It was a day of records for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where the German won his 12th race of the season and Ferrari claimed the 2004 constructors' championship. It was career win number 82 for Schumacher and his ...
It was a day of records for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where the German won his 12th race of the season and Ferrari claimed the 2004 constructors' championship. It was career win number 82 for Schumacher and his seventh successive win of the year. It's the sixth consecutive title for Ferrari, making a total of 14 championships for the Scuderia in its history: a fitting tribute on the anniversary of the death of the great Enzo Ferrari.
Schumacher's win would have sealed the title for Ferrari on its own but Rubens Barrichello played his part to make it a scarlet one-two. The pair led off from the front row and held formation all the way to the chequered flag. Renault's Fernando Alonso had his customary rocket off the line to take third and there he stayed.
Barrichello was very slow off the grid on the formation lap but finally got away, and Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni had to have a swift kick up the rear wing to get him going. The race start was clean and Alonso's dive up the middle of the BARs in front was superb. The Spaniard shot round the inside of the first corner to settle into third.
Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya also had a great start, up to fourth from seventh, and the second Renault of Jarno Trulli went from ninth to sixth. The BARs were the losers off the line; Takuma Sato dropped from third down to eighth and Jenson Button lost one place to fifth. Antonio Pizzonia was the other big drop at the start, his Williams going from sixth to 11th.
Ricardo Zonta had a dismal start to his first GP for Toyota when he was hit from behind at the first corner. He in turn hit the back of Mark Webber's Jaguar and spun, but managed to get himself back on track again. Kimi Raikkonen managed to get his McLaren up to seventh and things settled down a bit after the first few corners.
Sauber's Felipe Massa, who started from the back due to an engine demotion penalty, was fighting with Jordan's Giorgio Pantano. Massa took the Jordan but was a bit too enthusiastic and Pantano regained the place. Shortly afterwards Pantano went wide at turn 11 and Massa made his pass stick the second time.
The order at the front was Schumacher, Barrichello and Alonso, with Montoya and Button next in line, a formation that remained unchanged to the end of the race. Trulli, Raikkonen and Sato filled the remaining points positions early on but Raikkonen was already in difficulties.
Alonso was the first into the pits, followed by Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella. Barrichello went in on the next lap, followed by Montoya, Button and Trulli who all stayed in formation at the exit. Raikkonen's McLaren started losing speed and dropped to 11th within a lap or two.
The Finn went in for his pit stop and was slow to exit the pit lane; Massa and one of the Toyotas went out ahead and Raikkonen's speed on his exit was visibly slower. Sure enough, Raikkonen returned to the pits shortly afterwards to retire. "The engine kept cutting out," Kimi explained briefly. "So it was some sort of electrical or software problem or something." McLaren later identified an electronic failure.
Schumacher took his first stop with no problem, as did Pantano. Christian Klien's Jaguar had a short trip through the gravel but kept going, then headed in for his stop along with Jordan's Nick Heidfeld and Pizzonia. After the stops Ferrari was doing a lot of agitated tinkering with Barrichello's fuel hose but whatever the problem, it didn't interfere with later stops.
So, after Raikkonen's retirement, Sato moved up to seventh and Pizzonia to eighth. Pantano and Klien had a bit of a scrap for 16th and Massa was the next retiree. The Brazilian came in for a new nose cone but was back in to retire on the next lap.
"The car was very good, I was winning some positions," said Massa. "Then I had a brake problem, the pedal was really long, and the team decided it was too dangerous to carry on."
Webber was homing in on David Coulthard's McLaren in 10th but then spun, struggling with his rear tyres, and dropped way back from the Scot. Schumacher set a scorching lap record of 1:19.071 on the run up to his second stop -- faster than both his qualifying laps!
The second round of stops came and went, Heidfeld losing out with a slight delay on the front right, but no major dramas. Ferrari's fuel rig worked fine and everyone came and went with no change in the front order. Trulli lost out, ending up eighth after the shakeout and there were more troubles heading his way.
Zonta was next out of the race when he pulled the Toyota off to the side of the track with a power loss. "The start was quite good but at the end of the straight a car touched my rear wheel," he explained of the first corner incident. "I spun and lost a few places. But at the end I completely lost power. Some kind of electrical problem maybe." (He was correct.)
Trulli had been struggling with understeer and a reluctant car and came in early for his next stop. On his out lap the R24 gave up and he pulled off track. "It was the engine, it was just slowing down," he said. "I lost power by one second, two seconds, then it was gone." Renault later said it was a loss of oil pressure that caused the problem.
He was followed shortly afterwards by Pantano, who retired with a gearbox failure. "I had the problem for a few laps," said the Jordan driver. "The rear was locking when I was downshifting and then it just broke."
The third round of pit stops was uneventful and Trulli's retirement allowed Fisichella back into his starting position of eighth. That was the last change and for the remaining laps it was just a matter of keeping it going to the line. Schumacher and Barrichello finished three quarters of a minute ahead of Alonso.
"The title means more than winning 12 races in a season and the fact this is the sixth in a row means more than the fact it is the 14th for the team," said Schumacher. "The way we achieved it is outstanding; we were so dominant, so perfect. To win in style here compared to last year shows why we have won the title so early. The whole team is great and deserves this result."
Barrichello is now the only man who can beat Schumacher for the drivers' title: "I had a good start and I think last night's rain helped make my side of the track less dirty," said the Brazilian. "I was able to follow Michael, although it was difficult to know when he was going to brake, while I was trying to defend my own position as well as try to pass him."
"After that, I was running at my own pace and I think there was one part of the race when I might have been a bit quicker than Michael. But while my first, second and fourth sets of tyres were perfect, I had a slight problem with my third which cost me a bit of time."
A day of celebration for Ferrari, of course. The constructors' title always belonged to the Scuderia this season, it was only a matter of time. Rivals may have given Ferrari pause for thought on occasion but there simply hasn't been a consistent challenge for the Maranello squad to really concern itself with.
"Today we have written another extraordinary page in this company's history book: six consecutive Constructors’ titles and the certainty that one of our drivers will take the Drivers’ title for a fifth consecutive time are dream results," said team principal Jean Todt.
Alonso had a rather solitary race, the Ferraris off in the distance and fourth placed Montoya some 20 seconds behind. But it was a good drive from the Spaniard, confident and consistent. Trulli's retirement was bad news for the team though -- Button and Sato finished fifth and sixth and that shaved one point off the gap between BAR and Renault. Still, considering the BAR duo was ahead of Alonso on the grid, it could have been a lot worse for Renault.
"Once I was in third, though, it was just a matter of managing the gap to Montoya and maintaining a constant pace," said Alonso. "I didn't make any mistakes, and neither did the team during the pit-stops. I am quite pleased to score my second podium in a row, and it was good to finish ahead of our main rivals."
BAR and McLaren were the losers of the front running teams. Sato and Button did not capitalise on their grid positions and McLaren's race was in trouble as early as qualifying when a poor tyre choice resulted in 10th and 12th place starts for Raikkonen and Coulthard. Raikkonen's retirement was not his fault, of course, and Coulthard was unable to make an impression on the race. He finished ninth.
Montoya gave a solid performance after his good start and Pizzonia picked up another point in seventh. But Williams had no doubt expected more: Montoya's fourth was probably as much as he could achieve but Pizzonia's poor start was a big loss.
Fisichella started and finished eighth, which was at least another point for Sauber. The team opted out of its usual long first stint in the race and Fisichella pitted at the same time as others, which didn't seem to work out so well. Massa's brake trouble probably saved him the effort of fighting from the back for no reward.
Jaguar had a long hard afternoon with nothing to show for it, Webber and Klien finishing 10th and 13th. Toyota's Olivier Panis had an anonymous race to finish 11th and the remaining Jordan of Heidfeld was 12th. The Minardis both made it to the line and while they may have been lapped a lot, at least it gave them some television time.
Ferrari's achievement is applause worthy, and certainly the team deserved it, but it was inevitable. Schumacher's seventh successive win in one season beats the record of six in a row set by Alberto Ascari in 1952 -- in a Ferrari! Final top eight classification: Schumacher, Barrichello, Alonso, Montoya, Button, Sato, Pizzonia, Fisichella.