rubens Barrichello 7th. Coulthard and Montoya were 8th and 9th.

Coming down towards the Grand Hotel hairpin (frequently referred to as Loewes hairpin during the race) Christian Klien nerfed his Jaguar into the barriers on the right, an unusual accident round Monaco this one, and then under-steered straight on.

By the end of Lap One the top three had pulled a three second gap on Sato's BAR-Honda which was beginning to smoke. It was also holding up Kimi Raikkonen, Schumi, and Barrichello who were jostling the BAR looking for a way past as the cars headed down to the tunnel chicane at the bottom of the hill.

Then, coming along the seafront at Tabac, the Japanese driver's Honda engine let go, immediately creating an instant smoke screen. David Coulthard maintained that it had shown signs of expiring on the parade lap and was intensely critical of the BAR team for letting him go on so far.

The result of the screen was that the pursuing Kimi Raikkonen immediately darted left and through the smoke, the two Ferraris followed a bit more gingerly, while Sato parked the car in the safest place he could find, immediately coming off the racing line.

Coulthard was next through and he and Montoya reacted in time to avoid the obstruction. Giancarlo Fisichella in 10th place was not so quick to react and launched his car over the back of the McLaren, immediately taking himself and the Scot out of the race.

With a car on its side and oil everywhere, the red flags came out for a nanosecond before Race Director Charlie Whiting opted for the Safety Car option instead. It was the right choice by Whiting and it allowed Michael Schumacher to recover the ground he'd lost at the start.

In the team garages the fuel strategies were instantly recalculated as the Safety Car lapped the track - at anything between 2 minutes 15 seconds and 2 minutes 44 seconds. By Lap 8, the circuit was clear and the race went green again.

So on the restart the order was Trulli, Alonso, Button, Raikkonen, M Schumacher, Barrichello, Montoya, Mark Webber, da Matta and Massa in 10th.

Montoya caught Barrichello napping on the restart and was immediately past him into Sainte Devote. On a day when there was no overtaking, Montoya managed two racing passes, one on Rubens and another after pressuring Nick Heidfeld into a mistake at Mirabeau and going round the outside down to the Grand Hotel hairpin.

From lap 9 onwards Jarno Trulli started to put in a series of Schumacher-esque fastest laps.
Lap 10: 1:16.302
Lap 11: 1:15.804
Lap 12: 1:15.778
Lap 13: 1:15.663
Lap 17: 1:15.491

He edged out a two second gap to his team-mate, three seconds to Button and seven seconds to Michael Schumacher who was beginning to be held up by Kimi Raikkonen.

On Lap 12 Mark Webber struck problems and retired the second Jaguar car. A lap later Juan-Montoya was in for his first pit-stop, which was to put him a long way down the field.

By Lap 19 Raikkonen had disappeared form in front of Michael Schumacher and it was time for the World Champion to roll his sleeves up and go to work. He unleashed a series of stellar laps, a 1:14.809 on Lap 21, a 1:14.639 on Lap 22 and on Lap 23 a new lap record of 1:14.439.

Trulli pitted from the lead and returned to the track with no dramas, as did Alonso, but Schumacher's quick laps had leapfrogged him in front of Jenson Button. The Englishman came out directly behind Cristiano da Matta who had yet to make a stop in his Toyota and was driving almost two seconds a lap off the pace.

So after the first round of pit-stops the order was: Trulli, 3.2 seconds ahead of Alonso, who was four seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher, who was six seconds ahead of Jenson Button in 4th place. Raikkonen was 5th, Barrichello 6th, da Matta 7th, Heidfeld 8th and Montoya 9th.

On Lap 28 Kimi Raikkonen came back to the pits with preposterously high temperature readings on his engine, the Mclaren Mercedes team choosing not to allow the car to expire in a very public fashion out on the circuit.

So by the 30th lap there were just 12 runners left and the Monte Carlo streets were living up to their reputation as car breakers. Heidfeld and Massa were locked in their own battle for 9th place and failed to notice the Renaults arriving behind them.

With Raikkonen gone it had become a battle between the top four - Rubens Barrichello was way back in the far distance over half a minute behind. When the leaders had finally cleared Massa and Heidfeld, Jenson Button had closed up to within 2.6 seconds of Michael Schumacher, and was lapping marginally quicker than him.

On Lap 39 the pace of the front-runners was remarkably similar, even though neither was directly behind the car in front. Trulli 1:15.560 Alonso 1:15.607 Schumacher 1:15.639 Button 1:15.601

Ralf Schumacher was seemingly having his own race, coasting round between three and five seconds off the race pace. He'd pitted during the first Safety Car period and was in again on lap 39 out of sequence with the other drivers.

Then on Lap 42, Fernando Alonso's chassis came rocketing out of the tunnel backwards, three out of four corners deranged. He was clearly very angry, even before the car came to a stop on the downslope of the hill.

Replays showed that he'd come across a very slow Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel sticking to the racing line. With the front four cars so evenly matched every second lost was vital and Fernando decided to go out wide to get past, rather than wait till the tunnel exit.

Though only telemetry would tell the true story it looked like Ralf had lifted as some blue-flagged drivers often do and kept the racing line - expecting the passing car to go onto the marbles to make the pass. The minute Alonso's car ran wide he began to understeer and went straight on into the barriers on his slippery tyres.

Alonso got out of his wrecked car seething with anger. Even after the race had finished the Spaniard was furious reckoning it was Ralf's fault… “like most of the accidents Ralf is involved in.”

With the second Renault parked in a dangerous place on the track Charlie Whiting brought out the Safety car again. Immediately BAR and Renault hauled their drivers in for their second pit-stops and in doing so they made a decisive move to confirm their position ahead of the Ferrari team.

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello looked to have been fuelled longer than the 1st place and 2nd place cars, yet they stayed out on track. In that moment Ferrari lost the Monaco Grand Prix. As the cars lined up behind the Safety Car, Trulli and Button were only yards back from Schumacher, yet Schumacher had to stop again, and so provided they didn't hit mechanical problems they were home and dry.

There were lapped cars between the No.1 Ferrari and the following Trulli and Button, but when the race was green-flagged again, they would have to move out of the way to let the Renault and the BAR-Honda through.

Then on lap 46 a rare sight in F1, Michael Schumacher cruising with a deranged front left tyre and broken front wing. He had clearly had a major impact somewhere on the track. As the race was green-flagged on Lap 47 all attention was not on the race but on the retiring Ferrari driver.

TV replays showed that following the Safety Car in the tunnel, the World Champion had suddenly jammed his brakes on hard, producing smoke from his locked front tyres. Behind him, the following (and lapped) Juan Montoya was taken by surprise by the sudden move and was faced with the split-second option of crashing into the back of him or diving to the right.

As Montoya swerved his car to the right, into an already very narrow gap, Schumacher closed the gap and they touched heavily. The Ferrari slapped the barriers on the right before bouncing across and impacting the barriers on the left even harder.

Schumacher limped back to the pits and angry retirement. Though his chance of six straight wins had gone the moment Renault and BAR had made decisive pit-stops, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was loathe to admit it. “I think we had a chance to win today and it was beginning to come together for us,” he said after the race.

Schumacher's retirement promoted Rubens Barrichello into an unlikely third place and though the Safety Car put him within reach of the surviving Renault and BAR. He dropped back rapidly.

The big question now was, could Jenson Button catch Jarno Trulli before the end of the race and pressure him into a mistake. By Lap 52 we had 10 runners left and Trulli had a six second lead over Button.

By Lap 57 it was 5.2 seconds
By Lap 64 it was 4.9 seconds
By Lap 68 it was 5.1 seconds

Then Trulli came across Nick Heidfeld and Olivier Panis locked in their own private battle. For the second time in the afternoon Heidfeld badly delayed the leading cars and Button was able to close to 3.5 seconds of Trulli something he hadn't managed to do in clear air. With that incentive Button began to home in as Trulli's lap times got slower and Jenson wore him down.

By Lap 71 the gap was 1.6 seconds.
By Lap 74 the gap was 0.9 seconds.

On the 77th and final lap Button was still closing up when the two cars came across Zsolt Baumgartner's Minardi 5 laps down at the tunnel chicane. Trulli got straight past, but the BAR was delayed and so Button had to be content with second place. Whether it made any difference is a moot point, Trulli was on top form and it would have taken a very daring if not foolhardy move to get past him.

Rubens Barrichello finished almost a lap down in third with Juan Montoya's BMW-Williams surviving to the end. He would need to go and see the stewards after the race to explain what happened in the tunnel, though at the time of writing, Ralf Schumacher has not had a similar request for his incident with Alonso.

Felipe Massa took 5th place for Sauber after Cristiano da Matta was forced to take a drive-through penalty for ignoring the blue flags. Da Matta was only a car length back from Massa in 6th with a surprisingly unpunished Heidfeld in 7th and Panis in 8th.

It was a deserved victory for Jarno Trulli, the Italian was predictably “very 'appy” after his maiden win. And it was slightly strange to hear the Italian national anthem after the race without the German national anthem preceding it.

The 2004 Monaco was a race with a tremendous amount of talking points, but it was a race that from the first corner Michael Schumacher never really looked like winning.

Result of the Monaco Grand Prix on May 23rd. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'00"497
3.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 1'15"766
4.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM1 lap
5.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
6.DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap
7.HEIDFELDJordan FordB2 laps
8.PANISToyotaM3 laps
9.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB6 laps
10.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM8 laps
11.M.SCHUMACHERFerrariB32 laps
12.ALONSORenaultM36 laps
13.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM50 laps
14.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB62 laps
15.PANTANOJordan FordB65 laps
16.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM66 laps
17.SATOBAR HondaB75 laps
18.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM75 laps
19.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB75 laps
20.KLEINJaguar CosworthM78 laps

Spanish GP Race Report: Schumi marks 200th start with 75th win Sunday May 09 2004
Spanish Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher fought back from a poor start to win Sunday's Spanish GP, and commemorate his 200th race start with his 75th victory. It was his 6th Spanish Grand Prix victory - five out of five grands prix for 2004 - and has established a seemingly unassailable lead in the World Championship. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello was second, with Renault's Jarno Trulli third and local hero Fernando Alonso coming home in 4th place.

Before the start of the race all eyes were focused on the first corner and the potential of a clash between the front-row of Schumacher and Juan Montoya. As it turned out the Colombian was slow away in his BMW-Williams and both drivers were usurped by a fast-starting Jarno Trulli who took off from 4th on the grid to take the lead into the first corner.

So far this year Trulli has gained an average two places at the start of the race, but he upped his average by grabbing the lead before the first corner. Schumacher made the most decisive move of all by resisting the BAR-Honda of Takuma Sato who threatened to grab second off him.

Behind them, all the leading contenders filtered through the first and second turns unscathed. At the end of the opening lap Trulli had a 0.5 second lead from Schumacher, Sato, with Montoya in 4th, Rubens Barrichello in 5th, Fernando Alonso who had jumped from 8th to 6th, Olivier Panis in 7th and a man who starts races quickly without the benefit of the best software available, David Coulthard in 8th.

The race that unfolded after that was similar to Imola a fortnight earlier, a battle of strategy over three pit-stops, with no actual overtaking on the track. The only difference this time was that one of the main contenders, Rubens Barrichello, had opted for a two-stop race, hoping to gain an edge with his tougher Bridgestones.

The same thinking had gone into the Sauber/Bridgestone strategy and explained why both Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa had been so tardy in Qualifying 2 on Saturday.

Before the start Rubens, who had been 1.2 seconds slower than his team-mate in qualifying, had said he was “very happy” with his time. Which was a clear indication that he had either a different plan for the race or had become the Ralph Firman for the 2004 season (eternally optimistic with little reason to be).

With the race underway, Trulli took off with Schumi in close pursuit and Sato gradually dropping back. Behind them, there was no overtaking. Jenson Button had been hoping to make up places at the start. Unusually he didn't and ended the first lap in 14th place.

Mark Webber was slow away in the Jaguar, lost places and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering.

First of the leaders to pit was Fernando Alonso at the end of Lap 8. A lap later Trulli, Montoya, Raikkonen, da Matta and Heidfeld followed him. Montoya had a slow stop and went backwards down the field, dropping behind Alonso who moved up to 5th place as a result. Montoya's front brake looked to be on fire in the pit-stop, something that was to have repercussions later in the race.

With the three-stoppers all in and out of the pits, Rubens Barrichello led the race for Ferrari. When he came in for his first stop at the end of Lap 16 he gave up a 10.5 second lead over Michael Schumacher. He rejoined the track ahead of Takuma Sato who dropped from 3rd to 4th.

More importantly, Schumacher had got the jump on Jarno Trulli in the first round of pit-stops, seizing his moment on Lap 10 with a lap that contained two purple (fastest) sectors, the second and third, on his in-lap.

By Lap 22, the World Champion was edging away at 0.3 seconds a lap from Trulli and 0.6 seconds a lap from Barrichello, who was still in with a shout of beating his team-mate if the strategy worked.

When Michael Schumacher emerged from his second pit-stop of the race ahead of Rubens, on Lap 24, the race looked like a done deal. Behind them, Fernando Alonso eased his way past Takuma Sato during the second round of pit-stops to take 4th place and relegate Taku to 5th.

Jenson Button in the second BAR-Honda was unable to get past the slower McLaren of David Coulthard on the track but did the business during the pit-stops. DC had a fuel filler problem for most of the afternoon, suffering from sticky-nozzle syndrome every time he came in for fuel.

Olivier Panis got a drive-through penalty on lap 29 for exceeding the pitlane speed limit and shortly afterwards retired his Toyota.

On Lap 30, Juan Montoya found himself held up behind Giancarlo Fisichella's two-stopping Sauber. Fisi was determinedly hanging onto 6th place having stopped only once to Juan's twice. With no place to pass on the circuit it might as well have been Monaco that the cars were lapping.

Then on Lap 33, Michael Schumacher came round with his engine sounding less than perfect; in fact slightly rough. Ferrari confirmed that they suspected a broken exhaust which was a far easier situation to manage than a cylinder about to let go.

While Schumi fiddled around with the engine mapping and the fuel mix, spectators contemplated his first mechanical failure since 2001. His rivals were to be disappointed though, after a few laps into the mid 1:19seconds, the Ferrari picked the pace up again and motored through to the finish.

By Lap 40 he was back to 1:18.027 with Rubens Barrichello five seconds behind him. By Lap 43 he had increased that lap time to an outrageously quick 1:17.812 with a supposedly 'sick' car. To put the time in perspective, it was only 0.4 slower than his fastest lap of the race which he set on Lap 12.

The final pit-stops were completed with little drama, though Rubens Barrichello would have been surprised that his Ferrari pitcrew were very late bringing his tyres out, which contributed to a 10+ second stop

Such was the lack of dramatic action at Circuit de Catalunya this was one of the talking points of the race. Schumi pitted in 8.4 seconds and was already well clear of his team-mate.

On lap 46 Montoya pitted for an unscheduled fourth time, something was definitely wrong. His Williams thumped heavily into the front jack man, the car having no brakes at this stage.

It turned out that Montoya had been struggling from Lap 3 onwards with a long brake pedal, had lost them, regained them, then when he cane out after his final pit-stop, realised he had little stopping power at all and came back in again to retire. Team-mate Ralf Schumacher had a relatively uneventful race to 6th place.

From the final pit-stops to the flag there was little action. Fernando Alonso set off in pursuit of team-mate Jarno Trulli but failed to catch him. What he could actually have done had he caught him is a moot point, but he wanted to show the home fans, who had made the race a 110,000 sell-out, he was trying.

From the look of Jarno Trulli in the post-race press conference he too was trying to keep his advantage.

Jenson Button had made his way quietly up to 8th place and was homing in on the 7th place of Giancarlo Fisichella, but his charge stopped on Lap 61 when he started to drop time. Then from Lap 62 to the finish on Lap 66 he backed right off to bring his car home.

At the finish Michael Schumacher, despite a questionable exhaust, kept the hammer down right the way to the line. Rubens Barrichello made it a Ferrari 1-2 and another perfect day in the office for the Scuderia. Trulli led home Alonso, with Takuma Sato in 5th place.

A year ago Kimi Raikkonen had come into the race leading Michael Schumacher 32-18 in the World Championship. This year Raikkonen was lapped by the Ferrari on Lap 43 and the German now holds a 49-point advantage over the Finn, who could manage a dismal 11th place.

Though things can only get better for McLaren and Williams, they don't seem to be…

Result of the Spanish Grand Prix held at Barcelona on May 9th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'13"200
3.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'32"200
4.ALONSORenaultM+ 0'32"900
5.SATOBAR HondaB+ 0'42"300
6.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 1'13"800
7.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB+ 1'17"100
8.BUTTONBAR HondaB1 lap
9.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
10.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
11.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
12.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM1 lap
13.DA MATTAToyotaM30 laps
14.PANTANOJordan FordB15 laps
15.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM20 laps
16.KLEINJaguar CosworthM23 laps
17.PANISToyotaM33 laps
18.HEIDFELDJordan FordB33 laps
19.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB35 laps
20.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB49 laps

Tobacco exemption seals a new deal for Spain Saturday May 08 2004

Bernie Ecclestone has warned F1's European host nations that if they say no to tobacco advertising at races he will say no to putting their names on the F1 calendar. Speaking at Barcelona on Saturday, Ecclestone announced that the Spanish circuit had secured a deal that will have F1 remaining in Spain until 2011. However, the F1 supremo was quick to make it known that a large contributing factor in the renewed contract was Spain's willingness to grant the sport an exemption from any ban on the advertising of tobacco products.

"This contract is a normal standard contract that we have throughout Europe and it has a condition concerning tobacco legislation," he said.

"Although the (Spanish) government is very happy to support this new contract, we have to bear in mind that the contract is subject to the legislation about what is going to happen on tobacco."

"We hope that we can get that all sorted out so that we don't have to keep disappearing out of Europe. That is the last thing we want to do, especially leaving Barcelona."

A country's stance on tobacco advertising, though, isn't the only factor in whether they remain on the F1 calendar or not. As RACC president Sebastia Salvado pointed out, the facilities the circuit has to offer also have to reach Ecclestone's high standards.

"I'm very happy because F1 is showing again its trust in the Circuit de Catalunya. The challenge now is to guarantee the continuity of the facility, which is not going to be easy due to the new generation of tracks such as Bahrain and Shanghai," he said.

"That said, we believe that there are many grand prixs in Europe and that it's unavoidable that Europe will lose some of its races to some of the new tracks. Not only because of the new facilities that have been built, but also because of some of the new regulations on tobacco that makes Europe a less competitive place than other countries."

Now let's hear what you've got to say about this story... or anything else happening in the world of F1. Send your opinions, rants, praise or abuse to letters@planet-f1.com

Button gets closest to Schumacher Friday, May 7, 2004 Posted: 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
Schumacher is seeking his sixth Spanish Grand Prix victory.

Schumacher is seeking his sixth Spanish Grand Prix victory.

BARCELONA, Spain -- Six-times world champion Michael Schumacher set the pace in practice for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

The Ferrari driver lapped the 4.627-kilometer circuit in one minute 15.658 seconds during the morning session -- more than two seconds quicker than his pole position time last year.

But Schumacher was out-paced in the afternoon by BAR's Jenson Button -- the only other driver to clock under one minute 16 seconds.

A win for Schumacher on Sunday would see him equal Nigel Mansell's record run of five wins at the start of the 1992 season.

Button, the surprise of the season so far, is seeking his fourth straight podium appearance.

BAR put in another strong session with test driver Anthony Davidson taking second place in the afternoon session 0.253 seconds behind Button.

Schumacher could manage just seventh in the second session, while teammate Rubens Barrichello also set his best time of 1:16.033 during the morning.

Button played down the significance of his afternoon success.

"Today means nothing really," said the Briton.

"We have just been running through our program, we do a tire comparison on Fridays normally and it has gone very smoothly.

"I had a few problems this morning with the set up of the car because it was quite windy and obviously the circuit was quite dusty, but this afternoon we sorted out some of the problems.

"But we still have a long way to go. The car is not perfect yet. We have got a lot of things to do tonight and hopefully we will get up there.

"The Ferraris always seem to be very quick in the first session and in the second it seems to be a lot closer. Nothing unusual there. The car is strong but we are still nowhere near where we want to be."

Spanish favorite Fernando Alonso of Renault, who finished second in front of his home crowd last season, was seventh quickest during the morning and fifth in the afternoon.

Schumacher has won the last three Spanish Grands Prix and is seeking his sixth career win in the race.

Schumi: 'Jenson is now my biggest rival' 26/04/04
Jenson Button

Michael Schumacher has hailed the 'unbelievable' Jenson Button as his 'biggest rival' for the World Championship this season.

Schumi may have ultimately cruised to his fourth win from four races at Imola on Sunday, but in the opening nine laps, when Button held off Schumi's Ferrari, the BAR driver did enough to earn the World Championship's respect as well as his surprise.

"It was mind-blowing what Jenson put up in front. I thought it was raining in front of me and it was dry for him. He was just disappearing into nowhere and I was really wondering...I saw the lap times, low 1m 21s, and he was pulling away and I thought this is going to be a very very busy and tough afternoon," Schumi said.

It's been a remarkable turnaround for Button.

Dumped by Williams after his first year in F1, he suffered a similar fate at Renault in 2001. He arrived at BAR without a podium finish and derided by Jacques Villeneuve as a boy-band member. 18 months later, following his third successive podium, and best-ever result, Button finds himself described by Michael Schumacher as his major rival.

"He's fully into it, he's my biggest rival, absolutely," the World Champion confirmed. "I couldn't believe Jenson's pace to the first stop - unbelievable."

Once considered to be a playboy, Button is also displaying all the hallmarks and temperament of a driver comfortable to lead from the front.

Having set a qualifying lap so quick that it even prompted the rare event of a Schumi mistake, Jenson was remarkably unflustered as he began a grand prix from pole position for the first time in his F1 career. Apparently unaffected by nerves, the Englishman comfortably held on to his lead before the first round of pit-stops when Ferrari's superior pace prevailed. Compare and contrast Button's smooth start to Mark Webber's backward step when he began the Malaysian GP alongside Schumacher.

"He was very relaxed about it," said BAR boss Dave Richards, "and he did probably the best start he's made all season, so you could tell the pressure didn't get to him at all."

What's more, Button has even adopted Schumi-like tactics across the weekend.

His BAR mechanics were alarmed when, throughout the Imola practice sessions, Button's pace tailed off in the final sector. The reason? He was deliberately easing off to disguise the true extent of his pace before qualifying.

San Marino GP Race Report: Schumi destroys Button's dream 25/04/04
Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher claimed win number four of the season at Imola on Sunday, putting an end to pole-sitter Jenson Button's dream of winning his first race.

The six-times World Champion scored a dominant victory from Jenson Button and a distant Juan-Pablo Montoya who kept a fast-finishing Fernando Alonso behind him at the close of the race.

It was perhaps fitting that Michael Schumacher should win what could be the last grand prix at Imola for Ferrari. Though he had an exciting opening lap with some close attention from the BMW-Williams of Juan Montoya, he robustly kept the Colombian behind him and set off after Jenson Button.

Once San Marino's official amabassador was on the track alone, Button having dived in for his first pit-stop at the end of lap 9, he put in two stellar laps, took two seconds off him in the pitstop, came out in front and that was it - race, effectively over.

The perceived view on the grid was that after five hours of rain overnight the rubber that had been laid down on the grid on Friday and Saturday would be washed away and given a green track, Schumacher with his Bridgestones would be fastest in the opening stint. And so it proved.

The air temperature at the start was just 19 degrees Celsius, but the track temperature was as high as 38 degrees.

When the red lights went out, Jenson showed maximum composure as he got away from his first ever pole position cleanly. Behind him it was more push and shove, Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were both away slowly, while Ralf Schumacher starting from 5th had a dazzling start and shaped to pass his team-mate.

Montoya got his act together, resisted Ralf and pressured Schumi into the first corner, Ralf meanwhile had dragged Takuma Sato forward with him and both were able to get past Rubens Barrichello starting from 4th.

Further back down the field David Coulthard ruined his afternoon by braking too late into the first chicane and going straight on into the gravel minus his front wing. It meant an immediate stop and an exercise in Mercedes reliability and very little else.

The No.1 Ferrari now had a BMW-Williams glued to its rear wing and coming down to the Villeneuve chicane Montoya dived for the inside only to be immediately blocked by a trademark Schumacher weave.

It was legal, no doubt expected and highly effective.

Going into the Tosa hairpin, though, Montoya chose the ouside line instead and actually had his car on the outside of Schumacher's. The World Champion used all of the track though, even though he knew there was a car outside of him. The Ferrari washed out wide, hit the BMW-Williams, pushing it onto the grass and sped away up the hill, still in front.

Surprisngly, the race stewards saw nothing wrong with it, possibly because they didn't see enough of it. (For a full review of the incident see Race Winners + Losers feature)

The result was that Montoya's challenge was over and he was now under pressure from 4th place Ralf, who came charging up the hill towards Piratella as Juan eased across to take the racing line. There was nowhere for the other BMW-Williams to go and so Ralf had to put two wheels on the grass. He lost momentum and immediately Takuma Sato was past him and up into 4th place.

Given what was to happen to Rubens Barrichello through the course of the afternoon when he got stuck behind slower cars, Schumi's strong-arm defence of second place was definitely the right course of action. However, it temporarily put him 2.7 seconds behind Jenson Button,

At the end of the first lap the BAR-Honda didn't come through with a red car attached to its carbon gearbox as predicted, but had the 2.7 margin over Schumi, Montoya was 3rd, Sato in 4th, then Ralf Schumacher in 5th, Rubens in 6th, Jarno Trulli 7th, Mark Webber 8th and Alonso 9th.

The race never got as frantic again, with almost all positional changes down to pit-stops. In the next few laps the gap from leader Jenson Button to Schumi closed from 2.7 to 2.1, to 1.4, to 0.9 and by Lap 6, 0.7 seconds. At that distance it's difficult to close because of aerodynamic turbulence and so the World Champion sat behind till the pit-stops.

Afterwards Schumi was full of praise about Jenson's early pace - the Brit showed no nervousness leading and made no mistakes. “He was just disappearing into nowhere,” said Michael, “I thought it's going to be a busy and tough afternoon.”

On Lap 9, Jenson was in for a 9.7 second stop just as Ferrari's No.1 put the hammer down, turning the timecharts purple with five successive fastest sectors of the race and a 1:20.411 fastest lap. At the end of Lap 11, Schumi came in for a 7.8 second stop, rejoined in the lead and that was that.

Further back Takuma Sato in the second BAR-Honda was holding up a queue of cars: Ralf Schumacher, Barrichello, Trulli, Webber and Alonso were lined up behind. Kimi Raikkonen, starting from the back of the grid, was up into 15th place but making slow progress.

Da Matta in the Toyota and Massa in the Sauber had been first in for pit-stops on Lap 7, followed by Montoya on Lap 8, Button Lap 9, Schumi in Lap 11. Jarno Trulli was the last of the front runners to make a pit-stop and took advantage.

When the field 're-assembled' on Lap 13 the Renault driver had jumped into 4th place ahead of Ralf Schumacher in 5th, with Barrichello in 6th, Alonso 7th and big loser Takuma Sato falling to 8th place. The Japanese would remain there until five laps home when his engine would expire in a cloud of Honda smoke. Webber also faded after two cylinders on his Jaguar's Cosworth engine started misfiring.

At this stage of the race Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was going away at a second a lap and any realistic chance that Jenson had was rapidly disappearing. Because Button had had a longer first pit-stop and was now going much slower than the Ferrari, it was assumed that he had taken on more fuel and might be going for a two-stopper instead of the predicted three. But no, he was just slower.

When the second place BAR-Honda dived down the pitlane again for his second pit-stop on Lap 26 - and before Michael had made his second stop - it was clear that there was no catching Schumacher. Jenson himself was under no pressure from Montoya who was falling behind Button at the same rate that Button was falling behind the leader. Fourth place was far more hotly contested with Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello scrapping it out all afternoon.

Ralf had to employ tactics borrowed from his brother to keep Rubens Barrichello from snatching 5th place and as both cars dived into the pitlane at the end of Lap 28 it looked to be a race of the pit-stops. Ferrari got their man away marginally quicker than Williams, but Carl Gaden on the Williams lollypop kept his nerve and released Ralf just in front of Rubens.

After the race Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn complained that it was too close a call to make and that Rubens had to take avoiding action, though the race stewards, as in the earlier Schumacher incident, saw nothing in it. Nevertheless, Brawn said he would be making enquiries with the FIA afterwards.

Rubens failure to grab the place was to prove fateful as Ralf sped up and overtook Jarno Trulli in the pit-stops. So on Lap 32, when the second round of pit-stops had been completed, it was Michael Schumacher with a fifteen second lead from Button, who had a 19 second gap to Montoya, then Ralf in 4th, Trulli 5th, Barrichello 6th, Alonso 7th and Sato 8th.

The reshuffle after the third pit-stops was to prove even worse for Rubens, when both Renaults came out in front of him and with Fernando Alonso leapfrogging his team-mate up into 5th place.

This then became 4th place for Alonso after he closed rapidly on Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams and lunged up the inside into Tosa. Ralf didn't realise he was coming and closed the door with the Renault more than halfway alongside. The resulting contact spun the BMW-Williams round and let the Renault through, along with Trulli and a grateful Barrichello. Seventh place with the same machinery as the winner would have been dreadful, though 6th was still less than expected.

It took the stewards seven laps to decide that they would be investigating the incident after the race, though on the face of it, Ralf didn't look the guilty party, as he had been in Bahrain with Sato. It looked more a case of miscalculated opportunism from Alonso - had Schumacher seen him coming he would have probably covered his line more effectively than he did.

Once he was past Ralf, Fernando closed quickly on Juan Montoya's podium place and in the closing stages of the race there were two keen pursuits - Alonso on Montoya and Barrichello on Trulli. On Lap 58 (four to go) both were just 0.6 seconds behind but unable to engineer a serious passing move.

Schumi backed right off and crossed the line just 9.7 seconds ahead of Jenson Button, who had a small scare when Takuma Sato's engine let go on Lap 57. Though he backed off by six seconds on one subsequent lap, at the end the Brit was lapping at normal speed. Kimi Raikkonen inherited the final points scoring position - perhaps more importantly, both Mclarens finished the race without emitting smoke.

So, four wins out of four for Michael Schumacher, his 74th career win and his sixth San Marino Grand Prix. No wonder they made him ambassador.

Result of the San Marino Grand Prix held at Imola on April 25th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'09"702
3.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM+ 0'21"617
4.ALONSORenaultM+ 0'23"654
5.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'36"216
6.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'36"683
7.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 0'55"700
8.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
9.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
10.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
11.PANISToyotaM1 lap
12.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
13.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM1 lap
14.KLEINJaguar CosworthM2 laps
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB4 laps
16.SATOBAR HondaB6 laps
17.HEIDFELDJordan FordB14 laps
18.DA MATTAToyotaM30 laps
19.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB40 laps
20.PANTANOJordan FordB56 laps

Bahrain GP Race Report: Schumi's the king of the desert 04/04/04
Incident with Ralph and Sato

A new venue but the same old story as Ferrari and Michael Schumacher continued their dominant reign of 2004 in Bahrain. The World Champion took his third successive victory of the year, with Rubens Barrichello clinching yet another Ferrari 1-2.

Taking advantage of Juan Pablo Montoya's ailing Williams in the closing stages, Jenson Button reminded everyone about the old adage about London buses by grabbing his second podium of his F1 career just two weeks after his first.

A Schumi victory has come a familiar sight over the years, but there will have been few victories for the German as comfortable as this.

The start-line was the closest anyone came to him all afternoon, with the six-times World Championship leading from start to finish. Such was his dominance that he was given approximately the same amount of TV coverage as the Minardis.

Down the field, however, there were a plethora of fights for position and drama, although in McLaren's case the drama increasingly resembles a horror-show.

For the third race in a row, Kimi Raikkonen's afternoon was brought to a premature end by an engine failure. Having been beaten by Schumi to the World Championship by a single point last season, Kimi now trails the Ferrari driver by thirty.

To complete a dream afternoon for Schumi, a gearbox malfunction resulted in Juan-Pablo Montoya slipping back from the third position he had monopolised all afternoon with ten laps remaining to completely out of the points by the time Schumi cruised over the line with Rubens in tow.

The happy beneficiary was Jenson Button, taking his second successive podium on a day when BAR showed real pace once again. The Englishman is now third in the Drivers' Standing.

The day had begun well for Schumi when the expected searing heat of the desert failed to materialise. A temperature hovering around the 30 degrees mark was some 20 cooler than it had been for the weekend.

The first corner was a non-event at the front; despite a puff of black smoke under braking, Michael led easily from Rubens with Juan making little impression.

Jenson Button had lost out in qualifying to his team-mate and the first lap was a similar story - while Sato jumped ahead of Ralf, Button slipped to seventh and was once again fighting with Jarno Trulli.

And for the third race in a row, Ralf Schumacher was at the centre of controversy in the early stages.

Chasing down Sato, Ralf slipped marginally ahead at the first corner. But he squeezed the BAR to the point of suffocation with the inevitable result of Sato ramming into the rear-left of the Williams, shunting Ralf into the gravel.

The stewards subsequently announced that they would be investigating the incident after the race.

For Ralf there was also an immediate punishment: a visit to the pits for a check-up, while Sato continued on his merry way.

With Schumi disappearing into the distance, attention focused on the battles between Jaguars and McLarens. Coulthard and Webber were separated by a tenth of a second in their duel for ninth, but even more remarkable was the sight of Kimi Raikkonen, the bookies' joint pre-season favourite for the World Championship, being challenged by rookie Christian Klien for 14th.

Twice in two laps, Klien overtook Raikkonen, although in both cases he went in too deep to hold the position.

A third attempt was more successful and, in Kimi's case, more catastrophic. With Klien at his side on the inside, Kimi's engine blew - the fourth engine failure of his season. Was that the Finn's World Championship hopes going up in smoke, too?

The first round of pit stops began on lap nine, and it was Schumi who was first of the frontrunners to refuel. Rubens followed him in a lap later, and whilst he lost a couple of seconds to Juan, the Brazilian was still able to keep second comfortably.

Webber and Coulthard were more like WebberandCoulthard at this point, and they even ducked into the pits at the same. DC just had the edge but it was mighty close; Webber went side-by-side with the McLaren up the pitlane before eventually giving way.

Schumi had emerged behind the relatively late-stopping BARs, with Jenson taking advantage of Ralf's demise to close the gap on his team-mate.

Schumi wasn't held up for long; Sato was first in on lap 11, Button, clearly the quicker of the pair, next time around.

Only a minor delay due to a 'release problem' on his rear jack problem meant that Button was unable to overtake him in the pits, but it wasn't long before Sato, being Sato, handed fourth to Jenson on a plate.

Under no immediate pressure, the Japanese starlet simply ran wide onto Bahrain's abrasive curbs, damaging his front wing in the process - damage enough to force him to pit. So soon after his opening fuel stop, it was an extra-costly mistake by F1's Wildman (and that's not a complimentary term in F1).

All the time, Michael was running clear at the front.

After the first round of pit-stops, the World Champion was 11 seconds on up Rubens and fifteen on Juan. Apparently cruising, he was still a second quicker than the rest of the field.

It was clear that Bahrain's battles were to be confined to the midfield and for the minor points-positions.

Mimicking a mistake by his younger team-mate, Webber had let Coulthard off the hook by visiting the gravel, and at the halfway stage found himself battling for the final points-position with Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard, who had had to visit the pits on the opening lap for a new nose, had been gradually making his way up the field. The Renault was clearly quicker than the Jaguar but overtaking was anything but a formality.

At first just feisty, Webber stretched the rule book with a late block that, whilst legal, verged on the dangerous. Alonso's response was a less effective stretch of his middle finger in Webber's direction.

Finally, when Webber made a mistake at Turn One, Alonso was able to get past - but not without the Aussie putting F1's equivalent of a warning shot across Fernando's bows: a nose cone within inches of the R24's sidepods.

Take a moment to consider the thought of these two as team-mates at Renault in 2005…

Meanwhile, a second slow pit-stop cost Jenson two seconds compared to Juan but it was clear that the BARs were once again in position to launch an assault on F1's big guns.

Wild he may be, but Sato's pace at this stage compared favourably with that of Button and he pulled off a brave, ballsy move around Coulthard, just managing to keep his BAR on line as he exited the second corner.

The sole McLaren's speed was sluggish, and Alonso, released from behind Webber's Jaguar duly took DC at his third pit-stop. He then immediately began harassing Sato for seventh - a squabble that would continue all the way to the finish-line.

Schumi was out of sight at this stage, but with twenty laps remaining, Montoya began to fall adrift of Rubens and into the clutches of his pursuers, with just a meagre seven seconds covering Montoya, Trulli and Button.

Ralf, meanwhile, was having more fun and games on the fringes of the points. Another collision occurred, this time with the Williams clipping Fisichella's Sauber, sent Fisi into a spin and demoted him behind the anonymous Toyotas.

Trulli had lost time when lapping the Jordans and Button was able to overtake the Renault at his third and final pit-stop.

Five seconds now separated Jenson from Montoya, and with the BAR fractionally, but demonstrably, quicker a titanic battle for third appeared to be on the cards.

It wasn't to be.

A gearbox problem on the FW26 meant the fight soon resembled a feather-weight against a middleweight. Button romped past, so did Trulli, and with eight laps remaining it was clear that Sato and Alonso would complete Williams' bad day. With four laps remaining, they duly did - the extra grunt of the BAR keeping the pair in that order all the way to the chequered flag.

Michael, maintaining a gap of approximately 12 seconds over Barrichello, was in cruise-control. Having been lapping in the 1:31s, he backed off. But only to lap times of 1:32s - the pace of the BARs, Renaults, and Ralf Schumacher's Williams. This was dominance with comfort.

But the action hadn't ended up down the field.

To the clear surprise of his McLaren team, David Coulthard suddenly parked his MP4-19 outside their garage. With nobody prepared to greet him, the Scot carried on…but only for approximately 100 yards before retiring at the end of the pitlane.

Ralf had inherited the final points-position from Coulthard and as he swept past his ailing team-mate, he doubled his haul. Webber duly slipped past Montoya, to leave Juan point-less and Jaguar off the mark for 2004.

Yet while both the Williams and McLaren teams stared on as points evaporated in front of their eyes, Schumi basked in Ferrari's latest demonstration of achieving field-beating pace tallied with the field's best reliability.

Taking his foot off the pedal, a final lap of 1:39.59 meant that Rubens was able to cross the finish-line in formation.

A jubilant Schumi emerged from his Ferrari to call it a "dream result". With his premier pre-season rival yet to score in 2004 and enduring a nightmare campaign, coupled with the unfortunate Montoya slipping 18 points adrift, nobody quibbled with the World Champion' assessment - just as nobody had seriously questioned his lead all afternoon.

The World Champion simply reigned supreme in Bahrain.

Pete Gill

Result of the Bahrain Grand Prix held on April 4th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'01"300
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'26"600
4.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'38"500
5.SATOBAR HondaB+ 1'00"500
6.ALONSORenaultM+ 1'01"300
7.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 1'09"800
8.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM1 lap
9.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM1 lap
10.PANISToyotaM1 lap
11.DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap
12.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
13.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
14.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
15.HEIDFELDJordan FordB1 lap
16.PANTANOJordan FordB2 laps
17.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB5 laps
18.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesMretired 50 laps
19.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthBretired 44 laps
20.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesMretired 7 laps

Bahrain GP: Race Winners & Losers 05/04/04
Jenson and Schumi

Schumi won't go away, even if the TV producers try to ignore him...

Star of the Race Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1st
The rainmaster reigned supreme in Bahrain to take the title of the King of the desert.

It would be nice to see how he - or, to be precise, his Bridgestones tyres - cope when the sun shines but so far every race day has dawned considerably cooler than the rest of the weekend.

No wonder he goes by the name of God in some parts.

The downside for his legion of fans is that his dominance is such a turn-off, literally, for the general public that TV producers now opt for a strategy of pretending he's not in the race. Unless he's challenged, the Schumi disciples should expect to only see their hero twice on a Sunday afternoon: at the first corner and two hours later when he leaps on to the top step of the podium.

WINNERS Jenson Button, BAR, 3rd
The 2003 Boy Band member is rapidly becoming the Boy Wonder of 2004. And he certainly was rapid on Sunday. "Simply incredible" was Dave Richards' view.

Just like with London buses, having waited all that time for his first podium, another promptly turned up straight away.

Jenson was still a long way short of the Ferraris, and needed a super-quick third pit-stop and a malfunctioning Williams gearbox to leapfrog Jarno Trulli and Juan Pablo for third. However, if and when those Michelins start kicking in at Ferrari-Bridgestone's expense, he'll be among those first in line to make that dream of climbing to the top step a reality.

After five years of promises, BAR are now a team of performances and points. A haul of ten represents the best result in their history.

Although Ferrari retain an advantage of approximately half a second per lap, Jenson proved that his third place in Malaysia was no flash-in-the-pan fluke by matching the pace of the Williams and Renault (McLaren have ceased to be a point of reference) throughout the race. And, when it mattered, outpacing them.

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 2nd
I confess, I'm no fan of Rubens. Put bluntly, anyone who is happy to settle for second doesn't deserve one second's admiration in my book.

After the race, Rubens described his car as "great". If that was the case then why was Michael so comfortable all afternoon? A World Championship challenge is what Rubens promised but instead all he has delivered is a dutiful impression of a first reserve and excuses. Brakes and a sluggish pit-stop were the latest.

But it's not only Rubens' brakes that are wearing thin.

Takuma Sato, BAR-Honda, 5th
It's fortunate for Takuma that the BAR is so quick else his decision to rallycross along the curbs on lap 17 would have ruined his race and prompted another debate about whether it's his nationality or ability that secured his seat.

Earns plaudits for resisting Alonso during the final ten laps, and won the award for move-of-the-day by riding around Coulthard - although the praise should be diluted by the acknowledgment that overtaking a McLaren in 2004 is the equivalent of passing a Sauber in 2003.

Mark Webber, Jaguar, 8th
Off the mark for 2004 but it's the marker he set down to Fernando Alonso that may be more significant.

Should Webber leave Jaguar at the end of the season, Renault is a more likely destination than Williams. If so, Sunday's race will give Fernando Alonso something to think about.

Only the telemetry will reveal whether Webber did brake-test the Spaniard, while Alonso's on-board camera gave a clearer indication of just how late Webber's block was. Dirty? Yup. But compare that to the way that Jarno 'After you, sir' Trulli let Schumi past after his second pit-stop and Webber's move metamorphosed itself into that of a fully-committed, gutsy racing driver.

Christian Klien, Jaguar, 14th
Cocky in the Friday press conference, ballsy on Sunday.

Committed one costly mistake, but made Felipe Massa look like a rookie with his move on the Sauber.

Better still was his duel with Kimi. Twice he went past the McLaren during the opening laps, only to immediately hand back the position. Eventually he fathomed out how to exit a corner almost as fast as he entered it. It was a shame for Calvin that Kimi's engine blew up when it did because the Jaguar was already past when the Mercedes engine did its now traditional re-run of the Towering Inferno.

The Ron Dennis Guide To Clear Thinking
"Both Kimi and David could have finished in the points today but to do that you have to finish."



An utter shambles. In three races, McLaren have fallen from a team challenging for a World Championship to one not worthy of a place in a Big Five.

Only three cars retired on Sunday, two were McLarens. The other was a Minardi. And their pace matches their reliability.

With ten laps remaining, Schumi slowed up by a second, to begin lapping in the 1:32.00s. At that stage, David Coulthard, fighting to remain in the points, was lapping in the 1:32.00s.

Crisis meetings aren't enough any more.

The nuances of the McLaren-Mercedes relationship mean that the blame game has blown up just yet but that's the only thing that hasn't.

Development of the MP4-19 has been made more problematic by McLaren's decision to launch the car so early and it's worth recalling just why McLaren decided to launch in November. Take it away, Ron:

"If you launch late then you create a car which has benefited from more research than those launched earlier. Very often that creates a car with more development potential, too.

"However, we felt that the earlier we produced it, and the earlier we would be able to place it at the disposal of our partner Mercedes-Benz, the better able they would be to sort the glitches that inevitably arise when a new engine is mated to a new chassis - which will be especially critical now that an engine must last an entire grand prix weekend."

Juan-Pablo Montoya
Because he's joining McLaren next season.

Ralf Schumacher, Williams, 7th
Ralf reckons that when he and his brother are together they no longer talk about Formula One. It's not hard to fathom out why.

Having tangled with Juan Pablo in Melbourne and Webber in Malaysia, betting on Ralf making it three out of three in Bahrain was a wise move. What we weren't expecting was Ralf having three incidents in one afternoon.

The collision with Sato has resulted in a reprimand for Ralf. If it had been Sato who had lost position, rather than Ralf, then no doubt the punishment would have been something more tangible. To add insult to a battered reputation, Sato then showed how the move should have been done when he went round Coulthard.

With his contract expiring at the end of this season, this is no time for Ralf to be ballsing-up. Hitting his own pit-crew will do little to impress, either. "A bloody mess," was Patrick Head's succinct assessment of Ralf's afternoon.

Perhaps it's time the Schumacher brothers started talking about F1. Ralf might learn something.

Willi Weber
Oh, for a picture of Willi's face as Ralf was shunted off. There was talk earlier this week of a £60m deal with Toyota but not even smooth-tongued Willi will wrangle that now.

Jarno Trulli, Renault, 4th
True, he finished fourth, but…

"I'm very pleased with the result, but cannot help feeling it is slightly incomplete: we were capable of getting on to the podium this afternoon."

You said it.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, 6th
For the second race in a row, Alonso and Renault leave with less than half the number of points they should have earned.

Considering he recorded a second-fastest lap of the race, sixth place was a poor return. Yet that's the price you pay for making a hash of qualifying for the second race in a row.

Schumi has opted for a strategy of low-fuelling to make sure he is leading at the first corner and clear of trouble. Even from the second row of the grid, the quick-starting Renault may manage to scupper that plan. It certainly won't from the tenth, however.

And by the way, Fernando, when you're driving along at 180mph with a wing mirror the size of a keyboard mouse, you're not going to see the bloke behind you waving his arm around. So don't bother next time.

Felipe Massa, Sauber, 13th
To lose one position in a single corner may be regarded as misfortune, to lose two seems like carelessness.

Jacques Villeneuve
Out of the sport but still marooned in F1's firing line.

The problem for Jacques is that every result is giving extra credence to Dave Richards' decision to axe him and the whispering campaign that followed.

Jacques and Jenson were evenly matched in 2004, and if Jenson did have the edge (9-8 in qualifying), JV was a lot, lot closer to Jense than Takuma is. Unfortunately for JV, you can't argue with results.

BAR's rise may have more to do with a switch to Michelin tyres and Geoff Willis designing a nifty motor-car than the supposed effect of Jacques' disruptive influence, but it's an argument which is fighting against an increasingly strong tide...

Explaining Why F1 Is Worth Watching
It's all very well breathlessly harping on about action further down the field - and ITV, faced with the prospect declining viewing audiences uninterested in the prospect of another Schumi-fest, certainly did just that - but squabbles over ninth are not why punters tune in.

James Allen just sounds pathetic when he says, "This was a really fantastic race and if the Ferraris hadn't been in it, it would have been a classic."

Well, James, they were and it wasn't.

It's like when you take a young lady out on a date and have to respond to your mates' enquiries the following evening. Telling them you had a nice meal and a pleasant evening won't do; unless there's some action where it counts, nobody is gonna be impressed.

Pete Gill

A lap of Bahrain with Coulthard Racing series F1 Date 2004-03-30
Mclaren in Bahrain

McLaren's David Coulthard predicts how a lap of the new Bahrain circuit will be from a driver's point of view.

"Although I've yet to drive the circuit, we obviously have information regarding the track available to us and can say that a lap of the new track at the Bahrain International Circuit begins on the long start-finish straight, which is just over one kilometre. We will probably reach the highest speeds on the circuit along the straight before braking hard for the slow tight right of turn one."

"A short burst of power takes you to a left hander, which we may take quite quickly, keeping on the power through the turn, before the slight right of turn three that flicks you onto the second and shortest of the four straights. We will power along here, probably in top gear before dropping down the gears for the tight right of turn four."

"The sweeping left-right-left of turns five, six and seven follow, and we think this will be a very quick sequence as we meander through the back of the circuit. We then will pick up speed on the exit for the short run down to the hairpin of turn eight. Another quick burst takes you to the two left handers of nine and ten, which will probably start off quite fast and then see us slow for ten."

"This then swings you round onto the third main straight that runs parallel to the start-finish straight. We should pick up significant speed before braking for the long left double-apex of eleven. It will probably be important to maintain our speed through here, as it leads onto another long and fast sweeping section of the track."

"This then takes us to the long right of turn 14 which swings the track round onto the final straight. Powering up through the gears before braking for the final two right handers, which take you back onto the long start-finish straight to start another lap."



It is not that Michael Schumacher is the best driver in formula one. It is not that Ferrari have manufactured the best car. It is that Michael Schumacher thinks that he is the best driver and that Ferrari think that they have the best car. It is pure psychology. If you think you are the best, you are the best. There are many good drivers. There are many good cars. It is just that they do not believe that they are the best. Remember when Montoya had a faster car and was lapping faster than Michael Schumacher, yet he could not overtake him. Remember Ralph Schumacher almost in tears when he was asking what more his team could do to win. Williams had done everything and probably had a faster car at the time. Michael Schumacher can be beaten. You just have to know it.

Malaysian GP Race Report: Schumi triumphs over Sepang heat 21/03/04
Mark Webber and Ralph Schumacher touch

Michael Schumacher claimed win number two of the season at the Malaysian Grand Prix, beating Juan Pablo Montoya to the chequered flag. But it was Jenson Button who claimed the headlines for finally clinching his first podium finish.

It was a closely fought race with Juan Montoya never letting the World Champion out of his sight, but never in a position to make a move past the No.1 Ferrari.

Behind him Jenson Button scored his first podium in 68 races, fully justifying the team's massive pre-season optimism. It was a third place that Jenson earned, the BAR-Honda driver managed to get ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren before the Finn retired from 4th place.

After the race a fully energised Michael did his traditional leap onto Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, proving that his physical condition at the end of 56 gruelling laps round Sepang matched the state of his car - faultless.

It was a heartbraking race for Jaguar's Mark Webber who started from the front row but got bogged down on the line and finished the first lap in 9th place. An unwise overtaking move by Ralf Schumacher then shredded his rear tyre forcing him to pit early and slip right down the field. He then suffered a drive through penalty and later skidded off into the gravel.

Fernando Alonso started from the back of the grid and bulleted his way up to 10th by the end of the opening lap but from there on failed to make progress. Jarno Trulli had a similarly uninspired race after a promising start.

The race didn't quite pan out as planned, mainly because the temperatures on race day were a full ten degrees down from Qualifying on Saturday. With Michael Schumacher running the softer Bridgestone and Rubens Barrichello the harder Bridgestone tyre, Rubens had thought it was going to be his race today. However as the cars lined up on the grid, it was clear that the cooler conditions were going to suit Schumacher's choice. Had it been a mid-50s track temperature we might have had an entirely different result.

Before the off, the weathermen had predicted a 5% possibility of rain, but as the cars lined up for the start there was moisture in the air. And as the cars set off on their parade lap a small amount of rain started to fall. It immediately caught out Raikkonen who spun on the parade lap but managed to filter back to his correct starting point on the grid.

Unlike Qualifying, where track temperatures had swung between 52 and 55 degrees Celsius, at the start of the race the ambient temperature was 34 and the track temperature just 42 degrees.

The lights went out and immediately the green car on the front row was in trouble. Crawling away from its place in P2, Mark Webber's Jaguar must have dropped down to 12th or 13th before the first corner, but some muscular lines through Turn 1, 2 , 3, 4 and 5 were to see him regain places.

At the front, Michael Schumacher had another effortless getaway, the Ferrari leaving the line a lot better than most of its rivals.

Button and Trulli indulged in some very dramatic, but very fair, side-by-side manoeuvres through the opening turns. Trulli made it through to 5th, Jenson took it back, then Jarno regained it.

So at the end of the opening lap it was: Michael Schumacher from Barrichello, Montoya in third, lucky not to be delayed by the slow-starting car in front of him, Raikkonen in fourth, Trulli, Button, Coulthard, and Ralf Schumacher in 8th place. Webber was in 9th with Alonso 10th.

Further back, an aggressive Takuma Sato managed to edge Giancarlo Fisichella's Sauber off the track on his way past.

The World Champion immediately had a two second lead but that was all to change on Lap 2 when the rain began to make an impression. The Michelin tyres work much better than the Bridgestones in conditions when the surface of the track is slightly damp. The slippery surface caught out Rubens Barrichello who ran wide in Turn 4 and lost momentum, allowing both Montoya and Raikkonen past into second and third.

Montoya then closed right up on Michael Schumacher and started to breath down his gearbox.

At the same time, at the beginning of Lap 3, Barrichello started to come under pressure from Jenson Button. Button had just got ahead of Jarno Trulli, then seconds later, Trulli duly took him back. Half a lap later, as the Renault waggled on the wet track, Button launched an audacious passing manoeuvre round the outside of the Renault driver which came off. Barrichello stayed ahead of them both, though.

At the next corner, and just meters behind the Trulli/Button spat, an aggressive move by the recovering Mark Webber muscled Ralf Schumacher off track to get past him. Ralf also lost a place to Fernando Alonso as a consequence of running wide onto the rumble strips to avoid colliding with the Jaguar.

It was all happening.

Alonso was on a charge and Webber didn't want him to get past. At the beginning of Lap 4 we saw a repeat of the move that Michael Schumacher pulled on Fernando at the 2003 British Grand Prix when Schumacher moved to the edge of the track on the Hangar Straight in a (legal) blocking move that had Alonso's Renault onto the grass coming into Stowe corner.

This time it was the pit straight and pitwall and Webber's Jaguar was so close to the pitwall - on what is one of the widest straights in F1 - that there wasn't even a car's width to spare for the Renault to squeeze through. It didn't do him any good, Fernando simply switched to the other side of the track and outbraked him on the outside into Turn 1.

At this point there was a train of cars lining up behind Coulthard in 7th. DC led Alonso, Webber, Ralf Schumacher and Felipe Massa's Sauber keen to join in.

But on the following lap Ralf Schumacher tried to go up the inside of the Jaguar into Turn 1 and was woefully short of where he should have been. Webber gave him room but Ralf's frontwing endplate speared into the right rear tyre of the Jaguar, puncturing it.

After the race Ralf complained that he was not given room but it was a miscalculated and over-ambitious move, because the BMW-Williams could easily have lost its wing. Mark Webber blamed a "pretty p***ed off" Ralf, but really, given the move he'd made on Ralf the previous lap, it was knock for knock.

The rain looked to have finished its brief appearance and Schumi was able to pull out a 1.8 second lead from Montoya at the end of Lap 4. During this short phase of the race Barrichello had lost ground at 5 seconds a lap to his team leader and was never to come back at either Raikkonen or Montoya in the race.

Takuma Sato left the track and got his BAR-Honda 006 into the gravel, but unlike Qualifying he kept it going and rejoined the race.

By Lap 5, the race started to settle down into a pattern.

Coulthard became the fastest driver in Sector one in his bid to keep Fernando Alonso at bay, but following his meteoric start Alonso became well and truly stuck behind the Mclaren-Mercedes and would end his afternoon there.

By Lap 8 Mark Webber's misery had been compounded by a pitlane speeding violation, at which point the first pit-stops began to take place.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the first in, followed a lap later by Michael Schumacher, DC and Alonso. When Trulli, Raikkonen and Barrichello pitted the following lap it was clear that the fuel strategy of the top teams was remarkably similar. It also meant that the qualifying gap of 0.7 between the two Ferrari drivers was partly down to the tyre difference, but little to do with fuel levels.

By the time he pitted Schumacher had enough of a cushion to stay in front of Montoya. If anything Montoya went backwards during this time with some slow laps in which Jenson Button outpaced him by 0.5 of a second.

The two BMW-Williams came in on Lap 12 and 13 and the order was then Schumi, Montoya, Raikkonen, Trulli (who'd jumped ahead of Barrichello in the pitstops), Button, who'd leapfrogged Barrichello and almost took Trulli too. Jenson arrived on the track near Turn 1 after his pitstop just as the Renault driver arrived. Trulli dropped behind, Jenson edged in front, then Trulli took the line into Turn 3 and was away.

On new tyres the BMW-Williams of Montoya was off on a charge. Juan immediately put in a 1:34.649 fastest lap, which was 1.8 seconds quicker than race leader Michael Schumacher. Early on in each stint the Michelins were working well, and then later on in the stint the Bridgestones of the Ferrari came into their own. So Juan narrowed the gap to 3.6 seconds by lap 17 and 3.3 by Lap 18 after which Schumacher began to pull away again.

At the same time Jarno Trulli got up behind Kimi Raikkonen in 3rd place but couldn't find a way past. So on Lap 20 he got what seemed like a very early call for his second pit-stop and took on extra fuel. From that point onwards Trulli's afternoon as well as his car went backwards. He lost 4th place to Jenson Button and 5th to Rubens Barrichello.

His team-mate subsequently got past David Coulthard, promptly pitted and took on 13 seconds worth of fuel. Alonso's charge stopped afterwards as he began to lap the track two seconds slower than the leading cars and eventually made it up into 7th place only when Raikkonen retired.

By Lap 26 with the relative performance of the Michelin of Montoya and the Bridgestone of Schumacher reversed, Schumi was able to take a 9.3 second lead into his second pit-stop. Was it all over?

No. Following the second round of pitstops the same thing happened again, Montoya set off on a charge and then Schumacher managed to steady the gap.

Webber exited the race on Lap 26, his Jaguar running straight on into the gravel.

Kimi Raikkonen had a delayed pit-stop which allowed Button past into an effective third place, the BAR-Honda squeezing past Raikkonen into Turn 1 as he emerged from the pits after his own second stop.

Then on lap 28 we saw the sight of the first BMW engine failure of the year. Ralf parked his FW26 at the side of the track seemingly having no warning lights come up on the dashboard to indicate anything wrong before the engine blew.

Montoya managed to reduce the difference to the leader to 3.7 seconds by the time he pitted at the end of Lap 39. Were we going to get a grandstand finish?

No. Montoya emerged from his last pit-stop behind Rubens Barrichello who had yet to make his final pit-stop. "I tried to pass him and he blocked me," Juan claimed afterwards. All of a sudden the No.2 Ferrari started to lap two seconds slower than it had done previously, letting Michael Schumacher's Ferrari edge out an eleven second lead.

It was completely legal and within the rules but Juan realised that he might be facing an Indianapolis situation - where Barrichello would not give him room for a pass if he forced one, and decided to settle for the eight points.

Then, on Lap 41, there was the sight that made the Mclaren-Mercedes team shudder. Kimi Raikkonen with a smoking MP4-19 pulled over to retire from his second race in a row. During his pit-stop he'd been forced to wait while two cars sped down the pitlane and there was speculation that his clutch had failed under the excess strain. A tetchy Finn stomped away from his car.

Barrichello's tardiness delaying Montoya in effect lost him the chance of a podium finish, because now he was up to 4th from 5th. In the closing stages he managed to get within two seconds of Jenson Button's BAR-Honda and could conceivably have made it a Ferrari 1-3.

The only major entertainment in the final few laps, apart from the nail-biting going on in the BAR-Honda pit, was provided by Olivier Panis in the Toyota. He came into the pitlane for his final pitstop and found.no mechanics there. He gave his crew a suitably gallic hand gesture.

In coming in too early he actually exceeded the pitlane speed limit and he was soon back again serving a drive-through penalty. This time he chose just to shake his head. Finally he had his pit-stop having fully got to know the Sepang pitlane.

Jenson Button had lost out on a podium finish on the final lap of the Malaysian GP before when his car developed a problem and all eyes were now on the BAR-Honda to see if it would last the distance. The team's collective heart missed a beat when cameras focused on a smoking white car at the side of the track. It was Sato, though.

Takuma had got up to a creditable 8th place before his Honda engine let go, allowing Massa up into the points.

Jenson kept his nerve and finished ahead of Barrichello despite a two second delay behind the Ferrari-contracted driver Felipe Massa.

Michael Schumacher slowed right down at the close and finished five seconds ahead of Montoya. It was a great result for Ferrari because, aided by the `cool' race temperatures, Bridgestone had lasted the distance. Though Bahrain will be hot, F1 will probably not visit a hotter circuit.

The Australian GP had been a warning. After the Malaysia GP, the rest of the field know they have a very, very hard fight on their hands.

Result of the Malaysian Grand Prix held at Sepang on March 21st. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM+ 0'05"022
3.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 0'11"568
4.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'13"616
5.TRULLIRenaultM+ 0'37"360
6.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM+ 0'53"098
7.ALONSORenaultM+ 1'07"877
8.MASSASauber PetronasB1 lap
9.DA MATTAToyotaM1 lap
10.KLEINJaguar CosworthM1 lap
11.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
12.PANISToyotaM1 lap
13.PANTANOJordan FordB2 laps
14.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB3 laps
15.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB4 laps
16.SATOBAR HondaB5 laps
17.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM16 laps
18.HEIDFELDJordan FordB22 laps
19.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM29 laps
20.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM33 laps

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX GP Report: Schumacher and Barrichello blitz the field 07/03/04

It was just too easy for Michael Schumacher as he romped to victory in the season-opening Australian GP. Rubens Barrichello secured a Ferrari 1-2 on an afternoon of total domination for the Scuderia. Is 2004 going to be a procession

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have presented Ferrari with a comprehensive win at the opening grand prix of the 2004 season. The No.1 and No.2 drivers outpaced a lacklustre field to take an easy 1-2 in the race. The only man remotely close was Renault's Fernando Alonso in third place.

The two BMW-Williams of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Montoya finished almost a lap behind in 4th and 5th, while pre-race World Championship favourite, Kimi Raikkonen, made an ignominious exit on the 9th lap with engine failure.

As the red lights went out it was difficult to believe that this was a new season and not 2003 - both Renaults left their grid spots as though still equipped with launch control. Fernando Alonso put two wheels onto the very dry grass on the outside of the track and drove right round the outside of Juan-Pablo Montoya.

Instead of accepting he'd lost the place Montoya tried to outbrake him into Turn 1 and took the kind of tight line Formula First drivers think might work, the result was that he shot across the track onto the grass at the outside of the turn and lost places ending up behind his team-mate in 7th.

In front of them the two Ferraris looked absolutely untroubled in their getaway, Button from the dirty side of the grid failed to challenge and Alonso was the one car who got near the leaders.

Further back Mark Webber, 6th on the grid, was swallowed up by faster cars and slipped back to 8th place. So at the end of the opening lap it was Michael Schumacher, from Barrichello, Alonso, Button, Trulli, Ralf Schumacher, Montoya, Webber and Takuma Sato in 9th place.

The most notable thing about the early laps was the pace of the Ferrari. Though the cool temperatures -18 degrees ambient, and 24 degrees track - suited the Bridgestone tyres, Schumacher and Barrichello roared away from the rest.

As far as the lead of the race went, that was it for the rest of the afternoon. Ferrari looked as they had done on Friday practice, in a class of their own. Behind them, as the opening laps unfolded, only Alonso looked like staying close, but even he was soon dropped by the Scuderia's blistering pace.

Both BMW-Williams were stuck behind either the Renault of Jarno Trulli or the BAR-Honda of Jenson Button at some stage of the race. In clear air they were quicker, but neither could match the pace of the Ferraris.

Though Montoya dropped behind Ralf Schumacher at the start, within two laps he'd got back in front of a very cautious Ralf Schumacher. The pace of the Mclarens, both loaded with two-stop fuel, was such that they were back down the field duelling with Saubers. Kimi Raikkonen, who had been slow off the line, got in front of Felipe Massa and then by Lap 9 was slowing so much that Massa could get him back.

Felipe Massa scrambled past Raikkonen despite putting two wheels on the grass on the exit of the turn and then seconds later the Finn was pictured retiring. His rear wheels appeared to lock up and the McLaren MP4-19 went straight on and into the record books as the first engine failure of the 2004 season.

Raikkonen confirmed afterwards that his water pressure had failed.

In the opening laps Rubens and Michael traded lap records - on lap seven Rubens reduced it to 1min 24.432 seconds - on lap eight Michael lowered it to 1min 24.170.

At the same time McLaren were three seconds slower and BMW-Williams were two seconds slower. Hardly the stuff of a competitive World Championship.

The strategy began to play out on Lap 11 when Juan Montoya and Fernando Alonso came in for their first stops of three. Ferrari, Renault, BMW-Williams and BAR-Honda were all on three-stoppers - McLaren and Jaguar opted for two.

Straight afterwards Rubens and Michael came in for tyres on successive laps. Though the refuelling hose was on the No.1 car for fractionally longer than on the No.2 car, that was the extent of Ferrari's problems for the afternoon.

The same couldn't be said for BMW-Williams, who had a constant problem with Montoya's right rear tyre. Each stop had an added two seconds as the mechanics struggled to get it on and off, which dropped him behind Trulli and gave him a far harder time round Albert Park.

Trulli was on a reduced pace compared to Alonso allegedly because, "At the start Fernando moved in front of me and I had to brake very suddenly and someone hit me in the back."

Montoya finally got past Jarno on Lap 24, at the same time Ralf Schumacher was trailing round behind Jenson Button. A slight delay in tyre changes on Jenson's second stop was enough to put Ralf through and into 4th place, a position he wasn't challenged for throughout the rest of the afternoon.

On lap 31 Australia let out a collective sigh as the home favourite retired from the race. Mark Webber's gears expired, "I lost sixth and seventh gear and fifth gear isn't enough to get you round Melbourne," said Mark, though Christian Klien managed to get the second Jaguar to the flag, albeit a long way back.

By this time the Mclaren of David Coulthard had sauntered up to 8th place. DC had an uneventful time circulating out of sequence with the rest of the field. He was still 8th at the end of the race and not surprised by the pace of the Ferraris.

"I did the Imola test in February and Michael did a lap at the end of a 15-lap run that was a second quicker than anybody else, so no I'm not surprised," was his resigned view.

"Given our performance in the build-up to the event that's (8th place) what we deserve - the others were just gone."

David at least stayed ahead of Takuma Sato who had frequent trips onto the grass on an afternoon where the underperforming Michelin tyres caught out the inexperienced. Sato was lucky to keep his BAR006 out of the barriers, but not as lucky as Sauber's Felipe Massa who managed a complete 360 degree spin even though he was on the better-performing Bridgestones.

Massa, like Sato, seemed to be the driver we knew from the 2002 season - fast and wild and likely to go off at any moment. His Ferrari engine finally failed him on lap 46 and he retired, prompting Barrichello and Schumacher to slow down.

This season the Sauber is equipped with exactly the same engine as the Scuderia and so the minute their closest challenger, the distant Fernando Alonso, dropped his pace, so did Rubens and Michael.

On lap 34 there was a frisson of excitement in the crowd as the Sauber of Giancarlo Fisichella challenged the Jordan of Nick Heidfeld. Nick was dumped by the team last year even though he thought he'd done enough to be retained and so he had something to prove. So Heidfeld wasn't giving up the place easily and interlocked wheels momentarily as neither driver wanted to give way into Turn 5. Fisichella got past but not before the cars had rubbed tyres.

Juan Montoya closed in on Jenson Button, the Williams seeming to make much better use of its Michelin rubber. On Lap 38 Montoya was past, the Colombian having made three competitive passes during the race and accounting for 50% of the race's excitement. Though there was also a cerain amount of drama when Nick Heidfeld's misbehaving Jordan failed to brake properly in the pitlane, bumping a few of hisyellow-suited mechanics. Seconds after his stop he exited the race with brake failure.

In the closing laps Michael Schumacher slowed right down to preserve his engine and cruised across the line to take a deserved win. Rubens Barrichello had noticeably backed off from about halfway and came home 13 seconds behind. It was a crushing win for the Scuderia that BMW-Williams technical director put down to Michelin's tyres badly graining in cold conditions.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn attributed the win to a massive Ferrari/Bridgetone pre-season effort. "I really felt last season that it being a difficult year would make us stronger, and I think it has."

Result of the Australian Grand Prix held in Melbourne on March 7th. 2004

Posn.DriverTeam TyresTime
2.BARRICHELLOFerrariB+ 0'13"605
3.ALONSORenaultM+ 0'34"673
4.R. SCHUMACHERWilliams BMWM+ 1'00"423
5.MONTOYAWilliamsBMWM+ 1'08"536
6.BUTTONBAR HondaB+ 1'10"598
7.TRULLIRenaultM1 lap
8.COULTHARDMcLaren MercedesM1 lap
9.SATOBAR HondaB1 lap
10.FISICHELLASauber PetronasB1 lap
11.KLEINJaguar CosworthM2 laps
12.DA MATTAToyotaM2 laps
13.PANISToyotaM2 laps
14.PANTANOJordan FordB3 laps
15.MASSASauber PetronasB14 laps
16.HEIDFELDJordan FordB15 laps
17.BRUNIMinardi CosworthB15 laps
18.WEBBERJaguar CosworthM29 laps
19.BAUMGARTNERMinardi CosworthB45 laps
20.RAIKKONENMcLaren MercedesM49 laps

2nd Practice: Ferrari fire a warning shot to rivals March 5th. 2004
1st practice in Australia Schumacher

Michael Schumacher posted an ominous warning to the rest of the F1 field in the opening practice session at Melbourne.

The reigning Champion got his title defence off to a cracking start on Friday in Melbourne, clocking the fastest time in both free practice sessions. Schumi posted a 1:25.127 during the first hour and then proceeded to go even quicker in the second, lapping the Albert Park circuit in a time of 1:24.718.

Although he had a few hair-raising moments when he ran wide onto the grass, as did many of the other drivers, he still managed to hold off his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian had to settle for second place, 0.108 seconds off the pace.

Both Schumacher and Barrichello set their fastest lap times in the opening half an hour of the practice 2. However, were unable to match their earlier pace as the track temperature rose. But that will do little to dampen Ferrari's enthusiasm as Schumacher's nearest non-Ferrari rival, Jarno Trulli, was a full second off the German's pace.

Trulli's best time, a 1:25.757, was 1.039 seconds behind Schumi's P1 time, while fourth placed Jenson Button was a further 0.029 seconds back. Button's BAR split the two Renaults as Fernando Alonso was fifth for the final Friday session. It was encouraging start to a season for which Button has promised so much.

Button finished ahead of Ralf Schumacher who will be happy to note that his 1:25.882 placed him ahead of his Williams team-mate on the timesheets - but only just. Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth fastest, 0.324 seconds behind Ralf. Nevertheless, Williams must be alarmed to find themselves so far behind Ferrari, and both BAR and Renault ahead of them.

David Coulthard claimed eighth place ahead of Mark Webber and struggling McLaren team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, handing Michelin eight of the top ten slots. After Schumacher and Barrichello Bridgestone's next best driver was Giancarlo Fisichella. He was 11th quickest.

Jordan test driver Timo Glock was the first victim of both the day and practice two. His first GP weekend came to a premature end 15 minutes into the session when his EJ14 failed him. He was forced to park in the run-off area and walk back to the team's garage.

Schumacher came close to being the next casualty when he damaged his F2004 halfway into the hour. The German set his car flying wide at Turn 16 into the home straight and ploughed his way through the grass bank before making his way back onto the track. He returned to his team's garage with bodywork damage as well as a left-hand bargeboard missing.

The second half of the session claimed two victims in Cristiano da Matta and Button. Da Matta's Friday finished when his back left Michelin tyre was shredded, forcing him to park his TF104 on the side of the track. Button, meanwhile, pulled over onto the bend with what looked to be an engine problem. The BAR driver had clinched fourth place on his previous lap.

1. M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari 1:24.718
2. BARRICHELLO Ferrari 1:24.826
3. TRULLI Renault 1:25.757
4. BUTTON BAR 1:25.786
5. ALONSO Renault 1:25.853
6. R.SCHUMACHER Williams BMW 1:25.882
7. MONTOYA Williams BMW 1:26.206
8. COULTHARD McLaren 1:26.215
9. WEBBER Jaguar 1:26.312
10. RAIKKONEN McLaren 1:26.579
11. FISICHELLA Sauber 1:26.601
12. SATO BAR 1:26.967
13. MASSA Sauber 1:26.969
14. ZONTA Toyota 1:27.165
15. DAVIDSON BAR 1:27.516
16. PANIS Toyota 1:27.710
17. KLIEN Jaguar 1:27.724
18. DA MATTA Toyota 1:27.807
19. HEIDFELD Jordan 1:27.826
20. WIRDHEIM Jaguar 1:28.781
21. BRUNI Minardi 1:28.991
22. BAUMGARTNER Minardi 1:29.708
23. PANTANO Jordan 1:30.061
24. GLOCK Jordan 1:30.291

Imola: A new record for Schumi and the F2004 February 25th. 2004
smiling Schumacher

Michael Schumacher stole the limelight on Wednesday when he shattered the Imola lap record while driving the new F2004.

The German, who was head-to-head against some of his rivals for only the second day with Ferrari's new car, clocked a 1:19.664 during his 98 laps. Schumi's lap time meant he beat the previous record of 1:20.411 by 0.747 seconds.

"You can overestimate lap times like this," he told Autosport. "This is the fourth test for the car, and the first showdown with the other teams. We have shown that the car is not slow. We've completed some very good work on it, and we've now completed lots of laps.

"You can say we are better prepared than last year, even though we used the old car for the first race. I don't think this [using the new car] will be a disadvantage. We are confident and I'm absolutely looking forward to Melbourne."

McLaren's David Coulthard claimed second place. However, the Scot may be a bit concerned to notice that his fastest lap time, a 1:20.928, was 1.284 seconds slower than Schumacher's P1 time.

Third place went to Juan Pablo Montoya, who completed 72 laps of the Italian circuit. The Colombian's best time in the FW26 was a further 0.098 seconds back.

Rubens Barrichello, who was using last year's F2003-GA, clinched fourth place ahead of the two Toyota drivers. Once again Cristiano da Matta was the quicker of the two, beating his team-mate Olivier Panis by 2.194 seconds.

1 Schumacher Ferrari 1:19.664 98 laps
2 Coulthard McLaren 1:20.928 69 laps
3 Montoya Williams 1:21.026 72 laps
4 Barrichello Ferrari 1:21.235 52 laps
5 da Matta Toyota 1:22.162 69 laps
6 Panis Toyota 1:24.356 54 laps

Formula One Teams May Skip European Races Tue Jan 20,11:47 AM ET

LONDON - Formula One teams could boycott European races this season unless they are exempted from new European Union (news - web sites) arrest warrant laws. F1 officials fear team personnel could be arrested if a driver is killed in a race accident.

Max Mosley, president of the motor racing's governing body FIA, has written to the heads of national racing groups asking them to lobby their governments for the exemption. This season's first European race is the San Marino Grand Prix on April 25. Spain, Belgium and Britain have adopted the EU legislation, with others pledging to come on board by March.

"This is a matter of serious concern and the FIA will continue to hold talks with the various European Union governments and the European Commission (news - web sites) in an attempt to resolve it," Mosley said. Mosley cited the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, Italy, and subsequent manslaughter charges brought against Williams technical director Patrick Head and designer Adrian Newey. The men were acquitted in 1997 but could be implicated in any appeal.

Mosley said team bosses believe that, in the event of a fatal crash, a local magistrate could use the new legislation to order the immediate arrest of team personnel who "could be locked up until trial." In the letter, team leaders warn they are prepared to race only in countries whose governments give a legally enforceable pledge not to use the arrest warrant legislation. The legislation, introduced earlier this month, replaces national extradition deals between EU member states. It is designed to replace often unwieldy extradition procedures as the bloc fights terrorism and other serious crimes.

Some of the many formula one motor racing web sites:-  link already visited  link not yet visited   shame about the advertising
http:// PlanetF1.com
http:// F1Central.net
http://www.formula1.com/ - the official formula one web site
http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/ - lot of redirection by microsoft

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