Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 2004: Michael Schumacher wins inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix
In his ever expanding money-hungry vision for Formula One – Bernie Ecclestone’s exotic circus arrived in the Kingdom of Bahrain for the first ever race in the oil-rich Middle East. On this day – Michael Schumacher dominated the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix to secure his third victory of the season and consolidate his title challenge further.
The Ferrari squad had delivered another exceptional package that would go on to dominate the season with 15 wins. Pre-season reports had been dismissive of the Ferrari evolution as opposed to the revolutionary needle-nosed Mclaren MP4/19 and the walrus-nosed Williams FW26 designs.
In Australia, unusually cool conditions – which could have been tailor-made for their Bridgestone tyres – were grasped as the reason the Ferraris had dominated the race but the fact that Schumacher’s fastest race lap was over a quarter of a second quicker than his pole position would have proved unsettling.
In Malaysia, again, the fact that Montoya finished fractionally over five seconds behind filled the rest of the grid with hope… hope that would be slowly eroded throughout the season.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for Montoya smashing into the rear of Schumacher’s car in the Monaco tunnel whilst following a safety car – his winning streak would most likely have been thirteen straight wins in 2004.
In Bahrain, Schumacher had qualified on pole position with a time of 1’30:139. His Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, trailed on 1’30:530.
Williams commandeered the second row and the BAR team – the third. The first McLaren was Coulthard in tenth position and Raikkonen started from last place due to issues in qualifying.
Schumacher and Barrichello accelerated from the line and navigated the first corner in their respective start positions. On lap seven, Schumacher set a fastest lap that would have qualified him on pole position and two laps later came in for fuel. By the chequered flag the Ferrari’s were split by 1.3 seconds but nearly twenty-seven seconds ahead of the third place BAR of Button.
Bear in mind that Ferrari ‘raced’ until the completion of the fuel stops and then coasted to the line.
Williams searched for hope where there was none with Montoya’s attitude as defiant as ever – even after his gearbox failed towards the end of the race.
Renault had both Jarno Trulli (4th) and Alonso (6th) finish with Takuma Sato sandwiched between them at the line.
Mclaren had chronic issues with reliability once again.
Raikkonen expired with his engine ablaze on lap 7 and Coulthard was the third retiree with pneumatic issues. Once again, the extreme packaging of a Newey designed car was consigning the season to the dumpster truck.
The microcosm that was the Bahrain Grand Prix would be reflected in the end of season results – with BAR and Renault finishing ahead of the Williams and Mclaren teams.