The 2003 F1 season had been a welcome change for many from the domination that Ferrari had enjoyed over the sport since 2000. For much of the championships, 5 drivers were in contention to win the title. Many expected a similar tight race for the championship in 2004, with Mclaren Mercedes and Williams expected to learn from their mistakes of the previous season and for Fernando Alonso in his Renault to grow further.
The season opener from Australia ended up raising fears in the minds of those who wanted another dog fight. Michael and Rubens qualified 1-2 and finished the race in the same fashion, 3rd place Alonso was over half a minute behind Michael come the chequered flag. These fears were further substantiated in Malaysia which saw another Schumi win from pole.
At a track where the Michelin based Williams and Mclaren were expected to provide a stiff challenge, Michael comfortably held Montoya and the rest. The 3rd race from Bahrain witnessed another Ferrari 1-2, this time Button occupied the final spot on the podium finishing 26 seconds behind Michael. San Marino saw the trend change a bit, as Michael qualified 2nd on the grid. The race result was the same – another Schumi win.
When Michael won 5 on a trot from Spain, people had started to question could he manage the unthinkable and win all 16 in the season. These doubts were far-fetched indeed, what couldn’t be questioned was that Michael had all but wrapped up the title win. The quest for the perfect season ended in the next race itself, as an accident with Montoya meant Schumi crashed out of Monaco.
A Ferrari 1-2 from the Nürburgring meant the resumption of normal duty. The result repeated itself in Canada. With 8/18 races now completed, Michael stood on 70 points, the driver who was providing him a challenge was Barrichello in the other Ferrari, he was on 54 points but everyone knew he was the Ferrari number 2 and wasn’t realistically expected to challenge Michael for the title.
The second half of the season started in the same way as the first had ended with the United States acting home to another Ferrari 1-2. The next two races from France and England saw Rubens drop to the 3rd place on the podium, howeve,r Michael had won Race Number 9 and 10 of his season. Michael won his home Grand Prix from Germany with Button finishing second. The race was another proof of how surprisingly the BAR Honda of Button was proving to be the next best car on the grid after Ferrari, not the Williams or the Mclaren. Another Ferrari 1-2 from Hungary meant that Ferrari had sealed the Constructors’ championship with 5 races to go in the season.
Belgium again was home to a major milestone in Schumi’s career as a 2nd place finish behind Kimi Raikkonen meant that he sealed his 7th World Championship. Ferrari’s home Grand Prix from Italy saw the Tifosi celebrate yet another Ferrari 1-2, but this time around Rubens recorded his first race win of the season.
He recorded his second win of the season from the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. Michael’s race was eventful but in a negative way; a spin, a collision and a puncture meant that he could finish only 12th on Sunday. Normal service resumed in the penultimate race of the season from Japan as Michael won from pole. An engine crash in practice meant that Michael started from 18th in the final race of the season and finished only 7th on Sunday. The finishing position matching his record number of title wins. Michael finished the season with 148 points from a total of 180, 34 ahead of Rubens. Ferrari’s total of 262 points in the Constructor’s race was again more than the double of their nearest rival BAR Honda who finished on 119.
The season saw Michael and Ferrari rewrite the definition of domination in F1 history books. Michael won 12 out of the first 13 races of the season and finished the season with 13 wins, beating his own record of 11 in a season set in 2002. The other teams also bore the brunt of Ferrari winning 15/18 races with 8 Ferrari 1-2’s.