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Ian Tyson visits the Fosters British Grand Prix at Silverstone 2004

Link to our online Photo Album

Michael Schumacher took the 80th win of his career at the British Grand Prix after beating McLaren pole sitter Kimi Raikkonen in the first pit stop. Schumacher started from fourth on the grid and Raikkonen led the first stint but Ferrari's strategy won the day, Schumacher on a two-stopper to Raikkonen's three. Rubens Barrichello completed the podium in third and BAR's Jenson Button came home fourth.

It was a clean start, the top positions holding formation. Raikkonen shot away into the lead while further down, BAR's Takuma Sato and Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya argued over seventh. Sato got the position only to go wide at Becketts and have Montoya snatch it back. Both Renaults couldn't make their usual flying starts; Schumacher moved to effectively block Jarno Trulli, who was behind him, off the line and Fernando Alonso got boxed in by the Jordans back in the midfield. Alonso gained one place and began working his way up through the pack.

Felipe Massa held 10th in the Sauber and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, who started at the back, moved up to 16th. Jaguar's Mark Webber was ninth and teammate Christian Klien took Jordan's Giorgio Pantano for 14th. Alonso overtook Toyota's Cristiano da Matta for 12th, quite a lot happening behind the front runners. Trulli, McLaren's David Coulthard and Montoya were nose to tail in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively, and Raikkonen was extending his lead over Barrichello. Alonso was the first into the pits on lap eight, followed by Barrichello on the next lap which was good news for Raikkonen, who stayed out longer. What was not good news for the Finn was Schumacher staying out even longer.

Alonso had a hard working afternoon, making his way up to the edge of the points, only to have to pit for his scheduled stops and do it all over again. Raikkonen and Button pitted together and Jenson managed to get out ahead of Barrichello for third. Raikkonen, however, was stuck behind Sato, who was yet to pit, and at the front Schumacher was hammering out fast laps. Raikkonen finally got past the BAR at Copse but it cost him valuable time. There was still a big battle going on in the midfield. The pair of Minardis were being lapped by three or four cars at once, all of whom were fighting for position. Schumacher pitted after about 15 laps and had built up enough of an advantage to rejoin in the lead. The Ferrari strategy yet again made it work and Raikkonen had the luck against him with the traffic.

Olivier Panis, who was having a fairly quiet time, had a bizarre incident when the Toyota's fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit. Blinded by the foam on his visor, Panis had no choice but to pull off the track and then the engine stalled, so that was the end of his race. Pantano spun but managed to keep it going and at the front it was Schumacher, Raikkonen, Button, Barrichello. Alonso was back up to tenth and determinedly harassing Webber but couldn't find a way past. Raikkonen was right behind Schumacher but similarly stuck. Fisichella, on a long two stopper, finally pitted on lap 24 and it really worked out well for him. He rejoined just one place down and still in the points.

Fed up with being stuck behind Webber, who was doing a good job of fending off the Renault, Alonso pitted for the second time. Williams' Marc Gené, who was having an anonymous time just outside the top ten, did likewise and the rest peeled in on the following few laps. Raikkonen and Barrichello came in together, Ferrari obviously hoping to jump the McLaren as they were on the same strategy, but Raikkonen emerged ahead. However, it was enough to get Barrichello back out in front of Button again. Minardi had a difficult race, Gianmaria Bruni given a drive through penalty for ignoring the blue flags and then dragging the fuel hose in his second stop. None of the crew were seriously hurt. Zsolt Baumgartner retired with an engine problem.

Alonso was again up to the edge of the top ten but was stuck behind da Matta, and Schumacher took his second stop to rejoin in the lead once more. It looked fairly static heading into the last part of the race but then, with 20 laps to go Trulli, who was running in the points, had an enormous crash at the exit of Bridge. At 170 mph the car spun, hit the barrier in a heavy impact, turned into the gravel and rolled over before coming to rest. Trulli was shaken but extracted himself from the cockpit fairly swiftly and seemed basically intact. The car was just about destroyed and the tyre barrier not much better -- there was also a lot of debris on the track so the safety car was deployed. Initial reports suggest it may have been a rear suspension failure.

The safety car period created some tension. As soon as the SC came out, Raikkonen shot into the pits for his third stop, effectively getting it free, and some of the other three stoppers did the same. Once back on track, Raikkonen had two cars between himself and Schumacher, both of whom were about to be lapped by the Finn. With 16 laps to go the SC came in. Raikkonen just couldn't get past the two backmarkers quickly enough: he was close to Schumacher once he did but not close enough. Had he been directly behind the Ferrari at the restart he could well have got past -- but it was not to be.

Button had a look at Barrichello at the restart but was similarly not really close enough to the Ferrari. Pantano spun again and beached the Jordan in the gravel and the remaining few laps held formation to the end. Barrichello was closing on Raikkonen but time ran out before he could do anything about it. For once Schumacher had to work quite hard right to the end to get the win -- had the safety car not appeared he would have been maybe 15 or 20 seconds ahead of Raikkonen at the line. As it was, just three seconds separated the top three as they took the chequered flag. But it was a fine win for Michael.

Please follow the links to the left to find out more.

David Coulthard
taken on Hanger Straight
click the picture to enlarge

Michael Schumacher
The winner
click the picture to enlarge


© 2004 Ian Tyson

  page updated - 06 Mar 2005