Japan 2003 - Michael scrapes home 05 Oct 2004
If Rubens Barrichello was somewhat overcome by the seventh victory of his career, it was understandable. The hero of the hour, he had just helped team mate Michael Schumacher win a record sixth world championship, and Ferrari its fifth constructors title in a row.
Im so proud to be part of this team. Most of the time it has been Michael doing the winning, but I am so proud to have been there so often and to have played a key role, the Brazilian gasped.
The world champion barely featured in a race made more notable for the errors he made. Chasing Takuma Sato for 12th place on the sixth lap he ruined his front wing crashing into the back of the Japanese drivers BAR at the chicane, dropping to last place.
On lap 41 he got his braking wrong again at the chicane, locked his brakes to avoid hitting Cristiano da Mattas Toyota and pulled into the path of battling brother Ralf , who couldnt avoid hitting his left-rear tyre. Both Schumacher brothers slid down the escape road, and subsequently Michael admitted to worries about a puncture for the rest of his race to eighth place the minimum he needed to take the crown even if rival Kimi Raikkonen won. Thanks to Barrichello, the Finn didnt even get close.
The Brazilian led off the line before being passed on the opening lap by Juan Pablo Montoyas Williams. But the Colombian was soon out with hydraulic failure on the ninth lap. With Ralf Schumacher already spinning on lap two before attacking Heinz-Harald Frentzen at the chicane on lap nine, Williams hopes of the constructors championship were quickly doomed.
Fernando Alonso challenged Barrichello, but retired with a blown engine on lap 18, promoting Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, who had let the Finn by early on. When Barrichello made the first of his three refuelling stops on lap 12, Raikkonen led the race. With Schumacher only 16th, the Finn had the title in his hands. But not for long. His two-stop strategy was inferior to that of Ferrari, and he never had the speed to challenge Barrichello.
Jenson Button drove brilliantly to bag fourth place for BAR, leading for three laps during the early refuelling stops, and Jarno Trulli did an equally fine job to take fifth having started at the back of the grid after aborting his qualifying lap when it started to rain. Sato, who had suddenly replaced Jacques Villeneuve a race early, drove well for sixth. BARs eight-point haul pushed them back in front of Sauber for fifth place in the constructors championship.
It was an edgy race. At one point any slip from Barrichello could have gifted the title to Raikkonen, but in the end the result worked out the way most had predicted. Michael Schumacher won his record sixth world championship crown, and Ferrari wrapped up the constructors title.
Clearly affected by his success, which brought to a close a fabulous season of Formula One racing, Schumacher said: Its probably not appropriate to describe my emotions. Its been a tough year and this was a very tough race, probably one of my toughest. But much more to mention is the team. They did an incredible job. Rubens had a fantastic drive, so we won the constructors title now five times in a row the first time this has ever happened, and we did it in big style. You have seen what happened in Nurburgring, Hockenheim and Budapest, and how many people wrote us off. But here we are, back, because we never give up, we always fight. Thats one of the strengths of a fantastic team.