Colombian spoils Ferrari party on last Williams outing
Rubens Barrichello had never won his home Grand Prix. In fact he had only finished it once. That was expected to change last year - after all, it would have made the perfect ending to a perfect season for Ferrari. That was the dream script and the Brazilian was clearly up for the part - at the end of Friday practice he was fastest, at the end of Saturday practice he was fastest and at the end of qualifying he was, sure enough, fastest.
Saturday was not with out its drama for Ferrari, however. After first practice was cut short due to stray dogs on the track, Michael Schumacher then crashed heavily at the end of session two, forcing him to switch to the spare. In an unfamiliar car he could only qualify eighth, which was converted to 18th on the grid by the engine-change penalty. Up front it was Barrichello from Williams Juan Pablo Montoya and McLarens Kimi Raikkonen, with Felipe Massa starring in front of his home crowd to qualify fourth for Sauber.
The race began on a damp track, with almost all drivers starting on intermediate tyres. Barrichello led twice in the early stages, but as conditions improved, things gradually developed into a thrilling two-horse race between Raikkonen and Montoya, the future McLaren team mates even running side-by-side down the pitlane in a move that would later see the Finn penalised. With his Bridgestone tyres seemingly less effective than his rivals Michelins, Barrichello was left to finish a lonely third. It was not quite the day fellow Brazilian Massa had expected either. The Sauber driver, who briefly led amid the early pit stops, only just scraped into the points, despite his strong grid position.
Unlike this year, the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix was the final round of the season, although there were to be no last-minute upsets in the standings. BAR were confirmed as runners up in the constructors championship, despite Jenson Buttons early retirement with an engine failure, while Jaguar, in their final Grand Prix under Ford ownership, held on to seventh place, though it had little to do with their drivers, who managed to collide on lap 24, putting Mark Webber out of the race and leaving Christian Klien to finish a lowly 14th.
Thus, after a gruelling 18 races, Brazil brought down the curtain on the 2004 season. It could hardly have had a better race for its finale, with the battle between future team mates Montoya and Raikkonen providing a glimpse of one of the most eagerly anticipated driver pairing since Prost and Senna.
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