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Monte Carlo 2004 - Trulli magic 17 May 2005

The podium (L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari, third; Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault winner; Jenson Button (GBR) BAR second.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, 23 May 2004 Pole sitter and first time race winner Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault R24 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, 23 May 2004 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Renault R24 takes the chequred flag to take his first GP win.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, 23 May 2004 The Renault R24 of Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R24 is removed after crashing out of the tunnel.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, 23 May 2004 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004 returns to the pits after hitting the wall in the tunnel under the safety car.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte Carlo, 23 May 2004

Italian keeps his cool to take popular maiden win

After five Ferrari victories, Monaco was a proverbial shot in the arm for the 2004 season. Not only did Michael Schumacher not win, he didn’t even finish. Team mate Rubens Barrichello made the podium in third, but he was well over a minute behind the winning Renault of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button’s second-placed BAR.

Practice had not suggested such an upset. Schumacher topped every session, though tellingly, while he was dominant on Thursday, by Saturday’s second stint, his advantage over Trulli was just 0.002s, with only two tenths separating the top five drivers. Trulli made good on his threat in qualifying, storming to the first pole of his Formula One career. There was a Schumacher alongside him on row one, but it was Ralf not Michael. The champion was left languishing in fifth - not a good place to be at Monaco, where overtaking is all but impossible.

Spectacular was the only word to describe the race start, in particular that of Takuma Sato. The BAR driver blasted from eighth on the grid to seize fourth by Ste Devote, quite literally shoving Schumacher’s slow-starting Ferrari aside. But his glory was short lived. On lap three his Honda engine expired and the ensuing smoke screen claimed the Sauber of Giancarlo Fisichella and David Coulthard’s McLaren. Meanwhile, up front the Renaults of Trulli and Alonso were the class of the field. A late stop for Michael Schumacher lifted him ahead of Button to third and when Alonso’s R24 emerged from the tunnel in a mangled state on lap 42 he inherited second. The Spaniard had gone off line to lap the ailing Williams of Ralf Schumacher and promptly spun into the wall.

The incident brought out the safety car, prompting many, including leader Trulli, to pit. It left Schumacher leading the field, his rivals wondering whether Ferrari had made a tactical gaffe by not bringing him in. The question was soon rendered irrelevant, however. On the final safety car lap Schumacher braked hard in the tunnel (to keep his brakes hot, he said) and a lapped Juan Pablo Montoya had to take sudden avoiding action to the right. As Schumacher closed the gap they collided, Schumacher hitting the left-hand wall, smashing off his left front wheel and ending his hopes of matching Ayrton Senna’s six Monaco wins.

That set the stage for an epic showdown between leader Trulli and the chasing BAR of Button. The gap, almost seven seconds at one point, fluctuated as the pair weaved their way through traffic, putting in consistent qualifying-style laps in between lapping backmarkers. In the closing laps Button was right on the Renault’s gearbox, but Trulli kept his cool and took the chequered flag just four tenths ahead of the BAR to clinch his first Grand Prix win. Barrichello, nursing a brake problem, was the only other man on the same lap. Further down, Toyota had plenty to celebrate, with Cristiano da Matta sixth and Olivier Panis eighth, while Nick Heidfeld took Jordan’s first points of the year in seventh.

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