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#720 2004 European Grand Prix

2022-02-18 23:00

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#2004, Fulvio Conti,

#720 2004 European Grand Prix

Monte-Carlo has passed, here we are at my place, explains Michael Schumacher on the eve of the European Grand Prix - the seventh round of the 2004 Wor

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Monte-Carlo has passed, here we are at my place, explains Michael Schumacher on the eve of the European Grand Prix - the seventh round of the 2004 World Championship. The Nurburgring circuit is located between Cologne and Frankfurt, around 30 kilometers away from Kerpen, Schumacher family's home town. The Principality is far away:

 

"Ferrari is back as a favorite here".

 

Says Michael Schumacher, who also has won only three times at his home circuit. Last time in 2001. The previous year he ended up in the sand whilst duelling with Juan Pablo Montoya. His experience together with the prompt intervention of the race marshals saved him. He asked them for help with blatant gestures: regulations state that a car can be restarted by pushing, if it stops in a dangerous area. The German took advantage of this, finished fifth and gained four points that at the end of the championship proved to be decisive for the title. Still on the subject of Juan Pablo Montoya: Michael Schumacher has not yet metabolized the collision he suffered in Monte-Carlo.

 

"I accept the stewards' decision, but I don't agree with it. When the safety car is on the track the right way to act is, to  accelerate and brake in order to warm up the brakes. Those behind you must know that. I talked to several colleagues and they agreed with me".

 

They say the Ferrari had a problem with the right front suspension. 

 

"Yes, after the accident though".

 

But Juan Pablo Montoya retorts:

 

"Too bad he braked so abruptly. At any other circuit there would have been room to avoid it".

 

Jarno Trulli enjoys the compliments he received this week . Left voiceless Sunday night, he struggles to recount his dinner  with Ranieri. What did the prince say?

 

"Très bien, very good".

 

And what did you reply to him? "Très bien".

 

Now he is making plans.

 

"What about the world title? It's closer. I want to say: in the next few years I will be there to fight. The current Ferrari is  too strong".

 

Jarno Trulli goes after an encore in Germany?

 

“I’ll give it a shot".

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Much chatter. Would Williams like to bring Mika Hakkinen back? Sarcastic comment from colleagues were made. 

 

"Fat as he is, he couldn't even fit in a single-seater".

 

Rubens Barrichello adds:

 

"In my opinion, Emerson Fittipaldi will also return".

 

Second indiscretion: Williams is courting Jacques Villeneuve. This one seems to be true. The Canadian driver will participate in testing sessions, to be held in Monza. Will this be the prelude to a big comeback? We shall see. Meanwhile, Toyota denies that it will sign Ralf Schumacher this season, so Williams has two options to make room for the Canadian: kick the German driver out due to poor performance or to wait until 2005.

 

"Many people say that Formula 1 with Ferrari always winning has become boring. Here are they satisfied".

 

The joke is Rubens Barrichello's. And, truth be told, after the Monaco race, something seems to have changed. On Friday, May 28th, 2004, for the first time since the start of the season, on the opening day of a Grand Prix the Maranello team does not set any best time. Michael Schumacher is overtaken during the first session by Anthony Davidson, a BAR test-driver who takes to the track only on Fridays, and the fastest at the end of FP2 is Kimi Raikkonen, in the McLaren-Mercedes. The Finn, with a time of 1'29"355, improves the lap record on the German track, which belonged to Juan Pablo Montoya since 2002. Also dropping below the old record in order are Anthony Davidson himself, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli. The two Ferrari drivers set the fourth and seventh fastest times, respectively. The sudden resurrection of McLaren, which, however, had already given some positive signs in Monte-Carlo, is a bit suspicious. We are only a few dozen kilometers from Stuttgart, home of Mercedes, and certainly the German company does not want to make a bad impression. A good qualification would mean being on the right track. It is also not to exclude that the single-seater has not been upgraded, instead they are waiting for the completely new one, whose debut is imminent. Ferrari's day, by the way, is disturbed by a problem on Michael Schumacher's car, which, due to a hydraulic system failure, runs only 9 laps in the afternoon. Analyzing the performances, however, it can be seen that the F2004s still have a fair margin over the distance. There is a type of tire that lasts several laps always on high levels, while rivals are very fast on the first pass and drop almost immediately. Ferrari aims to gather more data before making the final tactical choice. One fact, however, is clear: the others have moved closer. If they have not yet closed the  gap, they are doing so slowly. The F2004 remains the most competitive car; it is not difficult to find a good set-up in a few minutes, but if it comes to pushing the limits to extract the full potential out of the car, the task of the engineers and drivers becomes more complicated. On Saturday, May 29th, 2004, Ferrari will have to decide whether to seek pole position without creating troubles for the race, or to think mainly about the race with the belief of winning it anyway. In theory the biggest threats should come from the BAR-Hondas of  Jenson Button and Takuma Sato. Must watch out again for the Renaults too. Jarno Trulli is completely voiceless (interviewed by an English television station, the Italian driver responds by writing with a marker on large cardboard panels...) but he is so charged up after his victory that he is capable of other exploits, especially at the start. At McLaren meanwhile, they are very cautious. While happy about Kimi Raikkonen's best time, McLaren engineers are preaching calm as they once again run few laps to save engines. Giancarlo Fisichella remains stationary during the first session, due to the failure of one of the engines supplied by Ferrari to Sauber. 

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Due to the inevitable replacement of the engine, the Italian driver will have to serve a ten-places grid penalty, counting from the position gained.

 

"Dr. Umberto Agnelli has died".

 

Scuderia Ferrari men learn the news at 8:00 a.m., as soon as they arrive at the circuit. Jean Todt summons the team. In the back of the pits, the general manager of the Maranello team remembers the Agnelli, then observes a minute's silence.

 

"It could not be the same day as any other. We came together to try to find the focus that allows us to do the best work, but inevitably our thoughts were with the Agnelli family".

 

It is just a coincidence, yet Ferrari for the first time since the start of the championship struggles during Friday's free practice. Michael Schumacher fails to set the best time, his car breaks down, Rubens Barrichello remains far away.

 

"It's a coincidence".

 

The men of the Maranello team justified themselves as they worked at their usual frenetic pace, between tire changes and aerodynamic adjustments, while a tepid sun warmed the Nurburgring circuit - the historic site of the European Grand Prix, the seventh round of the 2004 World Championship. Fiat's chairman rarely followed Grand Prix. The last time was back in 2003 in Austria, at Spielberg, for Michael Schumacher's greatest victory of the season, starring in a dramatic pit stop in which the car caught fire. Everyone in the team knows well his son Andrea, 29 years old, manager of external relations at Philip Morris, who until a few months ago participated in the Maranello team's trips. It is to Andrea that the first thought of the two drivers goes. Says Michael Schumacher:

 

"I met him a week ago in Monte-Carlo and saw how sad he was about his father's illness, however, I did not have the feeling that the situation was so serious and that everything would happen so quickly. I am in shock".

 

The German traces his time with Umberto Agnelli, meetings away from racetracks, a pleasant vacation in Mauritius.

 

"He was nice, a very good person. He was always close to us, supported us 100 percent although he appeared less. We remembered him in our own private way, away from the spotlight, in the Ferrari style. Those who know us well are also aware that we don't need to manifest a strong feeling like this in public".

 

Rubens Barrichello adds:

 

"Andrea is a dear friend of mine. I am close to him and the family. His father's death has affected me so much. In all these years at Ferrari I had the chance to know the Agnellis: Umberto used to call me after my victories. I met him for the first time in the Maranello factory. We are grieving, yes, but we have to look forward".

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Bernie Ecclestone, patron of Formula 1, is also deeply sorry:

 

"His brother had recently passed away, really an unfortunate time for the family. Although I knew him little, he had seemed like a very good person. My condolences to the family".

 

Left voiceless, Jarno Trulli commented on the news with a gesture:

 

"I'm sorry".

 

Cheering for Juventus had linked Umberto Agnelli to Flavio Briatore.

 

"We would meet at the stadium and talk about soccer. We had recently been to dinner together in Turin at a Juve meeting. We had become good friends".

 

Briatore also knew about the disease, but he did not expect such a quick outcome:

 

"Agnelli has had so many sorrows, he lost a son, then his brother. I'm really saddened".

 

Monte-Carlo is a parenthesis that Michael Schumacher hastens to close. It took a strong gesture from him, a feat to dedicate to Umberto Agnelli, to chase away the shadow of a troubled team, almost lost out compared to  the invincibility at the beginning of the season. On Saturday, May 29th, 2004, with a perfect lap the German driver fixes everything: pole position number 60 of his career (just five behind Ayrton Senna's record), fifth of  the season. Opponents stand by and watch. Admiring rather than disappointed. Jenson Button coins the adjective unstoppable. Jarno Trulli makes it clear:

 

"Let's forget about it and challenge for second place".

 

In the Ferrari box, the smile returns:

 

"Agnelli would have been proud of Michael for this achievement".

 

Jean Todt says with emotion. We are in the heart of Germany cheering on Michael Schumacher, much to the understanding of Bmw, Mercedes and Toyota, since the Japanese company manufactures its single-seaters in Cologne. 65,000 fans were in attendance yesterday, on their feet, cheering as if for a German national soccer team goal. Not even the traditionally cautious Maranello team's big bosses can mask optimism. It seems that the Bridgestone tires, in addition to being super-fast, have a consistent performance. If so, the only thrills may be at the start. Alongside the World Champion will start Takuma Sato, the first of the Japanese to arrive at the front row honors, while behind him will be Jarno Trulli, who is confirmed to be in terrific form. At the start they are the best. Michael Schumacher claims to be just as quick, but if in the first few laps he found himself in front of a slower opponent he would risk being in trouble, because overtaking on this circuit is complicated. Takuma Sato is 0.6 seconds behind. The other BAR-Honda, that of Jenson Button, will start from fifth position. 

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The British driver is disappointed because he had the means to do better, but also because it bothers a driver when his teammate is faster. Speaking of internal comparisons, Jarno Trulli, who will start from the third position, has beaten Fernando Alonso, who will start from sixth, five times out of seven in qualifying this year.

 

"I went beyond my expectations".

 

He says, or rather writes the Italian driver so as to save the voice he lost seven days earlier in Monaco. When asked how he feels, Trulli replies by drawing a laughing face.

 

"It's not enough to get a good start. If I make to the lead I also have to be fast. Another success? At most, a podium finish".

 

Where did the winning Rubens Barrichello of 2003 go? Is it possible that with the same machinery he does not go beyond the seventh time?

 

"I made no mistakes and I am satisfied".

 

But Scuderia Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn contradicts his statement in the Maranello team's official press release:

 

"He got it wrong a couple of times".

 

So, Rubens?

 

"In order to be happy on Sunday sometimes it requires suffering on Saturday".

 

It is the answer between being philosophical and embarrassed. The Brazilian mimics his sealed lips, hinting that he will make two stops while all the other top teams follow the winning fashion launched by Renault: three pit stops, the first after a few laps, so as to start with little gasoline and get a better qualifying. For better or worse, we see McLaren-Mercedes again: Kimi Raikkonnen sets the fourth fastest time. For him it is the best performance of the year. The underperforming engine hits David Coulthard this time, who barely makes it in time to finish pre-qualifying before parking, wrapped in a white cloud. Another head jumps at Mercedes: Werner Laurenz, engine technician, will be transferred to another position. In order not to use the reserve car, the Scot gives up participating in the second session and will start from the third-last place. Fisichella also does not participate in qualifying, due to a broken Ferrari powertrain, but will start second-to- last because he was slower in pre-qualifying. Last is Gianmaria Bruni, due to an ingenuity: the Italian driver takes the track with the traffic light still on red. News in the Circus is looming. Bernie Ecclestone hopes to introduce as early as Indianapolis a new format for qualifying, with two 20-minute sessions and all cars on the track. The sum of the set times would count for pole. In addition, the Formula 1 patron confirms the introduction of the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul in 2005, and proposes to increase the number of races to be held during next year's World Championship to nineteen.

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Sunday, May 30th, 2004, at the start of the European Grand Prix Michael Schumacher retains the first position, while Jarno Trulli overtakes Takuma Sato, who nevertheless manages to respond to his rival's overtaking at the first corner. Further back, Juan Pablo Montoya arrives too quickly at the first braking zone: the Colombian ends up ramming teammate Ralf Schumacher, who in turn hits Cristiano Da Matta's Toyota. The latter and the German driver are forced to retire, while Juan Pablo Montoya enters the pits with a damaged front wing, returning to the race in last position. A few corners after the start, Takuma Sato misses the braking point and Jarno Trulli takes advantage of it, gaining second position. The Japanese driver attacks him again shortly after: the heated fight between the two favors Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, who both overtake them taking second and third place, while Jarno Trulli loses several positions. At the end of the first lap Michael Schumacher crossed the finish line ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso, Takuma Sato, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli. The German Ferrari driver is clearly faster than Kimi Räikkönen, on whom he gains almost two seconds per lap. The Finn slows down the chasers’ group, who, despite being significantly faster, are unable to overtake him, thus accumulate a substantial delay from Michael Schumacher. On lap 8 Michael Schumacher is the first to return to the pits in order to refuel. One lap later Kimi Räikkönen also performs the same maneuver, who, shortly after exiting the pits, parks his McLaren, with a broken Mercedes engine, at the trackside. Over the next few laps, all the drivers make their first stop, with the exception of Rubens Barrichello, David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella, who started with a strategy of two refueling stops versus their rivals' three. The Brazilian driver then led the race for a couple of laps before refueling in turn on Lap 16. The last driver to make the first stop is Giancarlo Fisichella, during lap 24. Michael Schumacher continues to lead the race ahead of Takuma Sato, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Further back, Juan Pablo Montoya struggles to make a comeback after his first-lap crash, while David Coulthard retires, betrayed like his teammate by his single-seater's Mercedes engine. 

 

The second series of stops allowed Rubens Barrichello to overtake Takuma Sato; behind the Japanese were, in order, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Virtually nothing happened until lap 42, when Fernando Alonso opened the third and final series of pit stops.  Rubens Barrichello passed Takuma Sato again, but the Japanese driver, with less fuel on board, attacked him on lap 46. However, Takuma Sato's move is unsuccessful and the two cars make contact: the BAR- Honda driver has the worst of it and the front wing breaks off on his single-seater, while Rubens Barrichello's car is not significantly damaged. Takuma Sato returns to the pits to change the nose, but shortly afterwards his Honda engine fails. Jenson Button thus climbs to third place. Michael Schumacher wins the European Grand Prix and takes his sixth triumph out of seven races since the start of the season. He is followed by Rubens Barrichello, who in turn precedes Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella, Mark Webber and Juan Pablo Montoya. Michael Schumacher needed only the first seven laps to win the European Grand Prix: seven laps during which he broke as many track records and trimmed 17 seconds off his rivals. Perhaps this, too, is a Formula 1 record that we will have to attribute to him. There are two races on the Nurburgring circuit: that of the German, who, after the first stop, realizes it is not the case to scramble too hard to affirm his dominance on the other nineteen drivers, who fight for the remaining places. Williams has two drivers firmly committed to doing damage, to themselves or to others it does not matter, they will change teams next year anyway. BAR has only one such driver - Takuma Sato – he is very dangerous. At McLaren damage has already been done by the engineers. Saved from the chaos is Renault, which again brings both drivers to the finish line, with Jarno Trulli fourth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, and continues to accumulate important points to maintain second place in the Constructors' World Championship standings. The French team is also the only one to have broken Michael Schumacher's monologue this year with Jarno Trulli's victory in Monaco. Scuderia Ferrari wears mourning armbands for the death of Umberto Agnelli and honors the memory of the Fiat president with a one-two, hat-trick, with perfect strategy and absolute focus. 

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The start mirrors the race and the entire season. Michael Schumacher immediately takes the lead and stays there until the end of the race, except for a natural interlude during pit stops, since he is the first to stop. Behind him chaos immediately erupts. Juan Pablo Montoya brakes too late. It seems to be a habit: in the Monaco Grand Prix he had rear-ended Michael Schumacher, this time he ends up with his wheels locked within inches of Rubens Barrichello, then runs over  his teammate, Ralf Schumacher, who ends up on Cristiano Da Matta. Montoya is the only one able to restart, but has to stop to replace the damaged nose.

 

"It's not my fault, Panis touched me".

 

Even Ralf Schumacher, who also hates him, ends up absolving Juan Pablo Montoya: 

 

"I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose".

 

Be that as it may, the Colombian driver has his limits and foibles moments, but he is not a kamikaze. On the contrary, Japanese Takuma Sato retains a certain reckless attitude that he should learn to manage. At the start he forces Jarno Trulli into a very wide line; three corners later he runs into him. On lap 46 he serves the masterpiece: he pounces on Rubens Barrichello's car at the end of the finishing straight and rams him on the right side. The overtake succeeds, but the front wing breaks off. Sato has to return to the pits at reduced speed, while the Brazilian sends him a series of expletives with wide hand gestures. The forced stop to replace the part causes the Honda engine to overheat, which goes up in smoke two laps later. From the possible podium, Sato goes to the less glorious return to base on a service bike. Barrichello retains second place, the result of a prudent strategy that consolidates his position in the standings behind the World Champion. As in Barcelona, the Ferrari driver makes only two pit stops, compared to three for most of his rivals. He had let it slip on the eve of the race:

 

"To rejoice on Sunday it is necessary to suffer on Saturday".

 

Translated: I have more gas, I go slow in qualifying, but I recover in the race. And, as in Barcelona, the choice studied by Scuderia Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn works. The Maranello team ends the European Grand Prix with its fourth one-two win of the season (every other race), number 19 for the current pair of drivers and number 64 for the team. Michael Schumacher wins Grand Prix number 76 (number 173 for Ferrari), brings to 20,200 the number of kilometers in the lead and to 1097 the career score. He leads the standings with 60 points: in 2003 he needed only 93 to win his sixth world title. Scuderia Ferrari scored 106 (158 in 2003). At the end of the race rumor has it that Bridgestone uses different compounds for the front and rear tires, something forbidden by the regulations. Bridgestone denies, Michelin denies having made the suspicion, Ferrari comments:

 

"When we have doubts about opponents, we go to the FIA and expose them. The FIA investigates and provides clarification. The rest is chit-chat, perhaps dictated by a touch of envy".

 

Scuderia Ferrari will return to the track immediately. At Silverstone the two drivers will drive from Tuesday, June 1st to Thursday, June 3rd, 2004. Luca Badoer and Andrea Bertolini will be engaged at Monza. For Giancarlo Fisichella, it seems that it is not the right season.

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"Michael Schumacher drives like a god. The others are a bunch of fools".

 

These are Niki Lauda’s words and thoughts, the former World Champion who is now a commentator for Austrian television.

 

"Schumacher is great, Ferrari is the best team, everything works. The others are a disaster".

 

Lauda then clarifies, with some distinctions, his opinion on the German's rivals:

 

"Barrichello is good, although he behaved naively with Sato. He should have gone wide to avoid being hit. In a similar case, Schumacher avoided Webber going into him. Renault also did quite well. Montoya, on the other hand, was a disaster".

 

And even toward his son Mathias, who finished 10th in the Formula 3000 race, the judgment is harsh and without appeal:

 

"He is a wimp".

 

On the podium, champagne is sprayed only by Jenson Button: Michael Schumacher avoids performing his traditional jumping for joy. Thus the German champion, and also Rubens Barrichello, respect the mourning of the family and Ferrari for the passing of Umberto Agnelli. The two drivers offer success as a tribute to the memory of the Fiat president, and the only hint of celebration is seen in the pits when the two F2004s cross the finish line, first and second, in sequence. Restrained celebration for a strongly desired result. As Ferrari President Luca Montezemolo reiterates:

 

"The whole team wished they could dedicate a victory to Umberto Agnelli. I am proud of them because they succeeded displaying such a attitude in the race and on the podium that shows that Ferrari is composed not only of great professionals but also of great men. For all this I want to thank them. Despite their performance on the  track being jeopardized by maneuvers that were certainly not among the most orthodox, our drivers had an extraordinary race. The team's strategies and mindset were perfect".

 

Thoughts and feelings repeated by Jean Tods, by the drivers, especially by Michael Schumacher, a very  sensitive guy:

 

"It was an important statement for me and for Ferrari, because we had a lot of pressure on us. But it was also a sad moment, after the sudden death of Umberto Agnelli. He, like his brother, the Lawyer, was always very close to us. He had also pushed hard to improve Fiat's situation. If he had seen us on the podium he would have been proud".

 

Then the talk stretches to the race and the significance of winning the European Grand Prix.

 

"I don't think these gained points are an already decisive step toward winning the World Championship. Instead, they weighed on the morale after the incident in Monte-Carlo. If anyone thinks we crushed our rivals, however, they are wrong. It helped us, unintentionally, Raikkonen, who put himself in the second place at the start and kept the others behind. It allowed me to gain enough of a lead in the early laps to be able to administer the race, to Barrichello, who had the car loaded with gasoline, not to get pulled away. If there hadn't been a slow McLaren behind me, I think our competitors might have been faster".

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No problems at all?

 

"My Ferrari was perfect. The only real danger I ran into was with Mark Webber. I was setting the first corner when I saw him coming at me. I really saw him flying toward my car. I was lucky, because I somehow managed to get him past. There were also other risky situations, a couple with Panis, but easier to get around of, with maneuvers in the norm".

 

Two Ferraris and two different strategies. Why?

 

"We talked about it with Rubens and Ross Brawn. I had a better chance of getting the pole position, so it was preferred to opt for the double, different solution. If Barrichello had been forced to start back on the grid, with little gasoline he would have been in trouble".

 

With 60 points in seven races and opponents changing each time, how can we not talk about the world title?

 

"There are still 11 races left. And I'm only 14 points ahead of Rubens. And there are also the others: we have seen a very fast Sato, a Button who often gets to the podium, a Trulli who wins. If I retire one more time like in Monte-Carlo, they can also catch up with me, they certainly come close. I am confident, though. In the next two races, in Montreal and Indianapolis, we will still be strong".

 

Two dates on which Barrichello is counting to achieve his first success of the season.

 

"I had a good strategy, which allowed me to climb from seventh to second place. For this I am happy. However, I am missing a victory. I am 0-6 with Michael. I hope he gets tired of crossing the finish line in front of everyone. I would like to give him a little more trouble. I have to admit, though, that he had a blazing start to the season, in qualifying and in the race. I could have been even faster here if I didn't have Barrichello. I had the collision with Sato's BAR. From that moment I lost some competitiveness because I think a deflector broke. So it was more effort to fend off Button's attack. After the race however I watched television and saw that at the start I was about to be rear-ended by Montoya's Williams. There was chaos and I think I even touched a Renault, but I closed my eyes because I had too much to do. I got through unscathed and it was fine".

 

One last thought for Andrea Agnelli, Umberto's son who worked for so long at Ferrari:

 

"Our hearts go out to him".

 

Seven races, Ferrari first with 106 points, Renault second at 61, BAR third at 46. It is confirmation that the values announced before the start of the World Championship have inexorably changed. The Maranello team remains the big favorite, missing from the roll call are Williams-Bmw and McLaren-Mercedes. The team of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya is only fourth, the team of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard has plummeted to hell, sixth with five points, lapped by Sauber-Petronas, which has ten. Williams with the walrus nose designed by Antonia Terzi disappointed. Ralf Schumacher and his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, are forced to overdo it to catch up, so they often run into accidents or breakdowns. Engine, brakes, gearbox, one at a time betray the drivers. Then it also happens that the two collide with each other. But the disaster has only one name: McLaren. 

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The team that inaugurated in the presence of the Queen of England, a few days before the European Grand Prix, its 800.000.000-euro technology center, which has the support of a company like Mercedes, has so far accumulated three useful results, an eighth and sixth place by David Coulthard in the first two championship races, an eighth place by Kimi Raikkonen at Imola. Then an absolute nothingness. A dozen engines broke down for various reasons, three in the last weekend, two of them during the race, smoke included. When a powertrain explodes on a car, the responsibility does not always lieentirely with its designers. It seems, however, that at Mercedes, despite the new regulations requiring only one engine per Grand Prix, they wanted to keep their miniaturized V10, which is particularly fragile. It is also evident that the car's hood is so low that it has forced the engineers to position the radiators in a way that  they do not cool sufficiently. Thus, after preparing an MP4/17 last year, an MP4/17B, an MP4/18 that never raced and the current MP4/19, McLaren was forced to prepare a new single-seater. The MP4/20, or whatever it will be called, is expected to debut on Tuesday, June 1st, 2004, in tests at Silverstone, in which Ferrari will also participate, for four days, first with Michael Schumacher then with Rubens Barrichello. It will be difficult, however, for this car that still came out of Adrian Newey's project to race right away.  Because, assuming it is better and faster than the current car, it will still have to be developed to achieve a minimum of reliability. Ron Dennis, McLaren's owner, is hopeful, however.

 

"The problems related to the failures have not allowed us to show that we have made any progress. However, people should not think that we are living in a nightmare. Because we know we have the strength and ability to respond. We have to bear some patience. All teams, even the most celebrated ones, have gone through difficult times. We are experiencing them now, but we will be able to recover and return to the top".

 

Meanwhile, the positive march of BAR and Renault continues. While the former, for the second time in a row, had to do without Salo, stopped by a spectacular Honda engine failure, it can count on Jenson Button who is determined, the only driver along with Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli who has consistently scored points since the first championship race in Australia. Renault still has some difficulties on certain circuits (at the Nurburgring he was not at his best), but he continues to grow. And with the French team more and more Jarno Trulli asserts himself, who has found the necessary serenity and awareness of his talents to become a protagonist. In Germany, once again, the Italian driver beat his teammate, Fernando Alonso, who is considered a phenomenon. An important signal. Also because at this point Jarno has become the man of the market for next year and several teams are courting him. Still, it is a happy day for the Italians. In addition to Jarno Trulli's fourth place, one must also consider Giancarlo Fisichella's sixth place. The Renault driver could have even made it to the podium if on his way he had not found Takuma Sato. The Japanese is great and fast, but exaggerated in aggressiveness and also inexperienced. Two episodes marked Jarno Trulli's race. At the first and fourth corners, immediately after the start.

 

"I had gotten an excellent start and was tucked in behind Schumacher's Ferrari when I saw that BAR cut me off on the inside. I had to go wide to avoid the collision and lost a position. A few hundred meters ahead I saw Sato  himself finishing wide and I passed him. But at the fourth corner he came at me like a kamikaze. He sent me flying through the air. Something happened on my car because the engine almost locked up, and when I plunged to the asphalt again I had to wait a few moments to accelerate. In this way I found myself in the seventh  position".

 

To climb back up, Jarno Trulli pushed hard, but he could not go beyond fourth place, because between traffic and situation changes the car was not fast enough to keep up with the pace of the top three, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher.

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"I could have done better, we took important points for the team. Probably without Sato and if Raikkonen had not slowed me down at the beginning things would have been different. Takuma made an impossible maneuver: in the first corner you may overtake, but the danger of having a collision is 90 percent possible. If I had not  let him pass we would have both ended up in the sand".

 

Great performance also by Giancarlo Fisichella, who started in P18 and finished sixth. The Italian driver had taken more gasoline into the tank of his Sauber than any of the competitors.

 

"I think I had one of my best races in this situation. I always pushed hard and made no mistakes. This makes up for Monte Carlo and the fact that I had not been able to run on Friday because of an engine problem".

 

For his part, Takuma Sato, accused of causing several accidents, including one with Rubens Barrichello, responded:

 

"He didn't see it coming and came at me".

 

The Japanese BAR-Honda driver in Germany made a couple of enemies, Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello. Yet in front of notebooks and cameras he shows himself quite serene: perhaps because in the end he alone paid the consequences. Speaking about the incident involving him and Jarno Trulli, the Japanese says:

 

"I looked in the mirrors and didn't see anyone, so I narrowed the line".

 

In fact, the Italian driver was there, and at the end of the race he calls him a kamikaze. As for the second incident, however, he says:

 

"I had just come back from the pit stop. The fresh tires were working great, I had very good grip, and was much faster than the Ferrari. Rubens was surprised. It is not true as someone says that I locked the brakes because I delayed the braking: I had perfect control of the car".

 

In this case Takuma Sato gets the term amateur from his Brazilian colleague:

 

"I suddenly realized from the noise that he was coming; he was faster but he couldn't pass that spot. I didn't even close the door for him because I didn't think he would try. In the collision I sustained some damage, maybe a baffle split. The car was no longer intact and I had to struggle to keep second place from Button's comeback".

 

David Richards, team principal of BAR, calmly judges what happened in the race:

 

"The overtaking attempt on Barrichello was a bit ambitious. But Rubens has much more experience, with time Takuma will also refine the technique. The contact with Trulli? Come on, they are drivers. I like them to race like that. They can't just stand there, let their opponents pass and then say, too bad, now they're behind".

 

Richards is pleased with his team's fifth podium finish in six races. The only regret is not getting both cars to the finish line as Renault, which has a 15-point lead in the Constructors' World Championship standings. On the other hand, the podium in Germany serves Jenson Button to consolidate third place in the Drivers' World Championship standings, behind the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers.


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