On the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix, the Spaniards bet on Fernando Alonso, the experts on Jenson Button, the romantics on Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello. These are the second place predictions. The victory of the Spanish Grand Prix, fifth of the season, is booked by Michael Schumacher. Undefeated so far, the German driver is aiming for a fourth consecutive success in Barcelona, the sixth of his career in this race which the statistics (not all agree) consider his two hundredth.
"Numbers don't interest me. The important thing is to go fast".
The controversy concerns the 1996 Magny-Cours race, when the Ferrari broke down during the formation lap (other times) and the German was not even able to line up at the start. Opponents trudge, hoping that Michael Schumacher is wrong and swear that at that moment they will be there to take advantage of it. He dismisses them with modest consideration:
"My best opponent was Mika Hakkinen. I had beautiful duels with him".
So you miss Hakkinen?
"No, I miss my wife".
The important thing is to win. At the cost of playing hard like in Imola. After two weeks, the controversy with Juan Pablo Montoya remains undiplomatic. The Colombian, who in an attempt to overtake found the door closed and ended up with his wheels on the grass, attacks:
"An apology from him did not come, unless one can consider the excuse of not seeing him as such. Rules are sought to make Formula 1 more spectacular and then such behavior is tolerated".
The German pilot replies:
"It was a tough but correct manoeuvre. Racing is like this, there are no rules that cover all situations. Did Juan Pablo say I'm blind or stupid?I don't think it's of any use to react to insults".
Speaking of opponents, Michael Schumacher promotes BAR-Honda:
"I saw the results of their tests here at the Montmelò circuit. We have to be careful because it will be a tough race. BMW and Renault are a little further behind".
"The important thing is to get the set up right. It's not obvious: a wrong setting causes you to lose more than in any other circuit".
Jenson Button is the most feared. At Imola he took the first pole of his career, then brought home a second place.
"Everything went well for me. The important thing is to grow up and wait for Michael to make a mistake, otherwise any hypothesis of victory is unrealistic".
Fernando Alonso is the most acclaimed. Thanks to him Spain begins to love Formula 1, after years of monopoly of the MotoGP. Since its debut in 2001, the local audience has doubled. Yesterday 20.000 people paid for a ticket to stroll around the racetrack and see the single-seaters parked in front of the pits.
"This is my audience, I will give 200 percent to get a good result".
Rubens Barrichello relies on statistics: the second part of the season is always better for him.
"The F2004 is an excellent car, but so far I haven't been able to take full advantage of it. Michael's results? I don't think he will be able to win all eighteen Grands Prix. Imola was a difficult race for me right from the start, we always talked about Senna, I've never been able to get the car ready, I found traffic on the track, you can't overtake. Here he will be better".
On the new rules under discussion Rubens Barrichello has a precise idea:
"Give me any engine, but please give me back the slicks".
The Brazilian has never been comfortable with the grooved tires introduced in 1998 to reduce performance. But the next revolution will be dated 2008, 2006 at the earliest. In short, maybe it's better that he put his soul in peace. All traces of Ralf Schumacher have been lost. Niki Lauda pans it:
"He is lazy".
Williams does not seem willing to renew his contract and in 2005 we will most likely see him at the wheel of a Toyota. Other missing are the McLarens. Waiting to present the B version of the ill-fated MP4/18, they hope to bring at least one driver into the top eight in the race. Does sex before a race help? While awaiting a clear, unambiguous and definitive answer from medicine, the opinions of coaches, sportsmen and spin doctors are authentic. And consorts. The latest to theorize is Louise Griffiths, aspiring British television star best known as Jenson Button's girlfriend. The faster he goes, the more famous she becomes. But - claims the beautiful Louise, interviewed by Bild - the performance on the track of the charming Jenson does not depend only on a powerful engine or refined aerodynamic studies: the credit is largely due to him.
"The night before the Grand Prix I always give him an erotic massage. That makes it really fast".
Jenson Button half denies:
"Louise would never say such a thing".
But he continues to approach his majesty Michael Schumacher. On Friday 7 May 2004, the World Champion's Ferrari dominated the first free practice session on the Montmelò circuit, the Englishman's BAR-Honda was second. In the comparison of the times Michael Schumacher still prevails, who is starting to feel the pressure. One wonders what motivated the good Jenson Button, given that his girlfriend has not been seen. And what did Louise do on the eve nights of past seasons, when her partner - whom they've known each other since 2001 - was slower than Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli at the wheel of the Benetton-Renault? She explains:
"From a sporting point of view, Jenson has had difficult years, but has always maintained a positive attitude. If BAR-Honda continues to provide him with a good car, he will become World Champion".
To add a pinch of interest to the statements, Griffith, 27, a model's physique, quibbles about the Schumacher ladies:
"Corinna (Michael's wife) is very nice, Cora (Ralf's) is not very kind".
Women and engines are commonplace as abused as the disappearance of mid-seasons. In the racetracks there are more beautiful girls than mechanics and Formula 1 catalogs the hearts stolen by playboys of the caliber of Flavio Briatore or Nelson Piquet. It is said that Eddie Irvine - at the twilight of his career with Jaguar - forced the pilot of his private jet into an emergency maneuver due to the jolts caused by a massage from his girlfriend. And Gerard Berger saw in the rearview mirror, just before leaving the pits for a qualifying session, a beautiful girl: he immediately called the manager and ordered him to retrieve the telephone number of what would become his wife. However, the proximity of beautiful women changed neither of their racing careers. And Jenson Button is probably destined to win regardless of the massages: before qualifying he will rely on his trusted physiotherapist that he is a male and not at all erotic, he assures him. Michael Schumacher fears it:
"He is my number one opponent together with Barrichello. In the first four races of the season he performed very well and in the tests here in Barcelona he was very strong. I have to keep an eye on him especially in qualifying".
Jenson Button confirms:
"On the single lap we caught up with Ferrari. During the race we are inferior".
At the end of practice, both are subjected to anti-doping together with Rubens Barrichello (third time), Kimi Raikkonen (sixth mechanical problem of the season), Felipe Massa, and Olivier Panis. A not exactly surprising check in the Spanish Grand Prix, but it cannot be excluded that chemical substances other than Viagra are found. After four races, spent between Ferrari's successes and the search for an opponent capable of countering Scuderia Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, the Spanish Grand Prix once again brings back the BAR-Button combination. Indeed, the first day of practice made it clear that the English driver and his car were still growing, ready to threaten the supremacy of the leaders. If Michael Schumacher sets the best time (1'15"935) over the two test sessions, the second is set by the young Jenson Button, the fastest of the afternoon.
About 0.3 seconds behind the Germans. At Imola, on Friday, the German had a margin of almost a second. The gap, therefore, seems to be narrowing, even if it is difficult to make comparisons, changing the circuits. The fact remains that the BAR is more than a threat. The scenario that presents itself for qualifying offers several images. The Michelin tires, with which Jenson Button's single-seater is equipped, are of two types. One that allows you to make a very fast first lap, but has a rapid drop in performance in the following ones. The other more consistent in terms of duration. second tire solution, opting for a more consistent race with fewer risks. A speech that more or less also applies to Ferrari, which has collected positive data on the tires over the distance. The film already seen at Imola could therefore repeat itself, but with BAR much closer to Ferrari and with Michael Schumacher forced to force the pace to take his fifth consecutive victory. The World Champion's advantage in the standings is such as to also allow for a non-aggressive strategy, aiming for a placement. However, looking ahead, it would be better to aim for ten points for first place. Because the next race will take place in Monte-Carlo, where the pole position will be decisive and where BAR could try to get a good result, with a good chance of success. The team directed by David Richards has already assumed the tone of the top teams: during the day its designer, Geoff Willis, went to the FIA technicians to ask them to check the rear wings of Williams and Jaguar, because he was convinced that do not interpret the spirit of the regulation. In the meantime, however, on Saturday 8 May 2004 Michael Schumacher is impeccable, and conquers pole position number 59 in his career (Ayrton Senna's 65 are ever closer) and fourth of the season. The gaps are equivalent to beatings: with the same Ferrari F2004, Rubens Barrichello, pays 1.250 seconds and is fifth; Jenson Button begins to feel the pressure of expectations and makes a mistake which drops him to P14; Fernando Alonso, a local idol, does not go beyond the eighth time. Michael Schumacher would celebrate his 200 Formula 1 races in peace if Juan Pablo Montoya weren't in the front row of the Spanish Grand Prix. The Colombian is euphoric: he laughs and jokes, but he doesn't forget or forgive. He remembers the contact with Rubens Barrichello a year ago in Indianapolis which cost him a penalty.
"I could have won the World Championship, but I was unfairly punished. Alonso attempted the same maneuver at Imola on Ralf and nobody reproached him for anything. They scolded Ralf".
It is not a promise of revenge, but we are close: the appointment is at the first corner, Juan Pablo asked safety delegate Charlie Whiting for clarifications on the rules and asked the Federation to appoint permanent race commissioners:
"Otherwise, once you overtake they will judge you a hero and another time an idiot".
It takes place on the Montmeló circuit, about thirty kilometers north of Barcelona. It is the fifth Grand Prix of the season. Ferrari won four and booked this one. But the departure remains unknown: during the first lap the Michelin tires of Williams and the other main rivals of the Maranello team work better than the Bridgestones. And in that first lap at Imola, Michael Schumacher was forced to forcefully prevent Juan Pablo Montoya from passing him. From there the origin of the controversy. The World Champion softens the tone:
"I remember many duels with Juan Pablo. There were only two problems. This means that in most cases everything went smoothly. We both drive to the limit. Sometimes we evaluate the limit differently. That's all".
Do you expect sparks at the start?
"No, nothing special. We will be close, everyone will play their cards. We'll see who passes first".
Jenson Button's mistake removes any residual worries from Ferrari:
"Here I considered him the most dangerous opponent. Overtaking is difficult, I'm sorry for him. I'm afraid he doesn't have much chance of recovering, even if you can never predict the outcome of a race. I was a little surprised by Williams because they didn't go very well in the tests".
Predictions, weather permitting, given that there is a risk of rain: if Michael Schumacher takes the lead in the first three corners, they only stop him by shooting him. An English bookmaker no longer accepts bets on him and the statistics give him full marks: in the last three years in Barcelona he has achieved pole and success. If he wins again he would hit 75 and equal Nigel Mansell's record of five consecutive wins at the start of the season. Not only that: since 1992, whoever gets the best time in qualifying on the Spanish circuit then becomes World Champion.
"It's a good time to get superstitious. I hope to keep the tradition".
Juan Pablo Montoya is the alternative, but watch out for Takuma Sato and Jarno Trulli in the second row. They are specialists in starts (a great credit goes to the engineers at BAR and Renault) and have nothing to lose. Voiceless due to a stroke of cold, the Italian mimes an eloquent: me ne frego (italian for I don't care). of the two up front, sliding his fingers down his throat and chin and promises an attack race: at the cost of ruining his teammate's Spanish party Fernando Alonso.
"Taku, I bet on your victory, come on…".
Signed Yusze Tong. The qualifying sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix had not yet concluded, and hundreds of messages had already arrived on Takuma Sato's official website. The first, that of the bet. The feat of the BAR driver, third on the starting grid, did not go unnoticed. This 27-year-old young man from Tokyo, from a good family, son of a lawyer, became the fastest Japanese in the history of Formula 1. None of his fourteen compatriots who had so far taken part in the World Championship had ever climbed so high. Backed by Honda, which supplies engines and technology to the English team, Takuma Sato had made his debut in 2002 driving the Jordan and had already stood out for his grit and speed, obtaining a fifth place in Suzuka in his debut year and a sixth in the last season with the current team. In the first year he had also been the protagonist of four sensational accidents, due to inexperience and excessive aggressiveness. But now Sato has learned his lesson. Explains Geoff Willis, designer of the BAR:
"He is strong, he just needs to have the right level of pressure. I am convinced that we will see him in the top three at the end of the race, with Button in the points. It would be the ideal result for us".
He, Takuma-san as the Japanese media call him, is overjoyed.
"As a boy I just wanted to race a bike, which remains one of my great passions, then I had the money to buy a kart and I started with engines. Barcelona is one of my favorite circuits. I've tested for thousands of kilometers here and I've also held the unofficial track record since 6 April, 1'13"797. It was colder and honestly there wasn't much petrol in the tank. It's still a great satisfaction".
He may not be the tallest driver (he claims to be 163cm tall, but maybe he cheats to excess) but he is certainly a very fast guy. Everyone was waiting for Jenson Button but the Englishman made a mistake and Takuma Sato replaced him as the team's standard-bearer.
"The best result of a Japanese in the race was that of my friend Aguri Suzuki who finished third in his home Grand Prix in 1990. My goal is to equal it".
But in his heart, hiding his intentions with a bow and a smile, perhaps he dreams of something better, perhaps a victory that would make him famous as a samurai. Ultimately, it will also be a boring Formula, but the figures prove otherwise. The Spanish Grand Prix at the end of the fair will have more than 280.000 paying spectators, an absolute record for the Catalan circuit. An Iberian driver, Fernando Alonso, was enough to make the attendance of the fans soar. In these days, entire school groups attend the paddock, stunning those present with endless chants praising the Renault driver. An incredible party. More contained that of Ferrari to celebrate the 200 Grand Prix of Michael Schumacher. A huge fruit and cream cake with the number and greetings, consumed inside the pits only for the World Champion, Rubens Barrichello and the complete team. The Brazilian doesn't seem very unhappy:
"All in all, fifth place is not to be thrown away. Especially if you consider that I have adopted somewhat different solutions from Michael's. I remain optimistic. The important thing is to make a good start".
Even so as not to repeat the dull performance at Imola.
"I don't even think about it. On balance, I could even win".
On Sunday 9 May 2004, during the formation lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, Jimmy Jump, a Catalan man who invaded the track in other sporting events, invaded the track once more; the invader is quickly stopped by the circuit's security. At the start Jarno Trulli got off to a great start: the Italian passed Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato and Michael Schumacher, taking the lead of the race. At the end of the first lap, Jarno Trulli leads the race, and is followed by Michael Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso and Olivier Panis; the first two distanced the group, but Michael Schumacher menacingly pressed his rival, setting the fastest lap several times in the race. However, no overtaking occurs until the first series of pit stops, opened on the eighth lap by Fernando Alonso and Olivier Panis; during lap 9 the race leader, Jarno Trulli, also refueled, while Michael Schumacher made his first stop on lap 10, rejoining the track in front of his rival and immediately outdistancing him. Rubens Barrichello, who started with a two-stop strategy, moved up to first position. Giancarlo Fisichella also starts with a two-stop strategy, and climbs up to fourth place. The two make their pit stop at the end of lap 17; Michael Schumacher thus took the lead of the race, ahead of Jarno Trulli, Rubens Barrichello, Takuma Sato, Fernando Alonso, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella.
During lap 23 Jarno Trulli stopped in the pits for the second time, imitated two laps later by Michael Schumacher: despite having made one more stop, the German driver returned to the track at the head of the group, ahead of his teammate team, Rubens Barrichello. Giancarlo Fisichella, taking advantage of the stop less than his rivals, climbs the standings again: the Italian driver climbs to sixth position, behind Takuma Sato (overtaken by Fernando Alonso during the pit stops), but ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. The last series of pit stops was opened by the Italian Sauber-Petronas driver on lap 40. All the other drivers gradually followed. Twenty laps from the end of the race, Juan Pablo Montoya was forced to retire due to a brake problem that had already slowed him down earlier. Even Kimi Räikkönen, however confined to the rear, accused of mechanical problems, having to extend the last pit stop to compensate for a drop in pressure in the pneumatic distribution system. The final laps held no surprises and Michael Schumacher easily won the Spanish Grand Prix, thus winning the fifth consecutive race since the start of the season; the podium is completed by Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli, while Fernando Alonso, Takuma Sato, Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button win championship points. In Michael Schumacher's victories the details change: in Barcelona the German conceded nine laps in the lead to Jarno Trulli. Two weeks earlier, at Imola, he had left seven to Jenson Button. The rest is remarkably the same.
In his hands, Ferrari has no rivals. In the Spanish Grand Prix the German set the pole position, the fastest lap and took the victory. In Formula 1 they call it a hat trick, and it means that the others acted as spectators. Closest to him is his teammate, Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian is not as competitive, so the Maranello team's strategists invented an ad hoc strategy of just two stops which allowed him to finish in second place and guarantee the team its third one-two finish of the year, the eighteenth in tandem with Michael Schumacher, the number 64 in the history of Scuderia Ferrari. Extraordinary numbers. The German champion celebrates the 200 Grands Prix and washes them down with the champagne of victory number 75 (172 for Ferrari). The race saw a couple of thrills: the first in the formation lap due to the solo invasion of a stricker, known in Spain for his ability to climb over fences. Luckily a professional, because he had the foresight to get on track when the group was proceeding at reduced speed in a distant point of the circuit. The second emotion at the start, when Jarno Trulli's Renault slipped between Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya as if he had 50 more horsepower. In reality he has 50 less, but the starting system is the best. The Italian driver admits at the end of the race that he was lucky:
"I let go of the clutch and at the same time the lights went out. A penny sooner would have been a false start".
This time Michael Schumacher didn't try to close the ideal line: in order not to rekindle the controversy at Imola, to avoid problems, for the peace of mind that the F2004 offers him, he knows the reason. Maybe he didn't even expect it. And he didn't try to repel the attack either. He simply waited for the Renault to come back for the pit stop, pushed hard for a lap, in the meantime radioed the mechanics to hurry up and went back to the pits himself. Back on the track, the virtual overtaking was accomplished without further hassle. This is how Formula Ferrari is: him in front, then Rubens Barrichello, finally all the others. Only a breakdown could have changed the ending, they said on the eve. Error: there was a fault but it didn't change anything at all. On lap 11 the left exhaust of the engine mounted on the Ferrari of the World Champion broke, which on the following lap stopped the clock on the best time of the day: 1'17"450. From the pits they told him to slow down, but no one In the excited dialogue between the pilot and the pits (where the technicians, observing the telemetry, had noticed a significant rise in temperatures through the sensors applied in the area) there was a continuous exchange of information. the manager of the engine department, the engineer Paolo Martinelli, and the designer Gilles Simon were present in Spain for a meeting, who were able to provide some valuable advice. There wasn't much to do, but we proceeded to work as far as possible. Michael, using the throttles available on the steering wheel, greased the carburetor, so as to slightly decrease the temperature.
At the same time he had to change his way of driving a bit, trying to be as smooth as possible, to avoid bumps on the curbs and keep an eye on all the data on the display. He succeeded perfectly, putting his enormous sensitivity to good use, a gift that is part of the technical baggage of a great champion which he has shown himself to be since his debut back in 1991. And in this situation, no one among the spectators if he noticed. 108.000 people sat in the grandstand, a blue and yellow spot (the colors of Asturias, where Fernando Alonso was born, as well as of Renault) to break the monotony of red on almost all the other circuits. The Alonso effect was the driving force: over 277.000 tickets were sold over the Spanish weekend. Nano put on a show but just missed out on the podium. Jarno Trulli, who is his teammate, resisted the comeback. Flavio Briatore tells us at the end of the race:
"We let them play it. They had fun and gave some emotion. On this circuit, overtaking was impossible".
The historic rivals of the Maranello team dissolve. Juan Pablo Montoya was stopped by brake problems, Ralf Schumacher finished sixth and commented resignedly:
"The result reflects the level of our current performance. A better start wouldn't have helped at all".
Mario Theissen, director of the BMW racing department contradicts this:
"If you start badly and you have three teams ahead of you that are going at the same speed as you, recovering is impossible".
McLaren remains in crisis: the Anglo-German team's technicians have managed to improve reliability, not to avoid the shame of lapping. Fun fact: David Coulthard in tenth finished the race ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in eleventh, who was using a new specification Mercedes engine. Half disappointment at BAR: Jenson Button, eighth, compromised the race with an error in qualifying (but the performances were there: the second best lap belongs to him), while Takuma Sato crossed the finish line in fifth position. Ferrari gets back on track tomorrow on two circuits: the starting drivers and Luca Badoer will take turns at Fiorano and Mugello in preparation for the Monaco Grand Prix. Because, as Jean Todt says:
"Why do we work so hard despite the advantage? It's one of our secrets. I don't know how many other teams would have had an hour-and-a-half technical meeting after a brace".
Meanwhile, the compliments of the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo arrive immediately after the race.
"I'm delighted with this one-two: it's the best way to celebrate Jean Todt's appointment as general manager of Ferrari and to continue this wonderful adventure".
From his home in Bologna, the president phones to congratulate the whole team engaged in Spain in the fifth Grand Prix of the season and in particular with the French manager, freshly appointed to the general management of Ferrari, with skills extended from sports management only to entire commercial sector. Michael and his wife Corinna, smiling, indeed happy, celebrate with showers of champagne, together with the team, the five successes out of five races.
The record for consecutive hits achieved by Nigel Mansell in 1992 has been equaled. Jean Todt is also drawn into hyperbole in the enthusiasm:
"There was no better way to celebrate Michael's two hundred races. A fantastic one-two, which we only believed in when both cars crossed the finish line. This result is the result of the work of an exceptional team, an extraordinary car and engine and the contribution of the superlative Bridgestone tyres. From this day will remain the memory of a Ferrari who chased victory with a desire and a determination that never ends. Ferrari is a faith whose inspiring principle is the pursuit of excellence. I think this group, which has been together for a long time, interprets it best. I am very happy for all the people of Ferrari and Maserati, of the Fiat Group, for our technical and commercial partners, as well as for the many fans around the world. Now, however, we must not consider the championship closed. On the contrary, there are still thirteen races ahead of us, which will be very hard-fought. We can guarantee that we will not give up until the end".
A very long and understandable outburst at the end of a weekend that wasn't as easy as it might seem. So much so that Ferrari, in order not to take risks, had even studied two different tactics for Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Then came the problem on the German's car, the cracked exhaust that was throwing fiery gases on the bodywork, so much so that in the second pit stop - few noticed - the mechanics even put out a fire.
"I noticed it on lap 11. I was driving and imagining those gases at over 1000 degrees that could damage my car, forcing me to retire. I even remembered that race in 1994, when I had a gearbox problem on this circuit and finished the race second, with only fifth gear working".
What did you say to each other on the radio with the boxes?
"Honestly Ross Brawn didn't seem very optimistic to me. But the technicians did everything possible to help me, but the situation couldn't be changed much. In these conditions, finishing first is fantastic, even if I had to ride differently. From the outside, perhaps everything appeared normal, but it was tough".
Even at the start…
"I saw the blue silhouette of Trulli's single-seater flying in the rear-view mirror. For a moment I thought I could close the door on him. But it was too close and too fast, it would have been incorrect. I stayed in my trajectory. In the following rounds I also bet him to pass him, however it would have been very risky. So I hoped that the strategy of overtaking during the pit stops would work".
Thanks also to the skill of the mechanics.
"Certain. There is one hundred percent trust between us. They always work to the limit and make no mistakes, if there's a chance we can always exploit it".
Now, after five victories, can we seriously think about the title of World Champion?
"That's the goal. But anyone who knows me knows that I will only think about my seventh world championship when he is a mathematician. It's not like that yet".
But the F2004 looks better than the F2003-GA:
"It is a very easy car to drive and adapts well to all tracks. We don't know why, but last year we weren't able to make the most of the qualities of our single-seater".
Now a difficult race will come, like the one held in Monte-Carlo.
"I expect a very strong Renault and also a competitive BAR. They have cars that perform very well on the curbs, of which the Principality circuit is full. But we'll be fast everywhere, so I'll aim for first place in the next race as well".
Result, the victory, which Rubens Barrichello always thinks about:
"I'm satisfied with second place, but not very satisfied. I had a difficult race at the start because I was loaded with petrol. You will have understood why I was fifth in qualifying. We planned a different strategy. Maybe I could have won if Trulli had slowed Michael for a more consistent number of laps. Still, fifth to second isn't bad. The important thing is that we are always fast. We have to keep working hard. There are rivals. Not even Schumacher is unbeatable, it's a matter of time".
Obviously Rubinho's is not a threat, but only a hope. Meanwhile, with teary eyes, Jarno Trulli celebrates on the podium with a thought of his seriously ill friend.
"Dedicated to Dino".
We are talking about Dino Toso, 35, the Italian-Dutch chief of aerodynamic engineers at Renault, who already followed Jarno at the time of Jordan.
"Tomorrow I'm going to visit him in England. He is an extraordinary person. His advice, like his criticisms, helped me grow and improve".
The Italian driver had already reached the podium at Hockenheim last year (third place) and at the Nurburgring in 1999 (second). Another precedent: at Zeltweg in 1997 he was in the lead for 37 laps. In Barcelona there was less, leading the race, but he had a lot of fun.
"Along the straight, I kept an eye on Schumacher on the big screen. I didn't even need to check the mirrors".
Incredible his departure in perfect synchrony with the start traffic light.
"Yes, I turned off that light… In the beginning I kept a fast pace, so much so that Michael and I got ahead of the others. After the pit stops there was nothing to do. Uncatchable Ferraris".
Jarno Trulli will turn 30 on Tuesday 13 July 2004. The choice of the name was a habit of his father Enzo, a fan of motorbikes and in particular of the Finnish Saarinen. Jarno Trulli, however, has never won a Grand Prix or taken a pole position.
"They are my next goals. Then, of course, I dream of a world title. I don't envy Alonso's fame: Spain dotes on him, Italy on Ferrari. Rightly so: Ferrari is our symbol in the world and always will be. Any rider would give anything to drive it".
Also for Michael Schumacher he has words of great esteem:
"He was very correct at the start and I never feared that he would try to close my line. Even at Imola I am convinced that he was right and that the maneuver at the limit was Montoya's. Some controversies make no sense: we are in Formula 1 to do battle and take turns. It's not a sport for ladies. The important thing is to stay within the limits and respect the rules".
The next engagements?
"I'm leaving for England and on Friday I'll be a guest at the Tour of Italy, so I'll move to Monte-Carlo to wait for the Grand Prix. It's a circuit that I like: who knows, maybe we'll miss out on something more…".
There are businesses that don't cause a stir, that remain in the shadows. There seems to be this constant in Giancarlo Fisichella's destiny. Last year the Italian driver won the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of a race made impossible by the rain. But he didn't get on the top step of the podium, his success was only recognized a few days later, when the stewards realized they had made a mistake in drawing up the classification. Giancarlo Fisichella did exceptional things this weekend: with a Sauber-Petronas that has just improved after a very disappointing start to the championship, he took twelfth place in qualifying. And, as we saw later in the race, he had a full tank of petrol, so much so that he was one of the few to make only two pit stops. He then took seventh after passing Cristiano Da Matta's Toyota at the start and overtaking Mark Webber's Jaguar on the opening lap, then battled evenly with Juan Pablo Montoya, keeping him behind for a number of laps and repulsing the attacks in the new phenomenon, Jenson Button. Giancarlo says, keeping his partner Luna by his side:
"A great satisfaction. I finally had fun, I ran a race without making any mistakes. And if I hadn't been slowed down by the dubs, I probably would have passed Ralf Schumacher as well. We are improving, we are on the right track".
Giancarlo Fisichella, as Luca Montezemolo had announced, will also have the opportunity to test the Ferrari. But he is in no hurry.
"I already have the suit. But at the moment I have to think above all about developing Sauber, then we'll see. I think I have shown in all these years that I am competitive. I can't do more than that. I have a two-year contract with the Swiss team, but if one of the top teams calls me there won't be any problems. If anyone wants me I'm here. Anyway, I thank the team and also the fans who support me. It's an extra push that's good for me".
A breakdown and a wrong pit stop: when it happens to the others, if it goes well a sixth place comes out. Ferrari managed the one-two: Michael Schumacher first with a punctured exhaust, Rubens Barrichello second despite a refueling that lasted two and a half seconds too long. It won't have to repeat itself. In Maranello the attention to detail has become obsessive: an hour and a half of debriefing, the technical meeting at the end of the Spanish Grand Prix, an in-depth meeting on Monday 10 May 2004 at the headquarters. Like every Monday after the race, President Montezemolo also intervened, repeating the compliments given over the telephone and expressing his closeness to Ferrari's sports management.
"It was a great day for our fans".
Says Luca Montezemolo on the sidelines of the meeting of industrialists in Vicenza. Adding:
"Unfortunately, around me I see too many BMWs and Mercedes".
Ferrari is back on track on Tuesday 11 May 2004: Michael Schumacher will work at Fiorano for three days, Luca Badoer and Rubens Barrichello at Mugello. There are two races to prepare, the very special one in Monte-Carlo and the following one at the Nurburgring. Just one week off, there won't be time for more tests. Seven Grands Prix will be raced in the next two months: if Michael Schumacher doesn't take a vacation, in July he will be World Champion. In 2003, 93 points were enough for him. This year he has already forfeited 50 and has his back covered by Rubens Barrichello (32 points), who respects his teammate's quiet victory. Jenson Button is at 24, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso at 21, Kimi Raikkonen has won just one point. Formula Ferrari, renamed by some Formula boredom, seems to appeal to the Italian public: 11.662.000 viewers (51.4% share) follow the race, with a peak of 14.000.000. In Germany, on the other hand, they are begging the Maranello team to calm down.
"Pietà Schumi. Could you give us a little more suspense?"
Title the Bild. According to the German popular newspaper, the only exciting moment of the race was the start. Bild also notes that with the exception of Schumacher there is nothing else German left of which they could be proud, with reference to the disappointing performance of Mercedes and BMW. The other newspapers also celebrate the feat of the Scuderia Ferrari driver. But on most of the front pages the only sporting news is the Werder Bremen championship. Which makes more news because it wins much less.