Ferrari secure Constructors' title 15 Aug 2004
Italian team and Schumacher unstoppable in Hungary
Few would have bet against Michael Schumacher taking his 12th victory of the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He duly delivered leading the race from the P1 grid spot earned by yesterdays searing qualifying performance, all the way to the chequered flag.
It might have been predictable, but it was also emotional, Ferraris mechanics going wild as their Champion crossed the line in first place, bringing the team victory in the Constructors Championship with five races still to go.
The easiest thing about the Hungarian Grand Prix was keeping a lap chart. Such was polesitter Schumachers superiority over everyone - including team mate Rubens Barrichello, who made a different tyre choice - that the champion was able to make all three of his pit stops without ever risking losing his lead.
The same applied to the Brazilian, and the two red cars were first and second all the way through to the chequered flag. Their crushing success not only enabled the team and Bridgestone to wipe away their embarrassment at the Hungaroring 12 months ago, but pushed Ferrari so far ahead that their tally of 202 points in the constructors championship cannot now be beaten. Thus this remarkable team secured their record sixth straight title.
There was another bonus for Michael (who ran Bridgestones harder tyre): his victory made him the first man in history to win seven straight races in the same Grand Prix season.
Fernando Alonsos progress to a distant third place was equally easy to plot. The Spaniard made a brilliant start from fifth place on the grid and had grabbed third from the BAR duo even before the first corner. As he ran away and hid, however, Juan Pablo Montoya got the drop on Jenson Button, who likewise ousted team mate Takuma Sato who went from third on the grid to eighth at the end of the opening lap. The other man to lose out was sixth fastest qualifier Antonio Pizzonia, who fell to 10th.
While Montoya preserved fourth place and gently pulled away from Button, Sato was left to fight his way back up the order, chased by Pizzonia. Both were aided by the retirement of Jarno Trullis Renault, which had run sixth originally before dropping back and then quitting altogether on the 42nd lap with an engine problem.
After the excitement of Hockenheim, Formula One racing came back down to earth with a bump at the Hungaroring, with only pit stops changing the order of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth place men prior to Trullis demise.
Further back, Giancarlo Fisichella dropped a place at the start to run ninth, thanks to Trullis superior traction, but made it up when the Italian retired. Sauber thus added another point to its tally to cement its sixth place in the constructors table. He was chased home by David Coulthard, who could not muster the pace to challenge him closely. Kimi Raikkonen had run seventh in the early laps, but retired his McLaren after 14 laps with an electrical problem. Afterwards, the team blamed their relatively poor showing on their choice of Michelins harder tyres.
Tenth place fell to Mark Webbers Jaguar after a pushy drive by the Williams-bound Australian, which included recovering from a spin while chasing Coulthard. Meanwhile Olivier Panis was relieved to head Nick Heidfelds Jordan home for 11th having earlier on been obliged to study the yellow cars rear end yet again as the German put in his usual feisty performance. Their team mates were less fortunate; both were involved in a first corner collision when Zonta was pushed into the back of Webbers car. Zonta spun, and later retired with an electronic problem. Pantano went off the road under pressure from Felipe Massa (who started from the back after declining to qualify following his engine failure on Saturday morning), and also later retired after 48 laps. Christian Klien had a great scrap with Pantano, at various stages of the race, and after winning it brought his Jaguar home 13th behind Heidfeld, while Gianmaria Bruni beat homeboy Zsolt Baumgartner in the Minardi fight, four and five laps adrift respectively. Massa went out with a brake problem after 21 laps, the Sauber team retiring him on safety grounds when he complained of a long pedal.
In the drivers stakes, Schumacher has almost four race wins worth of points in hand over Barrichello and Button has drawn right away from Trulli, who is now only a point ahead of Renault team mate Alonso.