Breaking the Run - Monaco 2004


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2004 famously started with Michael Schumacher's Ferrari in a position of total domination. His first five races had seen five front-row starts, and five wins. He would go on to win the next seven. However, Schumacher did not manage his run of 13 because of a defeat at that most atypical of circuits - the Circuit de Monaco.

Schumacher qualified in 5th place - half a second down. He started in 4th place after his brother was turfed off the front row and given a 10 place grid drop for changing his engine. It was Jarno Trulli, scoring the first of his four pole positions in F1, sitting on pole position. This was not considered the greatest advantage - only once in the previous nine visits had the pole sitter won!

Off the line, Trulli was joined at the front by his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, who'd got the jump on BAR's Jenson Button for 3rd. However, it was BAR's other car - driven by Takuma Sato - which shot off the line the best, making it from 7th up to 4th position. Alas, Sato would provide a moment of high farce just two laps in, when his Honda engine gave up the ghost - thus sending a thick fog down the circuit at Piscine. This being Monaco, the lack of visibility proved too much and eliminated a pair of Monaco specialists - Giancarlo Fisichella running clean into the back of David Coulthard.

Sato wouldn't be the only engine giving up - as was becoming a tradition Kimi Raikkonen would also lose one, although he managed to avoid causing anyone else to crash. Schumacher was doing what the F2004 did so often, meanwhile, and driving quickly; he was able to jump Button in the pit-stops to run 3rd behind the Renaults.

Filial loyalty is an oft unseen part of F1, so imagine how Michael felt when Ralf gave him an advantage by not getting out of the way of Alonso - lapping him - through the tunnel. Alonso decided he was going to go past nonetheless and ended up where so many who go off-line in the tunnel do, finding time to gesticulate his thanks to Ralf as he ploughed into the wall. Safety Car out, with Trulli and Button in. Michael continued...

However, Michael was to find that the tunnel was practically crawling with lapped Williamses. Slowing to get some temperature in his brakes is often a sensible move behind a Safety Car, but not in the dark! Montoya, unsighted, hit the back of the Ferrari, sending it on course for a meeting with the wall and leaving the champion out of the Grand Prix. His magnificent run had ended in the most daft way imaginable.

Whether Schumacher thought he could pull a gap big enough to beat Trulli is one of the great mysteries, but it does seem that Trulli had him covered. The end of the race was one of those faux-tense Monaco experiences - Button caught him at a great speed, and ended up just half second down, but we do know that it is impossible to pass at Monaco even if you do catch up! I suppose that Zsolt Baumgartner getting in Button's way (when being lapped for the 6th time) at the Nouvelle Chicane also failed to help...

This was as good as it got for Trulli; leaving the Briatore stable was never going to end well for his chances at Enstone and he was shipped off to Toyota by the end of the year, where he came as close as anyone to winning a race for the big-spending Japanese constructor. Button's attitude of chasing the leader down right to the last lap when all looked hopeless would have a pay-off very famously years later. Trulli's demonstration of how to win from pole at Monaco was also a lesson learned for the grid; there has not been a subsequent dry race in the principality won from anywhere else!

But the spectre of Ferrari winning every race in a season was also finally diminished: indeed the Prancing Horse has not been in the winner's enclosure at Monte Carlo since 2001!
Nice summation teabagyokel - I must have been one of the very few who thoroughly enjoyed 2004, as JB finally started to show the promise I'd been hoping to see from him. I think his best drive that year was Hockenheim, when he started 13th and finished 3rd, despatching Alonso in a thrilling battle, while holding his helmet down with one hand on the straights. Pity about 2005 and "fuel-ballast-gate" though...
Right up there with Mansell's 'loose wheel nut gate' in 1992 after he won the first 5 races of the season.

Not as heart breaking though as Damon Hill's engine packing up at Monaco in 1996 when he was comfortably in the lead. (not quite the end of a run of 5 though, only 4 out of 5 with 1 forth place)
One of Schumacher (few) infamous brain fades. That year everybody expected the Williams to continue to be the 2nd best, but they were not going to go very fast, particularly with that awful walrus nose. It turned out Honda had a great year and it meant Jenson had the opportunity to shine after a few years in obscurity ...
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