The Bahrain Grand Prix: Round 3 of 18 in the 2004 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Driver’s Championship by 20 points ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place with 10 points and ahead of McLaren-Mercedes driver David Coulthard in third place with 10 points.
In Qualifying, Michael Schumacher claimed Pole Position for the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place and Williams-BMW driver Juan Pablo Montoya in third place.
Ralf Schumacher qualified in fourth place ahead of Takuma Sato in fifth place, Jenson Button in sixth place and Jarno Trulli in seventh place. Olivier Panis ended qualifying in eighth place ahead of his Toyota team mate Cristiano da Matta in ninth place and David Coulthard who rounded off the top ten finishers of the session.
On Race Day on Sunday, we saw in my opinion an inevitably a dull afternoon that day. Michael Schumacher drove away from the field in a dominant display of Ferrari power and managed three wins in three races, which stood in good stead for him to retain his title (which he did so!).
But for those who cared to watch there was plenty of action through the field however. In the early stages of the race, we saw Ralf Schumacher losing his composure after Takuma Sato made an over-enthusiastic move on him early in the race.
The FIA then later slapped Ralf’s wrist for the crash but really it looked more like Sato trying too hard when the situation was lost. Ralf could only have avoided the crash if he had driven off the track and as he had been ahead there was really no reason why he should do that. The corner was his in the first place in my opinion.
But the damage was already done for Schumacher. The shunt left Ralf out of contention for serious points but he fought back well although he should probably have been told off for knocking Giancarlo Fisichella into a spin later in the race.
But it wasn’t a great race for Schumacher’s team mate Montoya either. During the race, his gearbox gave out and robbed him of much needed points. Montoya’s misfortune led to Jenson Button gaining an unexpected podium (the second in a fortnight).Button really did a great job to get there, profiting from the Sato-Ralf shunt and then from Sato having another incident.
He then beat Jarno Trulli fair and square on the track. If Montoya had not broken down Button would have been fourth but the best racing drivers always have a little extra luck and Button had some on Sunday. And with his team mate Sato ending up fifth it was a great result for BAR.
The interesting thing was that in the closing laps Sato was able to hold off the rampaging Fernando Alonso who had rushed up through the field after a poor grid position and a first lap incident. Alonso could not get past Sato on the track even though Alonso and the Renault team looked strong on Sunday even though the team was nowhere near the pace of Williams. Jarno Trulli might have profited from Montoya’s misfortune but he was never a real challenger and was unable to keep Button behind him.
Compare that to Alonso’s race which was a cracker but too much damage had been done on the stopwatch and the recovery meant a heavy fuel load for half the race. But then when he was able to attack he pushed hard although Mark Webber held him back for a long time in an exciting display of the feisty talents of the new rising generation in F1 at that period.
Webber was fighting a losing battle and knew it but he held on for eight laps before the inevitable happened and he managed to pick him the final point at the event after Montoya slowed. It had been a good recovery after a poor qualifying but the Jaguars were just not up to the job in Bahrain.
But it was Michael Schumacher who won the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of his team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place and Jenson Button in third place. Jarno Trulli had a great drive to finish in fourth place ahead of Takuma Sato in fifth place, Fernando Alonso in sixth place, Ralf Schumacher in seventh place and Mark Webber in eighth place.
The 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix will always be remembered as the first ever race held at the Bahrain International circuit in Sakhir and also a dominant display of Schumacher’s talent behind the wheel of a racing car and showing why he was a seven times F1 World Champion.
It will be also remembered by fans that it wasn’t a great race overall, despite all the action in the midfield and probably did F1 more harm than good at the time. But you cannot deny that Schumacher started his championship campaign rather well with three wins in three races and deserved the victories.
And as the 2004 World Championship continued at the Imola circuit in San Marino, Schumacher still lead the Driver’s Championship with 30 points ahead of Barrichello with 21 points and Button still in third place with 15 points.