2004 CAN ANYBODY STOP FERRARI?
The main question in the beginning of this year;s championship was: "By the way, can anybody stop Ferrari?". Formula One is facing one of the most continuous domination we have ever konwn. Ferrari team had won the constructors championship since 1999 and Schumacher had won four championships in a row! For the others, only hope, challenge and persecution. Nothing more uncomfortable that regonize that you must improve your quality, but even when you do that, your biggest opponent is still in front of you. What a nightmare for Williams and McLaren...
The FIA again introduced changes in the rules. Three are very important:
- new qualification system, with the pre-quali and the final quali on Saturday;
- only one engine admited during all the week-end. If the team have to change engine, their driver would lost 10 positions on the grid;
- permition to use a test driver on Fridays practices with a third car, just valid to teams above 4th in the last year;s championship (not allowed for Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault).
1 - AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
Stunning domination for Ferrari in the practices. On Friday Schumacher and Barrichello smashed their opponents with 1,8 seconds of detach. On Saturday qualifying Schummy and Barrichello sustained the front row, with just 0,074 seconds between them, followed by the new Williams with Montoya, with only 0,5 seconds ahead. Montoya made a little mistake that costs him a least 0,3 seconds, so he could be closer. On the race the start defined Ferrari's advantage, as Alonso's move squeezed Montoya, resulting an off road for the colombian. When he regained the field he was far from behind and had to battle throught. That certainly permitted Ferrari team to manage their engine control, allowing their drivers to push only when necessary. For the first instint Micheal and Rubens had pushed very hard, gainning a strong advantage. So they could slow a little and manage to win. Some battles gave the crowd some fun: Montoya had to face Trulli, Ralf and Button; Massa versus Raikkonen switched positions, when Raikkonen had a engine blow just after been passed by the young brazilian. The very moment of the race was Fisichella versus Heidfeld, as they were side by side in the 3rd corner, with the italian taking advantage, but not before they touched wheels very softly. By the end another victory for Schummy, followed by his team mate Barrichello, Alonso, Ralf, Montoya, Button, Trulli and Coulthard.
2 - MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX
The week-end started exactly F1 wondered: both Ferraris in front. Besides everyone expecting a very hot temperature, the sun did not shine as usual this time in Sepang and Bridgestone tyres took immediate advantage'oh! Excuse-me, Ferrari took advantage! It's an amazing start of the season for Ferrari, and of couser for Micheal. One thing all teams must thank the italian team: they are showing all the world that there is no secret, just hard work. Right people on the right place. That's it!. Micheal and Rubens always do the job, they can analyse the data, with Brawn and team, deciding the best options. Talking abaout options, Rubens made a different tyre choice from Micheal, and payed for that. As I say, in car races there's just one way to win: you must be quick, looking forward, not backyard. If one wants to take the chequered flag before all the rest, must be quicker and concentrated
Micheal scored the pole once more, with Webber, Rubens, Montoya, Raikkonen and Button following him. Da Matta marked 10th and Massa 11th, with Sato and Alonso scaping in the same corner, failing to mark time. At the start Micheal took the lead, followed by Rubens and Montoya, as Webber started very slow. But sooner Rubens made a veryr are mistake, slipping of the track and losing some positions. All his thoughts to win were gone with this, so he just sustained a stong race to finish in high points. The battle between Montoya and Micheal happened just with the chronographs, as they were at least separeted by 3 seconds. Button made a espectacular race scoring his first podium, showing that what BAR needed was just more money, and they got it saving Villeneuve's salary. Montoya attacked until his last pit, but when he came back to track, he was just behind Rubens, wich were in fighting with his wrong tyre choice. Montoya lost 4 seconds behind brazilian guy, and decided to save points. McLaren? Well, Raikkonen once more suffered with a failure, but Coulthard came to the end, but
Micheal won, followed by Montoya and a very happy Button. Massa also scored points, exactly in the same track he scored his first ever points in his career (2002).
3 - BHARAIN GRAND PRIX
Usually I say that you know a strong driver when he faces a new track. Why? Because he's capable to find out where's the secret of that, improving his mark everytime he's back to track. That's Micheal. That's why he spin many times in the practices. He was looking for the secret. And he found it! It was in the S curve, just before the short straight before the main straight. To example that: Rubens made this curve with 18.450 rpm, lifting just a little, while Micheal did with 18.900 rpm almost flat! In the chronographs, it means 0'273 seconds of advantage (in that space)!Amazing! That's why Micheal is the best. He found the secret, determine the strategy and did it! Simply perfect!
Pole for the german once more, the third in a row, followed by his team mate, Montoya, Ralf, Sato and Button. It's also inportant to say that Sato was very strong in this track, beating thte british all week-end, except in the race, but not because himself. Once more Alonso failed in the quali and would be the last place, sided with Raikkonen what a year for the finn.
Green lights on and Micheal just eliminated his opponents: at the end of first lap he was 1'543 seconds ahead the field how is it possible? Probably this is the question thar assault Rubens dreams. Not so far Raikkonen had a engine blow again. Can you inagine how happy he is? It's his third abandon, always with problems who could wonder that McLaren would face so bad time this year?
The race was completely dominated by Micheal, followed some seconds behind by Rubens. Montoya tried hard, but almost in the end he had a gear problems and failed to score very importants points. Button came to the podium once again, but certainly he would be there if Sato were not touched by Ralf. Sato made to special surpasses: first by Ralf and the over Coulthard. Ralf squeezed the japan guy, but he stayed there, resulting in a wheels brushing, with Ralf losting some places. Sato had a front wing damage, and had to change it. But he would be the first ever japan driver to lead one entire lap in F1 history! Congratulations to him! Very interesting battles, Alonso x Webber, Fisichella x Panis x Da Matta x Klien, Massa x Alonso.
At the end, Micheal won, followed by Rubens, Button, Trulli, Sato, Alonso, Ralf and Webber.
Standings: Micheal 30, Rubens 21, Button 15, Montoya 12, Alonso and Trulli 11, Ralf 7, Sato and Coulthard 4, Massa and Webber 1.
4 - SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX
Button, stunning pole for the british! BAR is, with no doubt, the car of the year, besides Ferrari, of corse! Switching to Michelin tyres, saving US$ 20 mm's Villeneuve salary and renewing the suport by Honda, the team has become the second best of F1 this year. Jenson, who always demonstrated his imense talent any time hits track, this season seems to have the chance to fight for victory. At Imola, he made a soberb pole, smashing the chronos by 0'258 ahead Schummy. Schummy made a big mistake at Variante Alta, what certainly costed him the pole. For the race, however, anybody believes that Button would resist Ferrari's challenge. And really didn't, but at least Button could lead some laps until his first pit-stop, when Schummy took the front he would never lose. Besides Schummy and Button, Montoya, Ralf, Barrichello, Alonso and Trulli fighted for positions, with the colonbian taking the 3rd place home. Alonso made the passing of the week-end, when just after change his tyres, he dived into Ralf's car, stoling his 4th place at Tosa, while Raikkonen could be 8th, after a strong race, coming from last. Schummy? four in a row!
Final positions: Schummy, Button, Montoya, Alonso, Trulli, Barrichello, Ralf and Raikkonen. Schummy, 40; Barrichello, 24; Button, 23; Montoya, 18.
5 - SPANISH GRAND PRIX
Trulli jumped from 4th to the lead, showing once more the amazing Renault's traction control, while a surprised Schumacher managed to stay ahead the field, but it was just a question of time. The german driver had to wait until the first round of pit-stops to gain the lead and secure it until the end. Fights? Just a very dedicated Alonso, trying very hard to catch his team-mate, but in vain, as Trulli was very strong. Barrichello's strategy to not fight against Schummy directly, once more was enough just to put him just behind the six-time champ. Again it was unbelievable the sort of performance for McLaren and Williams. Montoya had brakes problems, while Ralf had a very discret speed. Coulthard and Raikkonen manage to finish the race, but one lap down behind the forth place (Alonso)...It's really a bad year for both teams (McLaren and Williams) as this track is their main place to test. McLaren has a well konwn problem: Mercedes engine cannot suport the limit of 19.000 rpms, so they are limitated at 17.500, but doing this, they have no speed enough. Williams has a development problem. The chassis seemed to be very competitiva, but none driver can find the right balance in the race week-end...
Five victory in a row for Schummy. Can he beat Mansell's record in Monaco?
6 - MONACO GRAND PRIX
Trulli, that's the name of the game at Monaco. If Trulli had dreamed with a place to win, beside Monza of course, it would be there. But, much more than the victory itself it was the clear and spectacular driving for the italian. Pole and leading almost all the race, there was no doubt about who was in charge. Great exhibition for Trulli, Renault and Michelin. Schummy? Amazing mistake for the champ. The race had some accidents. Sato's marvelous start was interrupted by a blow engine, just at the race begining, causing a mess. Almost all drivers were able to avoid him, but Fisichella jumped into Coulthard's McLaren, causing both abandon. Later, Ralf, with gearbox problems, was too slow in the tunnel, forcing Alonso to drive into the marble at 250kmh...the result was a big shunt for the spanish driver, who was very angry with him! At that momment, Schummy was leading (Trulli had just made his pit-stop, followed by a later Montoya, and all the field. Then a rare scene took place: Schummy, inexplicably, blocked very hard his Ferrari's tyres, just into the tunnel. Of course Montoya couldn't avoid him and hit the champ's car, causing Schummy's shunt and abandon. What happened there? Schummy said that he was just experimenting his brakes, but also said that Montoya was not the one to blame...of course something had broke at Ferrari, but they would never admit...
Trulli, Button, Barrichello, Montoya, Massa, Da Matta, Heidfeld and Panis where in the points.
7 - EUROPE GRAND PRIX
After a frustating Monaco GP, everyone was looking over Ferrari, but they did not give a chance...Schumacher vanish any tentative as scored the pole, btu had a soberb Sato joinning him in the front how. At the start, once more a big confusion happened at the first band, resulting in two abandons: Ralf and Da Matta. Schummy took the lead, followed by a very surprising Raikkonen. We could say that the start defined the race, because Raikkonen was 2 secondsw slower than Schummy and blocking all the drivers behind him. When Raikkonen had a blow engine (again...) Schummy had 17 seconds ahead the field! For the rest, only Barrichello and Sato fight for the second place was good to see. Sato rejoined the group just behind the brazilian, and made a spectacular move in the end of the main straight, suprising Ferrari's driver. As Barrichello did not let too much space for the japonese guy, they had a contact, that caused Sato's front wing broke. But just two laps after this, the japan driver had a engine blow...
Schummy, Barrichello, Button, Trulli and Alonso were main places, but Barrichello, Button and Trulli scored points in all this year's races.
Championship standings: Schummy 60, Barrichello 46, Button 38, Trulli 36, Alonso 25, Montoya 24, Ralf 12, Sato 8, Massa and Fisichella 5, Coulthard 4, Da Matta and Webber 3, Heidfeld 2, Panis and Raikkoen 1.