While on Friday 16 July 2004 Michael Schumacher with his Ferrari completed 107 laps at Jerez, with excellent times and without problems, in view of the German Grand Prix, the FIA communicated to the teams the package of technical measures to be taken for 2005, with the aim of reducing speed. These are the novelties: aerodynamic reductions in order to limit the speed in curves; two sets of tires for each driver in the race wekeend (one for practice and qualifying, one for the race), which will have to cover about 350 km; only one engine for every two Grands Prix. In addition, it was requested for 2006 to adopt V8 engines of 2400 cc, with the imposition of strict limits regarding the construction, such as prohibition of the use of special materials and variable elements, a single spark plug and a single injector per cylinder. Teams that cannot have the V8 will be able to use the old V10 with a reduction in rpm to decrease power. Strict and radical rules. The teams must give an answer by Monday 6 September 2004, with possible counter-proposals, otherwise the FIA will impose the changes decided on the grounds of safety. At the FIA meeting, all the executives deplored Max Mosley's decision to resign and asked him to stay. The English lawyer does not respond officially but through a statement he makes it known that he will not give up, even if questions still remain about this story. Meanwhile, Williams announces that at Hockenheim the Spaniard Marc Gene, who has been replacing the injured Ralf Schumacher for two races, will in turn be replaced by Antonio Pizzonia, the team's second test driver. The Brazilian, 23, was fired from Jaguar before the end of the season last year and replaced by Englishman Justin Wilson. Speaking of Giancarlo Fisichella, Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine say that he is a great driver and that he deserves a top team like Williams.
"Armstrong impresses me, he is accomplishing a unique and quick feat".
Michael Schumacher says of the record-breaking cyclist. From invincible to invincible: six world titles the German rider, five consecutive Tours the Texan cyclist.
"I've seen him ride like that after so many days in the saddle. I'm someone who trains a lot and I know what it's like to struggle, but what he's doing is monstrous".
No comparison, though. The German keeps his distance, he does not even like to be compared to his colleagues of the past:
"We play very different sports and a lot of people enjoy watching us. Successes aside, we have little in common".
Promoted Armstrong, Michael Schumacher rejects another champion, Luis Figo. The Portuguese, who missed guest of honour on Wednesday night at the favourite match that the driver organizes before the German Grand Prix, is one of the few in the world who has said no. Worse, he did it after promising him his presence - due, since Michael Schumacher had done him a similar favor the week before - at a meeting that served to raise funds for children.
"I can't, the president forbade me to play".
The player would have said, shifting the responsibility on Fiorentino Perez, president of Real Madrid.
"Good: come, say hello and take a tour of the field".
Michael Schumacher would have replied, receiving another denial.
"It disappointed me. I went to his game and he was committed to me. I'm sorry for the fans, but we had fun anyway".
It takes more to ruin the home Grand Prix party for the World Champion, happy also to have found a precious heirloom: the lucky necklace gift of Corinna, a moon among the stars in blue and gold with images of his wife and children Gina Maria and Mick. He had forgotten it at the hotel in Bahrain, and after the recovery he had lost it again at Silverstone: Thursday, July 22, 2004 an Englishman brought it back to him. At Hockenheim, Michael Schumacher does the honours with far too much ease. At the press conference he shows up in a red Ferrari shirt, white Bermuda shorts and black sea slippers. The only excuse: there are 35 °C. The organisers collect commentary from various Formula 1 personalities, from Bernie Ecclestone to Frank Williams, from Niki Lauda to Jackie Stewart, Ross Brawn and Flavio Briatore. Too bad that the opinion of Juan Pablo Montoya, voice traditionally out of the chorus, is missing. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello prepare the first party of the Maranello team. If they score 13 points more than Renault, Scuderia Ferrari will win the Constructors' World Championship. Speaking of Renault, the future of Jarno Trulli becomes a coincidence:
"I would stay, but gratitude is not of this world. I didn't think it would take much to decide".
If the answer was a goodbye and thank you?
"Don't worry, I'm not sleeping".
In his future there are Toyota or Williams. But in the meantime, Jarno Trulli and Flavio Briatore live separately at home, send each other transversal messages, they have decided only one thing about their future: where one will go, there will be no other.
"I'm a Renault driver for the whole of 2004, then I'm ready to leave".
Flavio Briatore replies:
"I was Renault team manager until July 2005, and if he and I don't talk to each other, it's because we've already told each other everything. Now is the time for decisions".
Who will leave? And to which team? It is a puzzle whose pieces can fit together in various ways: Trulli at Toyota, Fisichella at Renault again under the protective wing of patron Flavio. It is the most likely scenario, almost confessed by the protagonists.
"I would like to leave a good seat to a good driver like Giancarlo".
Jarno Trulli says, while Flavio Briatore, a bit annoyed, thanks:
"So he made the announcement? Well, I'm glad your compliments. I will communicate my future in the middle of next week".
Curious coincidence: Renault will also communicate the pair of drivers for next year by the end of the month. Fernando Alonso is safe, Giancarlo Fisichella almost. The unknowns: Flavio Briatore could end up at Toyota, while Jarno Trulli is also in negotiations with Williams. Ambiguous one of his lines:
"Maybe I'll move, but only a few kilometers".
Now the Italian driver resides in England, where Renault F1 and Williams are based, while Toyota is in Cologne, They were friends, Jarno and Flavio, At the end of May they celebrated together in a restaurant near the Nurburgrìng the victory of Monte-Carlo, dinner, toasts, hugs and jokes. A month later in Indianapolis, the pilot received a draft contract to sign. But in the meantime Toyota had come forward with a princely offer. Jarno Trulli asked Renault for a raise, which has not yet responded. Did the mistake made at Magny-Cours weigh in?
"Fairy tales are told to children, I am an adult. I don't make controversy. We all made mistakes over the course of the season. And if a marriage has to end, it ends".
Or maybe it's already over and will drag wearily until October. Flavio Briatore, the truth: is something broken?
"The only thing that broke is a Chinese vase in my house. Nothing happened, I don't understand these speeches".
The atmosphere seems tense.
"As we have been saying since February, we will reveal the names of the drivers for 2005 at the end of July. We have not changed our minds and I do not know why this sudden haste. You have to ponder before you agree".
Are you satisfied with the performance of Trulli and Alonso on the track?
"They are having a season at a high level. I hope they will allow us to maintain second place behind Ferrari in the constructors' standings".
What would change about the current Formula 1?
"First of all, the power of veto. To make important decisions in Formula 1 you need 100% of the consensus. Absurd: not even an apartment building of eight people would be able to work like this. It takes a qualified majority, 70-80%."
Are you referring to the last meeting between team managers?
"Yes, we just met: in two hours we couldn't make a single decision. But we have improved: once we spent at least three hours to conclude nothing".
All suspended on the new rules to reduce speed and save money?
"That's right. There were three items on the agenda and there was a team against each one. For example, on engines: there was talk of extending its life in 2005 and reducing the displacement to 2400 cc. Nothing to do. The Federation will end up deciding and we will make a bad impression".
Meanwhile, in Germany, if nothing shocking happens, Michael Schumacher, regardless of the qualifying result, will also win the German Grand Prix. The third in the career of the German who has not been a great prophet in his homeland so far: on other tracks he has won much more, even seven times in Canada and France. The World Champion puts the first seal, Friday, July 23, 2004, at the end of the first day of free practice, resulting in the fastest. The German rider clocked a time of 1'15"001, lapping at an average of 219.549 km/h, against the time of 1'15"187 that last year had allowed Juan Pablo Montoya to get pole position and then win the race. That proved to be the worst of the season for Ferrari, with Rubens Barrichello eliminated at the start by an accident with Kimi Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher, and Michael Schumacher seventh, due to a puncture that three laps from the end deprived him of second place. In Formula 1 there is never a foregone conclusion, but at least two reasons make it clear how the leader of the standings can aim for the eleventh success since the beginning of the championship. The first comes from the sequence of passes during the afternoon, on rhythms that the opponents have not approached. The second from the discreet optimism shown by Michael:
"It was a pleasant Friday, we worked well. I can't wait to race".
Less brilliant Rubens Barrichello, ninth, who failed to fine-tune the car, complaining about the radio not working. It can recover. However, it will not be a walk in the park for Ferraris. Kimi Raikkonen in the McLaren is just 0.044 seconds behind Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya is in third place at 0.166 seconds. They will attack for sure, but the impression is that the Finn's car is still delicate, that he cannot push to the maximum for many laps. And the Colombian, to run at his maximum, goes off the track four times. Or so it seems, since Saturday, July 24, 2004 everything is perfect in Michael Schumacher. Even the numbers, those records that he says - pretends - to neglect are aesthetically ordered with German precision: at Hockenheim the German conquered pole position number 61, which is also the sixth of the season, as six are the world titles of his palmares. And Ferrari could win a sixth consecutive World Constructors' Championship, with Michael Schumacher always starring. On the front row the driver from Kerpen has finished 100 times in his career (including ten alongside Juan Pablo Montoya) and 75 with Ferrari. A statistical masterpiece. His lap was extraordinary: 1'13"306, almost two seconds less than the pole position scored by the Colombian in 2003. And to think that the German Grand Prix is not among his favorites. The prediction becomes obvious: Michael Schumacher was very fast on Friday with a Malaysian heat and uncatchable Saturday, despite the temperature dropped to 25 °C. A beautiful summer sun is again expected on Sunday. Bridgestone tyres are perfectly suited to Ferrari, especially the one with the #1. Rubens Barrichello is sometimes a mysterious object. In qualifying, he remedies a second from his teammate, which he partly justifies with a different strategy - just two stops? - and partly with an error. The Brazilian scored the eighth fastest time, but will start from seventh position due to Jenson Button's relegation.
"The race is long".
The men of the Maranello team say, suggesting that a good strategy works wonders. Behind the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya are the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard: a starting grid reminiscent of those of 2003 and favoring Ferrari, because there is no longer a reference opponent. Renault was not able to develop the car like the other top teams, while BAR, after an exceptional start to the season, lost several shots. Jenson Button would have third place if another Honda engine had not broken down in practice, causing it to slip back ten places. And Takuma Sato is the shadow of the funny suicide bomber who clashed with anyone who ended up near him. Perhaps they advised him to calm down and he interpreted the advice literally, given the Japanese he secgnato a very calm eighth best time. BAR also received a reprimand from the race stewards, who found a non-regulatory device on the reserve car: a sort of differential for the front wheels that Benetton had already experimented with poor results in 1999. Moral: the system was dismantled in a hurry. The team avoided penalties as the cars used in qualifying were in place. In the Hockenheim paddock we see Ralf Schumacher again. In good shape, the German explains that he is on the road to recovery after the scary accident in Indianapolis that caused him two micro fractures to his vertebrae.
"I would have liked to race here in Germany, unfortunately it was not possible. The doctors and Frank Williams will decide when I return. I expect to be on track on Sunday 15 August in Budapest".
Ralf has already decided his future: in 2005 he will drive a Toyota and will probably have Jarno Trulli as his teammate.
"I hope so. It's the best choice the team could make".
A lightning visit, his, so much so that brother Michael did not meet him:
"I only saw it on television. But rest assured: I always have up-to-date news on his condition".
He tried, but he wasn't too convinced. He knew that others have become stronger. He had noticed this in the pre-qualification, when many had passed him. So when Michael Schumacher took pole in front of the friendly crowd, he felt happier than usual. Starting at the front, in today's Formula 1 as in yesterday's, is always a great advantage. It brings the awareness of being the fastest and, on a psychological level, can be a problem for rivals who, under pressure, could make mistakes. However, the list of the grid, made up of important names in the front rows, suggests an uncertain and hard-fought race. A beautiful group of contenders, alongside and behind, ready to take advantage of every opportunity.
"It's true. It's going to be tough. I am surrounded by a constellation of determined opponents. We had to expect that. I've always said that Williams and McLaren would be at the top. In the last tests at Jerez their cars had been fast not only on the lap, but also at the distance".
Michael Schumacher finds Juan Pablo Montoya on the front row. Is it safe to assume that he will attack and will do so immediately, at the start?
"I think so. But that's the beauty of it. A promising race, very interesting in terms of entertainment. Without taking anything away from Juan Pablo, I think the biggest dangers will come from Raikkonen and McLaren. In the race they should be even a little better than the Williams".
Michael Schumacher, struggling with a mild cold, has no fears:
"The atmosphere of the Grand Prix will be enough to make me heal. We expect a lot of heat. And Kimi will take care of it not to make me think of the runny nose... However, I start on pole and I have a good opportunity to stay ahead at the first corner. I'm surprised not so much to have been the fastest, but by the gap I got. Mine was not a perfect lap: in the initial sector I did not push 100%".
Rubens Barrichello did less well in qualifying, eighth for the stopwatches but seventh on the grid because Jenson Button slipped to thirteenth position, having lost ten for the engine change of his BAR. The Brazilian and the Englishman are the two most direct pursuers of Michael Schumacher, who smiles and says:
"Rubens far away? Let's say it's okay for my scores. But we also have to think about the Constructors' title".
Rubens Barrichello justifies himself by saying:
"Michael and I have adopted different strategies. I was also wrong in the last area. But I have already shown, right here in 2000, that you can win from the back of the grid".
He is not lacking in optimism and hope. And not even to Kimi Raikkonen:
"I can keep a great pace".
More uncertain Juan Pablo Montoya, perhaps even more concrete:
"It's nice to be back on the front row. I was struck by Schumacher's result. But with this year's Ferrari, there's no need to be surprised".
Sunday, July 25, 2004, at the start of the Grand Prix of Germana starts well Michael Schumacher, who maintains the first position; but Fernando Alonso's start is undoubtedly better, moving from fifth to second place, while Juan Pablo Montoya slips to seventh position due to a clutch problem. Kimi Räikkönen managed to keep the third position, while, further back, Rubens Barrichello hit David Coulthard's car; due to the contact, the Brazilian's car loses its front wing, forcing the Ferrari driver to make a pit stop to change the nose. During the second lap Kimi Räikkönen attacked Fernando Alonso decisively, overtaking him and moving to second position. Two laps later Juan Pablo Montoya overtook Mark Webber, gaining sixth place; meanwhile, his teammate Antônio Pizzonia tries to imitate him, but his attempts are rejected by his rival. The first driver to refuel was Fernando Alonso, on lap 9; while on lap 10 Michael Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, David Coulthard and Takuma Satō made their first pit stops. Kimi Räikkönen, meanwhile, pushed hard and set the fastest lap of the race, before returning to the pits to refuel. The Finn returned to the track in third position, behind Jenson Button, the only driver not to have refueled yet, and Michael Schumacher, from whom he was only one second behind. On lap 13, however, Kimi Räikkönen's car suddenly gave way to the rear wing: the Finn crashed violently into the barriers, without suffering injuries.
Jenson Button refuelled on lap 14, handing over the lead to Michael Schumacher; followed by Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli, fighting with Mark Webber and Takuma Sato for sixth position. On lap 21 Juan Pablo Montoya went off the track; the Colombian managed to get back on track, but lost fourth place to Jenson Button. Meanwhile, the duel for sixth place continues: Mark Webber is overtaken by Takuma Sato, who also attacks Jarno Trulli on lap 26. Trying to resist the attack of the Japanese, the Renault driver makes a mistake, also passing Mark Webber. The second series of pit stops was opened on lap 27 by David Coulthard, while the last driver to refuel was Jenson Button, who after completing a few laps at the head of the race returned to the track in third position, overtaking the Scottish McLaren-Mercedes driver. The British BAR-Honda rider then began an intense duel with Fernando Alonso. This brings us to the third and final series of refuelling, during which no further changes of position occur. The duel for second place then continues on track and during lap 52 Jenson Button manages to pass Fernando Alonso, temporarily slowed down by a debris collected by his car, gaining second place after starting in thirteenth position. Fernando Alonso is now forced to reject David Coulthard's comeback, but he never really manages to worry the Spanish driver. Michael Schumacher continued to lead the race undisturbed and won the German Grand Prix, taking his eleventh triumph in twelve races. Jenson Button finished his race in second place, ahead of Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, Antonio Pizzonia and Takuma Sato. Negative race for Rubens Barrichello, unable to recover effectively after the initial accident; The Brazilian, who climbed up to ninth place, lost three positions during the last lap, when a tire punctured on his car. Michael Schumacher and the others: two different races, two worlds apart. The champion and the normal, Bravi, less good or mediocre. At a certain point even the German television director forgets about that red single-seater that no one can approach and rightly lingers on the spectacular duels of the pursuers.
Only arithmetic insists that someone else could win the World Championship. Appointment in August, then, for the big party on the banks of the Danube after the Hungarian Grand Prix. As in 2001. Michael Schumacher's race is decided at the start: an excellent start avoids him trouble of any kind. The Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya has the cue of a taxi, the Renaults shoot like arrows but from the third row they do not have the opportunity to disturb the owner of Formula 1. Kimi Raikkonen immediately regained second place at Alonso's expense and launched himself in pursuit. After the first series of pit stops, the Finn is close to Michael Schumacher and travels at the same pace. The fastest lap of the race is his: 1'13"780. Michael Schumacher is just 0.003 seconds slower. The balance is broken together with the spoiler of the McLaren after 14 laps: a frightening bang against the protection barriers and goodbye dreams of recovery. Once the opponents are exhausted, the most successful driver in the world raises the foot of the accelerator a little and administers 12 seconds of advantage with absolute precision, lap after lap, for an hour. Then he crosses the finish line greeting the 100.000 fans of the Motodrom who dedicate an immense ola. The German Grand Prix is his for the third time. In the end he will say that he fought hard, that he feared that Jenson Button would make one less pit stop and rip him off on one of his specialties, the surprise strategy. The only problem, in reality, will be an annoying cold that stuns him more than the fatigue of a Grand Prix. We update the records: eleven seasonal victories as in 2002, six consecutive as between 2000 and 2001 (Ascari reached nine: six in 1952 and three the following year), 81 in his career (David Coulthard is stuck at 13), 178 for Ferrari (137 for McLaren). On the contrary, the race of all the others is a succession of twists and duels: Juan Pablo Montoya against Mark Webber, Webber himself against Jarno Trulli, Jenson Button against Fernando Alonso. Almost everything happens at turn 1, a braking section on the edge of 340 km/h (curiosity: the fastest is Fisichella with Sauber, 340.5 km/h, while Michael Schumacher is only fourteenth, with a top speed of 332 km/h): attack inside or outside, overtaking and counter-overtaking. Grit and courage reward Jenson Button, who finishes in second place, ahead of Fernando Alonso. Says the British driver, at the end of the race:
"I had an exceptional car at my disposal. I think I had the best race of my career. But I'm a bit sorry. The story could have been different if I hadn't been forced to climb ten positions back in the grid due to engine failure on Friday. I would have made life harder for Schumacher".
Some regrets also for Fernando Alonso, because his Renault fourteen laps from the end for a few minutes lost competitiveness:
"I don't know what happened, suddenly I hit a curb and the car started running normally again. I think there was debris stuck somewhere. I had to defend myself against the assaults of Coulthard and Montoya. Other than that, we had fun with Jenson. We're two tough guys to overtake".
McLaren is recovering in performance, but remains unreliable. At Williams it is not clear whether the car or the drivers are worse, often seen passing on the grass. Juan Pablo Montoya probably could not have achieved more, but Antonio Pizzonia almost managed to make Ralf Schumacher's other replacement, Spanish driver Marc Gene, regret being sent back to test tyres after the lackluster races at Magny-Cours and Silverstone. Pizzonia, in fact, mocked everyone. His poor qualifying was attributed to a strategic choice: to load more fuel to make only two pit stops. The Brazilian was the first to refuel and Frank Williams is looking forward to getting Ralf Schumacher back behind the wheel. You could argue that Michael Schumacher was lucky because Kimi Raikkonen was able to keep his pace, but a perfectly constructed spoiler must not break; that Rubens Barrichello without the mistake in qualifying and the one in the race would have been on the podium, but the mistakes are made by him and not by his teammate; and that Jenson Button paid for the engine failure and the consequent relegation of ten places at the start otherwise who knows what he would have done, but reliability is one of Ferrari's pride. Michael Schumacher's strength is measured in the comparison with his teammate, ninth until the last lap when a puncture made him slip into twelfth position. Rubens Barrichello made mistakes in qualifying and in the race, interrupting a run of twelve useful results, from Japan 2003 to Silverstone two weeks ago. It was not a day. His feat in 2000 remains a memory, starting from eighteenth place and first victory in Formula 1. The three weeks of vacation in Brazil will serve to refresh himself. The World Championship will resume in Budapest on Sunday, August 15, 2003. In 2003 it was the worst race for the Maranello team: Fernando Alonso won and Michael Schumacher finished eighth. As the wise German pilot repeats:
"In this sport, the balance changes quickly".
When Michael Schumacher takes the podium to receive the winner's trophy, a magnificent crystal cup with winged horse, he performs his traditional leap of joy. A leap a little different from the usual, with a half scissors. He hid a special greeting from his daughter Gina Maria, because the German champion normally performs that type of jump on the trampoline of the home pool, imitated precisely by the girl and her older brother, Mick. The family is always present, therefore, even and above all in moments of great happiness. Let's start at the end. Why this new gesture on the podium?
"I wanted to express my gratitude to Gina Maria. Before the race I had phoned the children. And she told me that she would cross her fingers, that she would watch me on television, wishing me to win. So I wanted to thank her. He certainly understood".
A success achieved with great effort and some fear...
"Let's talk about the result first. An extraordinary weekend, in front of my fans, on a track that I consider home. Saturday the pole position, so a nice victory. Of course, it was not easy, especially at the beginning. Raikkonen pushed a lot. I got off to a good start, but I couldn't extend the lead".
Does that mean McLaren was faster than Ferrari?
"There is no doubt that it was competitive, at least at that time. You know, there is a challenge between tyre manufacturers. There are stages of running when one is faster than the other and vice versa. Honestly, I wasn't too worried, because I knew I had a good strategy. And Kimi was still behind. However it would have been tough, that's for sure. Just as everything would have become more difficult if I had lost the first position at the start. But I didn't lose you".
And when did the Finn get off track?
"He was replaced by Button. Jenson delayed the moment of the first stop a lot. I couldn't understand what would happen if he had a different race tactic than mine that involved three pit stops. Then I realized that he only had the chance to do a few more laps, but that he would stop three times too".
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were good, they put on a show.
"I noticed. There was a great battle behind me. I think Jenson had a fantastic race. This can be deduced from the fact that he was thirteenth and finished second. To do these feats it is not enough to be a good driver, you also need to have something special".
For Michael Schumacher it is the fiftieth consecutive race without technical problems: a good record. What can be said about Ferrari?
"The result you mentioned speaks for itself. It's fabulous, absolutely wonderful. Not just the reliability of the car, but everything, the pit stops, the qualifying, everything. Ferrari is able to move one hundred percent at all times. That makes them such a strong team and so hard to beat".
What kind of sensations does such a situation make a rider of his caliber feel?
"I can only say one thing: that I am really happy. There are no words to describe them. In this race, then, all extraordinary summer. Starting on Saturday, then in the morning before the race during the parade on the track, finally when I crossed the finish line and in the lap of honor. I felt the warmth of our fans, the gratitude for what, together with Ferrari, we are doing in these years. It's fabulous, unforgettable. I don't think I've ever been so happy. I don't know what else to say anymore, I lack words".
What now? No testing for almost three weeks, then the Hungarian Grand Prix. Is it possible that you will win all the remaining races, that is, six more?
"I'm taking a break and getting ready for the Budapest race. On a technical level, we have already worked to be ready, while suspending tests. As for the seventeen wins, I think it will be impossible".
Rubens Barrichello, who stumbled on a particularly bad day, will also rest for a dozen days:
"I haven't been to Brazil for five months. We are tired, even mentally, we have to recharge the batteries. The race? disappointing, a lot. I saw that Coulthard was slowing down and I thought I could overtake him, also because I had Montoya behind me pressing. The rear wheels got stuck and I slid into the McLaren. All compromised. I had decided to make a slightly different strategy than Michael's, to have two different opportunities. But I don't lose heart. Sooner or later it will be time for me to get back on the top step of the podium".
And in the meantime Jean Todt says clearly, in the usual after-race analysis:
"There is no reason to continue developing the current car, unless it serves the 2005 programme".
"We are on the right track to win both the constructors' and drivers' titles".
The general manager of the Maranello team also talks about the scary accident involving Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes.
"Once again everything went well. We have to thank the huge steps forward in the safety of the cars and circuits".
A spoiler has split at full speed: should the regulation be changed to impose more robust cars?
"Whatever the regulation, research will always go to the limit. Failures of that kind have happened to many teams, including us".
Yes, but Schumacher's Ferrari hasn't broken down from 50 Grands Prix.
"We hope to go on like this, but it won't be easy".
Speaking of this latest incident, the Finn is a beast when he comes out of the smoking wreckage of the McLaren. He slams the steering wheel on the ground (he risks a fine: the driver must put it back in place before leaving), sends a fuck in Finnish to the stewards who approach to help him, returns to the pits and for half an hour is unapproachable. He will have time to dispose of the anger. On Saturday, July 31, 2004, he married Jenny Dahlman. The ceremony will be celebrated at Hameenlinna Castle, near Helsinki, where she was crowned Miss Scandinavia. And patience if for the occasion he failed to give her a success. The dynamics of the accident are simple and disturbing: the moment Kimi touches the brake, the rear wing of the McLaren comes off sharply and the car goes crazy.
"I was like a passenger. I waited until I crashed into the barriers".
The collapse occurred around 280 km/h at the end of the straight in front of the pits, the impact at 150 km/h. The Finn came out unscathed like Jarno Trulli two weeks ago at Silverstone. This is thanks to the passive safety systems of the single-seaters and the wide escape routes of Hockenheim. But the accident has reopened the debate on the dangerousness of Formula 1, which has reached record speed this year, and on the fragility of crucial parts of a car such as ailerons or suspension. The wings here have the opposite function compared to those of aircraft: they must keep the vehicle crushed against the asphalt. The air pressure on the rear wheels reaches 600 kilos around 300 km/h: if this pressure is suddenly lacking, the car loses grip and slides like on a sheet of ice. Norbert Haug, head of Mercedes Motorsport, is worried:
"They are pieces tested to withstand two thousand kilometers and had not yet exceeded a thousand. These things must not happen".
Ron Dennis, owner of McLaren, adds:
"We will investigate".
Why didn't you call Coulthard back to the pits?
"It was a construction flaw, not a design flaw, David was not in danger, although he had to settle for fourth place".
A few hours before the German Grand Prix, at 11:15 a.m., the men of Renault had distributed a piece of paper without headers. It is that of Jamo Trulli, in three languages, Italian, English and French. Says:
"With this press release I announce that at the end of the season I will be leaving Renault F1 team. I am absolutely calm and confident about this decision because the plans for my future are already clear and will be announced in due course. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Renault for the sympathy and trust shown in me during these three years and for freeing me from all the commitments planned after the last Grand Prix in 2004. However, I remain very focused and motivated to the maximum on this championship that has given me great satisfaction. I count on being able to conclude it with other successes, for myself and for my team".
The announced divorce takes place shortly before the start of the Grand Prix. The Italian will move to Toyota, which has intended to strengthen itself at driver level after also signing Ralf Schumacher. Renault is destined for another Italian, Giancarlo Fisichella. There remains a minimum of doubt only because to release him from the contract with Sauber before the deadline - end of 2005 - the French team would have to pay a penalty to the owner of the Swiss team. At this point the only team with a displaced line-up for next year remains Williams that lost Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. He is expected to replace them with Australia's Mark Webber and one of Jacques Villeneuve and other candidates, including a returning Mika Hakkinen. But it is not excluded that the Woking team focuses on a young player, for example the Englishman Antony Davidson, or on a surprising choice. After the announcement, a super race was expected from Jarno Trulli. In fact, the Italian made a textbook start, immediately gaining two positions, skipping David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya remained delayed. When he was already in third position, the Renault driver made his first pit stop and started attacking.
But suddenly his car began to lose competitiveness, becoming difficult to drive.
"In the first part of the race the car was going very well, I was convinced I could get a great result. Suddenly I heard something wrong with the car. I even felt like I had something dancing under the seat. I called the boxes via radio, they replied that there were no problems from the telemetry. So I continued trying to defend myself from the attacks of the opponents. However, before the second stop I had already lost several positions".
When Jarno Trulli returned for his second pitstop, it was decided to change the nose of the car, thinking that the troubles had been generated by a problem with the front wing.
"A mechanic noticed that there was a foreign element inserted between the deflector and the air intake of the side belly. It was a piece of the spoiler lost by Raikkonen's McLaren. At that point my car lost to working perfectly, but I was too far behind, trapped in traffic, to recover. Too bad: it was a good opportunity. But I do not give up. I think I'll have another one in Budapest, in the next race in three weeks".
Trulli will now take a short holiday, and after the Hungarian Grand Prix he has already booked a couple of days in Athens for the Olympic Games, since he is a great sportsman. Flavio Briatore doesn't utter a word. It merely says:
"Alonso had a fantastic race. His car also had problems with debris from Raikkonen's. So much so that we wanted to call him back to the pits. At a certain point, however, everything returned to normal and he was among the fastest in the final. It's a shame, because this incident cost him second place".
The Renault manager says he will speak on Wednesday, July 28, 2004. Most likely to announce the hiring of Giancarlo Fisichella. Even if a minimum of suspense remains.