Rubens Barrichello finally got the win he has been waiting for when he led Michael Schumacher across the line to take a Ferrari one-two at the Italian Grand Prix. Barrichello only led the race right at the beginning and towards the end, but ...
Rubens Barrichello finally got the win he has been waiting for when he led Michael Schumacher across the line to take a Ferrari one-two at the Italian Grand Prix. Barrichello only led the race right at the beginning and towards the end, but Ferrari's strategy and others' misfortune saw him take his first win of the season. Schumacher in second made it Ferrari's eighth one-two finish of the year, while Jenson Button took his eighth podium finish of 2004 in third.
Heavy rain in the morning had passed by the start but the track was still damp in places, which made for some tricky tyre choices. The Ferraris suffered early on, Barrichello losing his lead to Renault's Fernando Alonso, while Schumacher spun and dropped to 15th. But the champion had an amazing fight back and Barrichello kept his cool to eventually regain the front.
David Coulthard ducked into the pit lane at the end of the formation lap to change tyres and McLaren switched him to a one-stop strategy. Jordan's Nick Heidfeld also started from the pit lane. Alonso took second behind pole man Barrichello at the start and Schumacher cut the first chicane. He had to back off and let Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams go ahead or incur a penalty.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took advantage and got past the Ferrari as well. Schumacher then spun at the second chicane and a couple other cars went off in sympathy. Olivier Panis' Toyota hit the back of Antonio Pizzonia's Williams and went into the gravel to finish his race almost as soon as it had begun. Pizzonia escaped unscathed and continued.
Sauber's Felipe Massa had an astonishing first lap and went from 16th to seventh! Unfortunately the Brazilian's race was compromised later when he hit the back of Heidfeld's Jordan and lost his nose cone. He had to pit for a new one and eventually finished outside the points.
The BARs went side by side and Button gained fifth from Takuma Sato then homed in on Raikkonen, dispatching the McLaren just as quickly. Montoya was next in Button's sights and the Williams had a wobbly moment at the chicane for Button to go ahead.
Alonso took a whopping four seconds out of Barrichello on the fourth lap and passed the Ferrari easily through Ascari for the lead. Barrichello then went into the pits for a tyre change, obviously suffering on the intermediates. The race order was then Alonso from Button, Montoya and Raikkonen.
Jaguar's Christian Klien overtook the Renault of Jarno Trulli and Schumacher, who was working his way through the field, passed Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella for tenth. Barrichello was one ahead in ninth after his stop. Alonso was the next to pit, on lap 11, while Schumacher took Barrichello down the main straight for the ninth spot.
Now Button was leading but Raikkonen's race came to a smoking end as he pulled into the pits to retire. "We had some problem with the engine so I had to stop," the Finn shrugged. Boss Ron Dennis elaborated: "It was a loss of water pressure, a leak, so it was a slow death really, especially at this circuit. So we took the decision to retire the car."
Button pitted for the first time on lap 15 and rejoined in the lead as Schumacher and Alonso came down the straight. The Ferrari took the Renault at the first corner as Button scuttled ahead but Schumacher then pitted on the next lap.
Race order was then Button, Alonso, Montoya and Barrichello was up to fourth. Schumacher rejoined behind Mark Webber and made quick work of the Jaguar to take seventh. Pizzonia followed suit shortly afterwards to move into eighth. Coulthard's single stop took 12 seconds but the strategy gave him a points finish.
Schumacher was then sixth and Barrichello was the first in for his second stop. Button, Alonso and Montoya were holding station at the front with only a couple of seconds between them. The Renault and Williams went in for the second stop together and held their positions when they rejoined.
Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni had a scary end to his race when the Minardi caught fire in his stop. The fuel leaked while refilling the car and a huge sheet of flame shot up. The mechanics were quick to put it out but Bruni suffered from inhaling fumes from the fire extinguishers and had to get out.
"I'm ok, it's just frustrating," he said afterwards. "I was having a good race and it was very bad luck for me and for the team. But everything is fine now."
Alonso had a scrap with Pizzonia, first passing the Williams and then losing the place again, which hampered him a little. Schumacher was leading and Button got out ahead of Alonso after his second stop. Jordan's Giorgio Pantano spun off at the Parabolica to end his afternoon.
Schumacher took his second stop and scuffled with Sato when he came out. He managed to get ahead of the BAR and the race order was then Barrichello, Button, Alonso, Schumacher. Montoya had dropped to fifth behind Sato. Schumacher started reeling Button and Alonso in, lapping some two seconds faster than them.
Alonso was next to come to grief, spinning off at the second chicane. What happened is unclear but it seems the Spaniard just tried a bit too hard. He was trying to get the marshals to push him back on track but they weren't having it. "My spin occurred when I took too much kerb in the second chicane and lost control of the rear end of the car but after that, I was surprised that the marshals decided not to push me, as the rules allow them to," he said.
Barrichello took his second stop and retained the lead, while Schumacher overtook Button at the first chicane to slot in behind his teammate. And there they stayed to the chequered flag. Pizzonia was hassling Coulthard for fifth and shunted the McLaren rather rudely but the Scot held him off.
So after all that carry on, Barrichello took the win and Schumacher had a very interesting afternoon to make it home second. "This is now my best season ever because the win was the only thing I really lacked and now I have it," said Rubens. "So for the team it's great and how we still focus so much even though we won the race and the championships already. It was a really great weekend and I just loved every moment."
Button drove well but the BAR wasn't up to the pace of the Ferraris. However, with Sato finishing fourth, BAR has now moved three points ahead of Renault in the constructors' championship. Button was amazed at the Ferraris: "I knew we were looking very strong to claim a podium and we did even think we could go for a win but the Ferraris were just so fast that we couldn't," he commented.
Renault will not be happy at all. What exactly happened with Alonso is as yet unknown and Trulli had a lacklustre race to finish tenth. But Alonso is determined: "We will keep fighting," he said of the battle with BAR. "I think we will beat them in the end."
Today's result edged Montoya closer to Alonso in the drivers' standings but there were no changes in the top championship positions. Montoya finished fifth and Pizzonia seventh. Coulthard's one-stop strategy did not benefit him too much but he picked up three points for sixth. Fisichella took the final point in eighth after a fairly quiet afternoon.
It was an interesting race, with fair bit of overtaking and on-track battling. After the first few laps the Ferrari drivers looked like they would struggle for points, never mind podium finishes, so to fight back for a one-two is a great result at the Scuderia's home event. Final top eight classification: Barrichello, Schumacher, Button, Sato, Montoya, Coulthard, Pizzonia, Fisichella.