The 2004 Australian Grand Prix, officially known as the 2004 Foster's Australian Grand Prix, was the opening round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship, which took place at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, on 7 March 2004. The race would see defending Champions Michael Schumacher and Ferrari open their title defence in perfect fashion, claiming a dominant victory.
There had been very little change to either the rules or the teams over the winter, although teams placed fifth and below in 2003 were allow to run a third car in practice as testing restrictions were increased. Driver-wise there were no changes among the top teams in the Championship, although Takuma Sato would get a full race seat at BAR-Honda, while Felipe Massa returned to Sauber-Petronas after a year out as Ferrari's test driver.
Qualifying, which remained unchanged from the format introduced in 2003, would see Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello claim a front-row lockout for Ferrari, half a second clear of the rest of the field. Juan Pablo Montoya was best of the rest for Williams-BMW, while Jenson Button was a surprise fourth for BAR-Honda.
The start fell even more in Ferrari's favour, as the two scarlet cars got off the grid in perfect formation to claim an early lead. Behind, Fernando Alonso launched away brilliantly to jump Button and challenge Montoya, resulting in the Colombian ace locking up a sliding across the grass on the outside of the first corner.
With that the fight for victory was effectively over, with Schumacher easing away with Barrichello, while Alonso struggled to keep pace. Behind, Sato damaged his car after tapping the back of Jarno Trulli, while the two Saubers had lost a lot of ground as a result of Montoya's scramble back onto the circuit at the first corner.
Indeed, it was the fight in the midfield that would provide the main entertainment during the race, with Giancarlo Fisichella and Nick Heidfeld, having swapped seats during the winter, battling hard. Ahead, Montoya would make up some ground with moves on Mark Webber and Button, as well as teammate Ralf Schumacher during the first round of stops.
Elsewhere, the two McLaren-Mercedes had a very poor afternoon, with Kimi Räikkönen, runner-up in 2003, ending up in eleventh before retiring. David Coulthard fared little better as he slipped to eighth during the early stages, and failed to lap within two seconds of either of the Ferraris throughout the race.
Indeed, the opening round of the season would be very tame, with Schumacher cruising after the first round of stops, while Barrichello failed to muster a challenge. Likewise, Alonso was on his own in third after the early stages, while the battle between the two Williams' was decided in the pitstops, with Ralf Schumacher ultimately getting back ahead.
Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, would collect fastest lap and a new lap record as he cruised to victory, while Barrichello made it a perfect start for the Scuderia in second. Alonso was an equally distant third to complete the podium, with Ralf Schumacher, Montoya, Button, Trulli and Coulthard likewise having quiet runs to complete the points.
The full entry list for the 2004 Australian Grand Prix is outlined below:
- Leinders was entered as Third Driver but was refused a superlicence until he completed the required mileage in an F1 car. He satisfied this requirement before the next race.
The full qualifying results for the 2004 Australian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||3||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW||1:25.226||1:24.998||+0.590s|
|6||14||Mark Webber||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:26.232||1:25.805||+1.397s|
|13||16||Cristiano da Matta||Toyota||1:28.274||1:27.823||+3.415s|
|15||18||Nick Heidfeld||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:27.469||1:28.178||+3.770s|
|16||19||Giorgio Pantano||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:29.156||1:30.140||+5.732s|
|17||21||Zsolt Baumgartner||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:32.606||1:30.681||+6.273s|
|NC||15||Christian Klien||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:27.258||—|
|NC||20||Gianmaria Bruni||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:30.912||—|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
|Juan Pablo Montoya||4|
|Cristiano da Matta||14|
The full results for the 2004 Australian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- * Bruni was unable to be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- Ford Cosworth made their 550th Grand Prix appearance as an engine supplier.
- Gianmaria Bruni, Christian Klien and Giorgio Pantano made their debuts.
- Michael Schumacher claimed his 71st career victory.
- Ferrari secured their 168th win as a constructor and engine supplier.
Michael Schumacher opened his sixth title defence with a convincing victory at the opening round, leaving Australia with ten points. Rubens Barrichello was second as he opened his account for the season, with Fernando Alonso completing the early top three. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were next ahead of Jenson Button, with Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard also picking up points at the opening round.
In the Constructors Championship a one-two for Ferrari at the opening round left them in an already daunting position, holding eighteen points. Williams-BMW had half the number of points in second, and were a point ahead of Renault in third, who were the only other double scorers. BAR-Honda and McLaren-Mercedes were the only other scorers in Australia.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'Australian GP, 2004', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), https://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr714.html, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- 'Australia 2004: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/australie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '2004 Foster's Australian Grand Prix - QUALIFYING 1', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2004/races/753/australia/qualifying-1.html, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '2004 Foster's Australian Grand Prix - QUALIFYING 2', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2004/races/753/australia/qualifying-2.html, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- 'Australia 2004: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/australie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- 'Australia 2004: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/australie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '1. Australia 2004', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/australie.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '2004 Australian GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2014), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=2004&gp=Australian%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
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