Schumacher wins fourth consecutive GP

Michael Schumacher, San Marino GP 2004

Michael Schumacher, San Marino GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

Six time World Champion Michael Schumacher cruised in his Ferrari to his fourth consecutive win of the year at the San Marino GP, in Imola. Polesitter Jenson Button led the first nine laps in his BAR-Honda. When Button pitted, Schumacher put in two fast laps - making up two seconds - to get ahead of the young British driver after his pitstop. Schumacher then easily pulled away to take the win by ten seconds at the line - leading at times by as much as half a minute.

At the start of the race, Button got the jump on the field, while Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya battled down through Tosa, with Schumacher bumping Montoya and forcing the Colombian off the track at the exit of the corner. Up the hill, Montoya was then under pressure from his team mate Ralf Schumacher - who himself had to take to the grass to avoid an incident. At the end of the first lap Button led Schumacher and Montoya. Takuma Sato made a fast start in his BAR-Honda from seventh, and through the first lap tussles managed to get ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and the Renaults, to hold the others off in fourth place until the first round of stops.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished the race third in his Williams-BMW, eleven seconds behind Button - followed on his tail by Fernando Alonso in fourth, who made a strong run in the closing laps in his Renault. Fifth place was taken by his Renault team mate Jarno Trulli, who was battling with the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello who finished in sixth place.

Seventh place went to Ralf Schumacher in the second Williams-BMW, who was punted out of fourth place by Alonso in the closing stages at Tosa. The incident was to be investigated by the stewards after the race.

The final points paying position went to the McLaren-Mercedes of Kimi Raikkonen - his first point of the season - after starting the race from the back of the field following an engine failure in qualifying.

Takuma Sato was in line to take eighth place, but suffered an engine failure with only four laps to go.

David Coulthard finished 13th in his McLaren-Mercedes - after having to replace his front wing after a first corner incident.


Michael Schumacher (1st): "This was a dream result, to come home after three races and give the tifosi what they wanted. It is a dream come true, especially as I am an ambassador for San Marino. At the start, Jenson set a mind blowing pace: it was as though I was driving in the wet and he was in the dry. But after a few laps, everything came up to temperature and I was able to push. Fortunately, after that, I was able to maintain my pace, while his seemed to drop off. As for my fight with Juan Pablo, I wanted to keep him behind me so that I would not lose touch with the leader. At first, I saw him attack me, but then I did not see him, nor did I expect him to come round the outside. I think it was just a racing incident. In the final stages, I eased off the pace to bring the car home. I hope we come back here to Imola."

Rubens Barrichello (6th): "My race was spoilt by traffic. I always found myself with a slower car ahead of me and so I was never able to push my car as hard as it could go. Ralf Schumacher especially blocked me several times, at the start for example when he made a move that saw me go off the track. It's a shame as I knew I had a great car and I was convinced I could have a good race. At least I managed to bring home three points, which are important for me and for the team."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was a fantastic race and an amazing start to the season, with Michael stringing together an incredible run of wins. This was a very open and difficult race. We saw how the slightest thing at the start - as was the case for Rubens - can see a driver lose places and then find it impossible to make them up again. We really wanted to win at this track for a variety of reasons. It is the nearest race to home and it was great to race in front of our fans and employees of the Ferrari Maserati Group who filled their reserved grandstand. For Michael and me, it was also a special race as we both have the honour of being ambassadors for the Republic of San Marino. There are two people I am particularly happy for today: Rory Byrne; it was a pleasure to see him collect the team prize on the podium and Bridgestone President, Shigeo Watanabe, as once again our partner provided us with excellent tyres. As in the past at Imola, President Montezemolo arrived with his family at the end of the race to celebrate with us. We hope we will be able to continue for a long time to come with what is becoming a very enjoyable tradition!"

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "You could see in the first few laps that our tyres took a while to come to temperature and when they did, they were fantastic. We just had to be patient and wait for the right moment, with Michael hanging onto Jenson for the first few laps. We hoped he would stop before we did and that was what happened. Then Michael did two stunning laps before his pit stop which saw him move into the lead. After that it was a case of monitoring everyone else's strategy. Rubens's race was compromised by traffic, especially at the end of his second pit stop when he was hindered by Ralf Schumacher in the pit lane."


Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd): "The first lap was very tough. Michael Schumacher had a poor start and was slow out of the first chicane and the first few corners. I tried to pass him but he closed the door twice. I had to back off but when I tried again he hit me and pushed me out on to the grass. I am very disappointed as this was not fair racing. Jenson had an incredibly fast pace, therefore third is the best I could do today since our car was just not quick enough. We need to improve our complete package to be competitive in order to catch-up with the leaders."

Ralf Schumacher (7th): "Until the incident with Alonso I was quite happy with the weekend in general, obviously it was a shame what happened. It was good to score some points and I think we made the best out of our package today. It's pretty clear that we have to improve but we are not that far away."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "Obviously we have got a lot of work to do to improve the car and get back to challenging at the front. After the incident with Michael at the start, Juan had a fairly quiet race but then in the closing laps of the race he had to react to Fernando Alonso. Ralf had a good start but lost ground in the Michael-Juan Pablo fight, losing one position. Our strategy went well and we should have had both cars in the top four but it didn't work out. In terms of reliability both cars were fine."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Coming third was today the maximum Juan could achieve. Ralf's collision with Alonso unfortunately cost the team some championship points. The gap to the Ferrari during the race was about one second per lap which matched what we had expected beforehand. We obviously need to improve our overall performance. Reliability wise the BMW engines ran absolutely trouble free in both cars."


Kimi Raikkonen (8th): "I'm pleased to finish my first race of the season and get one point, but obviously we want to be fighting for the lead and not eighth place. I started the race from last, so I had to fight hard to make up some positions. The track is very narrow, so it's quite difficult to overtake and when you are so far back you inevitably get stuck. I know that the team will continue to work hard on improving our package and making further progress both with pace and reliability."

David Coulthard (12th): "When you start in the middle of the field you have to take risks coming into the first corner in order to make progress. On this occasion I took too much of a risk and ended up damaging the nose of the car and going off the track. I was able to make it back into the pits where the team replaced the nose and changed me from a three to a two stop strategy in order to try and make up positions. I fought hard but 12th was the best we could do."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "The problems we experienced in practice with Kimi and the first corner incident with David effectively meant that we raced from the back of the grid which is an unusual and a not to be repeated experience for the team. However we can take some comfort from our pace mid-race and the reliability of the cars. We aim to introduce further improvements at the Spanish Grand Prix, which should provide us with better grid positions and results."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Kimi started from last and David was last after his unscheduled first-lap pitstop to change the nose following his accident at the first corner. So positions eight and 12 were the best we could achieve today. Both drivers were on a two-stop strategy. The entire team will now continue to work in a concentrated way to significantly improve our package with regards to both reliability and performance."


Fernando Alonso (4th): "A very good result after a tough race for me. I made a bad start, the car just lacked traction, and then Coulthard almost took me out at the first corner: some parts actually hit my helmet! By then, though, I had lost too many places to be able to fight with the leaders, so I followed the cars in front and made the most of my opportunities around the stops to pass them; the car was a little bit nervous, but I still managed to push. As for the incident with Ralf, from where I was sat he just closed the door on me, but fortunately it didn't damage the car. Overall, I am pleased to have finished fourth at this track, and happy we have maintained our position in the championship."

Jarno Trulli (5th): "I am more than pleased with this result: I started ninth, and managed to make up four places at a circuit where it is very hard to overtake, as well as keeping one of the Ferraris behind me. At the start, the engine just didn't accelerate and I could feel from then on that it was a bit down on power. I pushed to the limit during my stints, but had no luck with traffic: the Minardi's alone cost me 5 seconds! During the last part of the race, the car became very hard to drive - I had brake problems and the rear wheels were locking, which made it quite nervous. I think the result is in line with what we had expected, and once again, we take home a good number of points for the championship."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "After a very difficult first lap, everything was left to do this afternoon, so to finish fourth and fifth and reinforce our championship position is quite satisfying. Both drivers did an extremely good job and the strategy played out as expected. Fernando's aggressive drive nearly came to nothing after another dubious manoeuvre by Ralf, but I hope the stewards will come to the right conclusion."

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "This was a difficult weekend for us, so to get two cars to the finish in the points, maintain our 100% reliability and strengthen our championship position is a very pleasing outcome. The team worked well this weekend, and we got the strategy right. Both drivers put in solid performances, and we can be happy with the results of our work."


Jenson Button (2nd): "It was another fantastic race for me and second place is another step closer to our ultimate ambition - a first win for me and the team. The first lap felt very good and I was able to gather pace, pull away and lead the first stint. This is a difficult track to overtake on so I wasn't too worried, but then after Michael overtook me in the first pitstop he pulled out a very strong lead. I was very surprised actually. There was nothing I could do to catch him but we are very pleased to have taken a step up the podium. Our revised package has worked incredibly well here and this result just goes to prove what we can achieve together with our partners Honda and Michelin. I'm very happy today and it looks like we have a very exciting season ahead of us."

Takuma Sato (16th, Engine): "It is a shame that I couldn't finish the race with only a few laps to go, since I had a very exciting start and there was a lot of fighting for position in the first lap. But then I struggled with the pace after a few problems with the gearbox at the start, which got worse. Nonetheless, we have seen another great team result here this weekend. I am very much looking forward to the next race in Barcelona at a track I know well from testing there so often this year."

David Richards, Team Principal: "Everyone in the team should be very proud of what we have achieved this weekend. Having gained the upper hand yesterday, Jenson did an outstanding job in the opening laps, but Michael found just a little too much pace for us today. However, pole position yesterday, and second today, create new records for us and establishes BAR as a real force at the front end of the F1 grid. All of this gives us further motivation and energy, and I am confident that with our partners Honda and Michelin we will move on to even greater achievements."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This weekend's pole position and second place in the race mark another significant performance step for the team. Jenson made perfect use of his pole position to pull away from the field and established a gap by the first stop that effectively guaranteed his second place result. We were not able to match Michael's impressive pace but we very clearly demonstrated our advantage over the rest of the field. Despite an impressive first lap, in which he went from 7th to 4th place, and running for all of the race in the points, we were obviously very disappointed that he was unable to finish. Together with Honda and Michelin we have made good progress and look forward to the next race in Barcelona where we will introduce further car and engine upgrades."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Jenson has been immense all weekend. To take pole the way he did and then drive so strongly all race really demonstrates his ability and also his obvious confidence in the car. Taku had to battle hard for the whole race with difficulties but stuck to his task very well and I am sorry the engine eventually stopped. Although we have made a good step this weekend, we have to find the same again to challenge for the top."


Giancarlo Fisichella (9th): "We had very good race pace today, and sometimes I was quicker than Kimi, especially at the end. It's a pity I lost the place to him. I got held up by one of the Minardis in the final corner at a point when Kimi had fresher tyres, and with the better traction out of the corner he got a run at me and overtook on the straight. But I am happy with our speed compared to his and very satisfied that we have made such a big improvement since Bahrain. If we can keep that up we can fight for points a lot more."

Felipe Massa (10th): "I think this was a positive race for us. I made a good start and the car was very good in the first two stints. I don't know why, but it was not quite the same in the final one. It was just very tricky to do competitive lap times and I struggled to keep my rhythm. But we have improved the car, for sure, and really I think it might even have been possible to do two stops rather than three because my Bridgestone tyres were so consistent today."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "Even if Kimi is not the overall benchmark at present it was a pleasure to see Giancarlo fight with him throughout the race. Unfortunately the final championship point went to Kimi by the narrowest of margins in the end but overall we achieved a good result after starting from a difficult position, and both Giancarlo and Felipe were able to finish ahead of the Toyotas and the Jaguars."


Mark Webber (13th): "That was a difficult race for us this afternoon. I made a good start and maintained my eighth position on the first few laps. My pit stop went to plan but then after that I started to lose power. I have spoken with my engineers and it appears that the engine was suffering from an intermittent electrical problem. They cannot confirm the cause behind this at the moment and until we get the car back to the factory in Milton Keynes and study the data we will not know. After all our hard work this weekend it would have been rewarding to have finished higher up the grid. However, saying that we all know that we have to take the rough with the smooth and today has been one of the rougher days. We will be working hard over the next two weeks ahead of Barcelona when we will come back and aim for some points."

Christian Klien (14th): "I am really disappointed with how today has finished for me. My start was not great and I struggled to make up any places. I soon became boxed in at the back and it as difficult to make any headway. After my first pit-stop I started to get blue-flagged and once this happens you have to keep moving off-line to let people by. This slows you down as you are off the racing line and it costs you a lot of time. Near the end I hit lots of traffic and I also started to struggle with the balance of the car under braking. All things considered it was not a good race for me and I am frustrated that I could not have done more for the team. My mechanics and engineers have done a fantastic job all weekend especially when they had to change my chassis over yesterday morning in time for qualifying. I am looking forward to Barcelona though as this is one of the tracks that I have been to many times before in a Formula One car."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A frustrating end to the weekend for all of us. The team had prepared two good cars and both Mark and Christian had performed well all weekend with both cars in a point scoring position on the starting grid. Mark made a good start and pitted as planned on lap eight. About half-way through his second stint he suffered a loss of power as a result of an intermittent electrical problem with the engine. We made minor adjustments in an attempt to resolve the issue however, we were unable to do so and Mark drove the remainder of the race with the intermittent loss of power. Christian's start was not as good as I had hoped and he became boxed in at the back of the pack. Frustratingly he was blue-flagged on numerous occasions causing him to lose time and a result it was difficult to make any sort of impact on the field. With all that said, we were pleased with our tyre choice and looking ahead we will be conducting a private test in Lommel this Friday 30th April in preparation for the Barcelona Grand Prix. Although we are extremely disappointed by our finishing positions this weekend we are positive about the pace of the car and we know that the potential to continue to compete for Championship points is there."


Olivier Panis (11th): "Once again we proved the reliability of the TF104 and I was able to extend my 100% finishing record this year. I pushed very hard throughout the race and we did some good pit stops but we still need to develop better pace. Everybody in the team has worked really hard which is reflected by our consistency. We have to continue concentrating on making improvements to our performance and the progress we have made since Melbourne shows that sooner rather than later, the effort should pay off."

Cristiano Da Matta (DNF, Spin): "The weekend started quite positively with a top ten qualifying position, but unfortunately the race did not continue the trend. I was given a Drive Through penalty and followed my normal procedure when I came into the pits. That involves pressing two buttons - one for the pit lane speed limiter and one for the launch control. But the launch control button also disables the traction control and, of course, this time I was not actually stopping. I got to the first chicane, where I was caught out by not having any traction control and went off the circuit. It is a mistake, but very frustrating... The only thing to do is to look forward to Barcelona, a track that should be more suited to the TF104."

Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "It was a long, difficult race and we are disappointed not to get the two cars to the finish. Both drivers had reasonable starts and were quite competitive through the first stint. Although we were able to race some of the cars around us, our race pace was not good enough to keep up with the field in front. Then Cristiano got a Drive Through penalty for a blue flag incident. Unfortunately he made a mistake in his switch settings which disabled the traction control and meant he went off at the chicane. Overall not a bad weekend for us as we made further steps ahead. Nevertheless to score points we need to make more improvements so that we have a quicker race car."


Nick Heidfeld (DNF, Transmission): "My start was not good as I was on the dirty side and then I had a bit of a problem getting the tyres up to temperature. After that the car was definitely better than it has been in the first three races and we have improved the set-up in terms of understanding the tyres over a race distance. I had a high-speed spin at Piratella but managed to get back on the circuit and luckily there was no damage to the car. Overall the car wasn't that bad and I think if I had been able to finish I could have been in front of both Jaguars which would have been good."

Giorgio Pantano (DNF, Hydraulics): "I got a very good start and was in a good position so I'm not happy about retiring, especially racing in Italy as I was looking to get a good result here. I had to stop because of a problem with the hydraulics. Although obviously it didn't finish well, the weekend as a whole has been encouraging because the car has been much better and in the race it felt good. I was keeping Fisichella and Raikkonen behind me and I'm hopeful that we can keep improving and improving. I was always very lucky in Barcelona in F3000 so I'm hoping the Spanish Grand Prix in two weeks will bring me the chance for a better result."

James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "It was disappointment for us in the race with technical problems preventing us from finishing. Giorgio made an excellent start and was up to 13th, driving strongly and racing with the faster cars behind him. Our strategy looked to be solid so it's a shame that he didn't have the car to see it through to the finish. We need to investigate what Nick's problem was exactly though it seems to be driveshaft failure. Giorgio's problem was loss of hydraulic fluid which affected the steering and forced his retirement. It was good to see once again very solid pit work adding to the improving car performance we saw this weekend."


Zsolt Baumgartner (15th): "I'm happy to have finished the race and pleased that we had a reliable car today. There were no problems and no mistakes, and I now hope we can build on this and start to generate some momentum in the coming races. We need to work some more on our new aerodynamic package, but I think it is promising and will become better with a little more development time. I want to thank all the guys on the team, who did a fantastic job this weekend and got through a huge amount of work."

Gianmaria Bruni (DNF, Brakes): "It just wasn't our day. I felt a problem developing with the brake balance about seven laps after my first stop and came into the pits. Although the team couldn't find anything wrong, they decided to retire the car as a precaution. I'm disappointed, but now it is best just to focus on the next race, in Barcelona."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "It's always sad not to get both cars home, but that said, Zsolt did a fantastic job and persevered to the end, setting his fastest time of the day on his final lap of the race. Clearly, we have a lot to learn from this weekend, and hopefully, we'll put in a stronger performance in Barcelona."

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