Heading into this week's Belgian Grand Prix we are looking at classic races and moments from the event's history. this time we are looking at the 2004 race, it was Ferrari's seven hundredth Grand Prix and were hoping to score Michael Schumacher his seventh and last world championship.
2004 Belgian Grand Prix
Heading into the race Ferrari and Michael Schumacher were expected to win and claim yet another world championship, having one of the most dominant seasons seen in the sport, with Michael Schumacher claiming 12 of the the 13 races before the summer break, with only a collision on Monaco preventing him claiming every single win to that point in time.
However limited practice sessions due to fog on Saturday morning and a wet qualifying meant that teams were going into the race with some uncertainty over setup, especially with the possibility of rain threatening in the race. It was Jarno Trulli who had claimed pole position in the wet, but with Schumacher in second, it was surely the red car that looked favourite to claim his 13th win of the year and claim the championship.
At the start Schumacher was taken by the Renault of Fernando Alonso and David Coulthard's McLaren, but the main point of interest from the start was the huge melee of crashes, with no less than four cars retiring from the race and six more having to pit for some form of damage, with a series of different incidents combining to create almighty carnage, ultimately bringing the safety car out, without it being somewhat of a surprise the race was not red flagged.
When the race was restarted on lap 4 it was clear that Schumacher was struggling to get his tyres up to temperature, being quickly passed by the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen, who had managed to sail up at the start from tenth to fifth and now fourth, and then on the next lap by Montoya who had also made good progress from his starting position of eleventh. Raikkonen then made further progress, passing his teammate for third place.
By lap 10 Trulli pitted from the lead of the Grand Prix, Renault having clearly short fuelled his car in an attempt to grab pole position, handing the lead briefly to teammate Alonso. However it was here when things started to go wrong for the Spaniard, spinning twice on lap 12 due to an apparent oil leak on his car, spinning three times on the same lap, both handing Raikkonen the lead and causing Alonso to retire from the race.
It was then the McLaren's turn for one driver to pit and one to have problems, with Raikkonen boxing and Coulthard's rear tyre delaminating, although Coulthard did manage to make it back to the pits. Raikkonen though was having a good race, and had managed to jump Trulli in the pits, in a move that would see him leading the race, once the cars ahead of him had pitted.
When Schumacher and Montoya pitted the Ferrari managed to get the jump on Montoya, who managed to take advantage of the low fuel and traffic for Montoya in the shape of Sauber's Felipe Massa. By lap 18 the order was Raikkonen, then Button who had yet to pit, followed by Trulli and Schumacher, with Schumacher quickly passing the Renault on lap 19, having seemingly found new pace in his car.
The Williams of Montoya then attempted to pass Trulli, but they then collided, causing them both to lose position, before Trulli came in to the pits for a second time. At this time Raikkonen was serenely out in front, perfectly controlling the race, and pitted on lap 29 for the second time for fuel to last him until the end of the race, with Montoya also pitting on the same lap.
With Schumacher yet to pit he had a stroke of luck, with the safety car coming out because of a crash between Button and the Minardi of Baumgartner, after the Brit's tyre delaminated, allowing Schumacher a free pitstop and putting him right back into contention for the win.
Behind the safety car with 10 laps to go Raikkonen still led from Schumacher, Montoya and now Barrichello, who had cut his way through the field after being involved in an incident on the first lap, and then amazingly the Toyota of Riccardo Zonta, who had started in last place. When the safety car came in there was yet another tyre delamination, this time Montoya being struck by its curse, and then by lap the third safety car of the day came out as a result of debris on the track.
Heartbreakingly Zonta then had to retire whilst behind the safety car with only 4 laps to go with a spectacular engine failure from what would have been his best ever finish. Schumacher was left to attempt to get past Raikkonen in the closing couple of laps but knowing this result would secure him the championship was happy to let the Finn take his second ever F1 win with the German securing the championship.
It was the first of a remarkable run for Raikkonen at Spa, winning four out of five events in a row, whilst it would be the last time that Schumacher would ever have the feeling of winning the championship, somewhat aptly with his Ferrari successor ahead of him on the podium.