Round six of the 2004 Formula 1 season was held around the streets of Monaco, with Michael Schumacher arriving at the event with a 100% win record, having won the previous five races of the season in Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, San Marino and Spain, with the German going for an unprecedented six wins in a row from the beginning of the season.
Schumacher arrived in Monaco for his 200th Grand Prix with an eighteen point lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, with Jenson Button third for the BAR-Honda team a further eight points back.
The twenty drivers tackled qualifying in near-perfect conditions, and it was Jarno Trulli who took a shock maiden career Formula 1 pole position for Renault, setting a best lap time of 1m13.985s, with the Italian driver 0.360s clear of Ralf Schumacher in the Williams-BMW, although the German driver was handed a ten-place penalty for an engine change.
Second on the grid therefore went to Button, with Fernando Alonso’s Renault and Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari on row two, while Kimi Raikkonen in the leading McLaren-Mercedes was fifth ahead of Barrichello.
At the start, Alonso jumped ahead of Button to make it a Renault 1-2, while Takuma Sato made a jump into fourth to make it a BAR-Honda 3-4 from eighth on the grid. However the Japanese driver’s race was short-lived, with his engine expiring on the third lap.
The smoke from the Japanese driver’s Honda engine caused havoc behind, with Giancarlo Fisichella and David Coulthard colliding, with the Italian’s Sauber overturning. Both Fisichella and Coulthard were unhurt, but both were out of the race, as was Sato.
The safety car was naturally deployed as the wreckage was cleared up, coming back in on the eighth lap, with the two Renault’s leading Button and Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher jumped to third during the first round of pit stops, with Raikkonen fourth ahead now of Button, but the Finn’s race was soon over with mechanical troubles.
Alonso, whilst trying to lap Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel on lap forty-one, hit the barriers hard in the tunnel, with the Spaniard losing a certain second place as a result. Alonso was most displeased with the way the Williams driver had slowed down to allow him to lap him, with a hand gesture being made even before the car had come to a rest.
The safety car was deployed once more, and it was during this period that Schumacher’s chances of a sixth consecutive victory was ended. The German, who had gambled not to pit unlike Trulli and Button, was leading the race, but in an effort to keep his tyres and brakes warm, he sped up and slowed down rapidly in the tunnel, which surprised Juan Pablo Montoya behind him.
Montoya moved to the inside of Schumacher to avoid colliding with him, but Schumacher moved to where Montoya was, clipped the Colombian’s left front tyre with his right rear, spun sideways and hit the barrier, breaking his suspension.
This put Trulli back into the lead, and the Italian withstood intense pressure from Button’s BAR until the chequered flag, taking his first and only Formula 1 victory from the Briton by just 0.497s.
Barrichello was over a minute adrift in third, while Montoya survived the Schumacher moment in the tunnel to take fourth, albeit a lap behind. Felipe Massa was fifth for the Sauber-Petronas team, ahead of Cristiano da Matta’s Toyota, while Nick Heidfeld took seventh for Jordan-Ford. The final point went to 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis in the second Toyota, after starting from the pit lane having stalled on the dummy grid.
The Jaguar-Cosworth team ran with an Ocean’s Twelve livery for the event, which included a diamond in their front wings. Unfortunately for the team, Christian Klien retired on the opening lap in a crash at the hairpin, and the diamond mysteriously disappeared!
2004 Monaco Grand Prix Race Result (Top 10)
|4||3||Juan Pablo Montoya||COL||Williams-BMW||+1 Lap|
|5||12||Felipe Massa||BRZ||Sauber-Petronas||+1 Lap|
|6||16||Cristiano Da Matta||BRZ||Toyota||+1 Lap|
|7||18||Nick Heidfeld||GER||Jordan-Ford||+2 Laps|
|8||17||Olivier Panis||FRA||Toyota||+3 Laps|
|9||21||Zsolt Baumgartner||HUN||Minardi-Cosworth||+6 Laps|
|10/RET||4||Ralf Schumacher||GER||Williams-BMW||+8 Laps|