Australian GP - Melbourne 7 March 2004
Another 2002? If the Australian GP is anything to go by, that is a strong, though unwelcome, possibility.
The two Ferrari shot off as the lights changed and nobody saw them any more, unless they were in someone's side mirrors, getting ready to lap. The speed displayed in free practice and qualifying, variously attributed to low fuel load, scrubbed tyres, dirty trick or what have you, was still there during the race to deliver a smooth one-two to the Maranello team. There was no story to the Ferrari race, really. They started in the team-approved order, first driver M. Schumacher in the lead and second driver Barrichello behind. They both drove an impeccable race and never had to worry about anything that happened behind them. M. Schumacher never lost the lead, even when he went for pit stops, so great was his lead on everybody else, including team mate Barrichello who suffered brake problems. That's probably why the Brazilian only put a 21 seconds gap between himself and third-place Alonso. M. Schumacher even decided to slow down to a lap time four second slower than his fastest lap in the last 10 laps, presumably to enjoy the drive and make the GP last a bit longer. He also managed a fastest lap below his qualifying time.
Montoya, one of the two strongest contenders today apart from Ferrari, put a wheel wrong at the start trying to fend off Alonso and saw his third place on the grid dissipate into a disastrous seventh position in the pack. The Colombian eventually finished the race just behind team mate R. Schumacher, who had failed to impress in qualifying.
Young upcoming star Alonso, called the new Schumacher by his fans (and some team bosses), did his job and finished third, relegating the walrus-nosed Williams to fourth and fifth place. The Spaniard held his own at the start against Montoya and jumped four positions up the field. If there was any doubt left about his worth after last season, it is now clear that Alonso is definitely one to watch for the future. All he needs is practice, which he is getting plenty of. The other Renault driver, Trulli, also brought home a couple of points, finishing seventh.
McLaren, oh dear. Well, they did get one point with Coulthard, so it's not all doom and gloom, though they were certainly expecting more. Räikkönen's car decided that it didn't fancy racing today and shut itself down with an engine failure. The Finn was not pleased, to say the least. Nor anybody else back at the pits, I suspect.
Button, having qualified with exactly the same lap time as Montoya, finished in a rather respectable sixth place, leaving Renault's Trulli and McLaren's Coulthard behind.
Of the other teams, Sauber failed to perform how it should be expected from a car that is basically last year's overall winner. Toyota failed to live up to its promises too.
So, is it going to be another 2002-style one team to win them all? I sure hope not, but the signs are all there. Let's hope that the Malaysian GP in two weeks time brings some more variety.
1. 1 M. SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1h24'15"757 219.011 Km/h
Last updated on by Federica Massagrande