23rd May 2004
Twenty starters and just
nine finishers, what a race Monaco turned out to be this year.
The Monaco grand prix is
said to be the jewel in F1’s crown, the last word in grand prix chic.
But forget the glamour, the yachts, and the champagne, Monaco gives true meaning
to the saying “one must first finish to finish first”.
Monaco has never been a
personal favorite of mine due to the lack of overtaking places, but it is also
a track where from lap one to the last lap everyone is on the knife-edge. The
slightest driver error resulting in serious punishment by the Armco.
This year’s Monaco
was more of a nail biter than it has ever been, with the race being filled with
all sorts of incidences.
due to Panis stalling his Toyota at the start grid, the race had to be restarted.
Then in the first lap Klein hit the barrier at the hairpin and caused the safety
car to come out. As soon as this was sorted out, and the race got underway Sato’s
engine blew up, causing drivers behind him to be blinded by the smoke. As a
result, Fisichella drove into the rear end of Coulthard’s car and was
catapulted against the side wall. Thus once again the race was yellow flagged
and the safety car was brought out. Just when one thought that we had seen enough
drama for one race, an incident involving Ralph and Alonso resulted in Alonso
losing control over his Renault in the tunnel and smashing against the side
barriers. Yet again the race was yellow flagged and the safety car brought out.
Bizarre as it may have been, a more bizarre event was waiting to unfold as the
safety car was making its way around the track. Michael decided to brake hard
in the tunnel to warm his brakes, resulting in Montoya driving into Michael’s
rear end causing the Ferrari to smash against the side barrier.
But it was not just doom
and gloom at the 2004 Monaco. If one looked beyond the many incidences that
took place, there was some great racing that was displayed.
My personal favorite new
comer to F1, Sato took off to a flying start making up two places from 6th on
the start grid to 4th position by the first corner. This coupled with the BAR’s
capabilities would have given Sato a good chance of fighting for a podium finish
had it not been for the sad demise of his engine very early in the race.
The McLarens for the first
time this season was doing reasonably well and looked to be set to make some
valuable race points until Coulthard was taken out by the incident involving
Fisichella and then later on the retirement of Kimi due to mechanical problems.
As the first pit stops came
in and the front running Renaults and the BAR of Button pitted, Michael proved
that he was still the best when he turned out some stunning laps before he also
came into the pits. Had it not been for his retirement, it is my opinion that
it would have been another Michael Schumacher podium finish.
The Williams qualified well
this weekend, but seemed yet again out of pace and was unable to keep up with
the flying front runners. Though, the accidents of both Alonso and Michael involved
the two Williams cars I really don’t think that it was neither Ralph’s
or Montoya’s fault.
In the incident between Ralph and Alonso, though Ralph should have slowed down
as he entered the tunnel to let Alonso through (Ralph was being lapped by Alonso),
Alonso broke a cardinal rule by opting to overtake at such high speed on the
dirty side of the track. Lack of experience in my opinion.
With the second incident,
I just couldn’t understand Michael’s reason for deciding to warm
his brakes inside the tunnel where visibility is low. No matter what the talk
in the paddocks may be, it just wasn’t Montoya’s fault.
After the roller coaster
was over, it was left to Renault’s Trulli and BAR’s Button to thrash
it out in the front. Bitter fight to the end it was and darn good one too. It
was the most exciting last few laps of a F1 race I had seen in quite a while.
From a gap of over two seconds between Trulli and Button, the British driver
brought the gap down to 0.4 of a second in the last dying laps of the race.
Trulli got his much over
due F1 first place podium finish and Button got yet another boost to his already
blossoming career. Well done to both these teams and both these drivers. They
just proved to us all that without a Ferrari in the race, F1 can be just as
exciting. May be even better.
Author - Duncan Udawatta,
Gaborone, Botswana (Southern Africa)
- Renault Michelin
- BAR Honda Michelin
- Ferrari Bridgestone
- Williams BMW Michelin
- Sauber Bridgestone
- Toyota Michelin
- Jordan Ford Bridgestone
- Toyota Michelin
- Minardi Cosworth Bridgestone
Next Race – 30th
May, Europe, Nurburgring.