Imola flashback 2004 - BAR in pole position 18 Apr 2005
This time last year, Jenson Button was clinching his and BARs maiden pole position at Imola. Twelve months on and he and the team head to San Marino still awaiting their first finish of 2005.
Last season the growing threat of the Honda-powered team was the big story of the Imola weekend. Practice and qualifying proved to be a battle between BAR and Ferrari, or more accurately, between Button and Michael Schumacher. Less than three hundredths of a second split them in final practice, but ultimately it was Button who prevailed. Such was his pace, in fact, that Schumacher made a rare driver error in his failed bid to catch the Brit. Left languishing at the other end of the grid was McLarens Kimi Raikkonen, victim of yet another engine change.
Button backed up pole with a superb race start, giving him an unchallenged run into the first chicane. Starting from P2, Schumacher did not have that luxury and quickly found Juan Pablo Montoyas Williams swarming all over the rear of his F2004. It prompted some defensive driving from the world champion, tactics that did not impress the Colombian (and he bluntly told him so in the post-race press conference).
Having shaken off Montoya, Schumacher set about catching Button, whose pace in the opening laps was blistering. He was soon in touch with leader and when the BAR pitted on lap nine the German took control, upping his pace sufficiently to ensure he retained the lead after his own stop two laps later. From there he casually eased away from Button, extending his lead to over 25 seconds at one point, before backing off in the latter stages to take his fourth win from four races.
Button was left to secure a lonely second, and Montoya, over ten seconds further back in third, was forced to admit that BAR had overtaken Williams in the performance stakes. Renault saw Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli come fourth and fifth to consolidate their second spot in the constructors standings. Trulli successfully fended off Barrichello for much of the afternoon, the Brazilian unable to find a way past despite his Ferraris supposed advantage, while Alonso survived a collision with Ralf Schumacher, which flipped the Williams into a spin. Ralf eventually finished seventh, with Raikkonen taking the final point (his first of the year) after fighting his way through the field.
Of course, last years San Marino race also marked the tenth anniversary of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola. The event served to celebrate the lives of the two fallen heroes, in particular that of the legendary Brazilian. A selection of the drivers showed off their footballing inadequacies against Brazils 1994 World Cup squad, all in aid of the Senna Foundation, while former team mate Gerhard Berger gave a public outing to Sennas 1985 machine, the Lotus 97T.
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