The 2004 French Grand Prix, otherwise formally known as the XC Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France, was the tenth round of the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in Magny-Cours, France, on 4 July 2004. The race would see Michael Schumacher collect his ninth winner's trophy of the campaign, defeating Fernando Alonso in a straight duel.
Indeed, the Spaniard had been the man to beat in qualifying, sweeping to his first pole position of the season for Renault. Schumacher would hence have to settle for second, while David Coulthard and Jenson Button shared the second row for McLaren-Mercedes and BAR-Honda respectively.
The start of the race played out as expected, with Alonso's superior launch-control system catapulting him into the lead ahead of Schumacher's #1 Ferrari. Behind, Jarno Trulli would challenge for second having streaked up from fifth to third in the #7 Renault, leaving Coulthard and Button to squabble for fourth, with the Englishman emerging ahead of the Scot.
Alonso and Schumacher quickly checked out at the head of the field, largely due to the fact that both had opted for a light opening fuel load. Behind, Trulli had to put up a ferocious defence to keep Button at bay, while Coulthard was being harassed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Räikkönen and Rubens Barrichello.
Schumacher was, unsurprisingly, the first man to stop on lap eleven, having set a series of fastest laps to challenge Alonso. The Spaniard duly made his stop three laps later, and with Schumacher getting caught in an almighty Jaguar-Ford Cosworth/Sauber-Petronas squabble, the #8 Renault emerged ahead of the #1 Ferrari.
With both Jaguar and Sauber opting for two-stop strategies, Schumacher would lose more time in the traffic, before Felipe Massa finally stopped from second on lap 21. Once clear Schumacher was told to throw everything he could at Alonso's four second lead, and duly carved half-a-second a lap out of the Spaniard before stopping on lap 29.
Determined not to be thrown off by Schumacher's early second stop, Renault instructed Alonso to stay out, despite the fact that the Spaniard had been pushing his Michelin tyres harder than planned to keep the #1 Ferrari at bay. Somewhat inevitably his pace collapsed, and hence gifted the lead to Schumacher when he stopped two laps later, the German ace having set a succession of new lap records.
Indeed, the Ferrari team had opted to short-fill Schumacher, replacing a three-stop strategy for a four-stop, intending to keep the German on low fuel throughout. The #1 Ferrari hence managed to build a ten second lead before making its third stop, before catching back up to Alonso before their final stops.
Ultimately light-fuel and soft tyres prevailed, with Schumacher able to exit the pits from his fourth stop with a healthy lead over Alonso. The closing laps saw the #8 Renault gradually draw the Ferrari back in, although time would run out long before Schumacher's lead was threatened.
With that the race was run, with Schumacher cruising through to claim his ninth win, a result which also secured his 60th win for Ferrari. Alonso was a slightly frustrated second, while behind Trulli made a mistake at the final corner to gift Barrichello the final podium spot, having fended off the Brazilian and Button through the final stages. The Italian racer hence had to settle for fourth ahead of Button's BAR, with Coulthard, Räikkönen and Montoya completing the points.
Unsurprisingly an eighth win of the season had allowed Michael Schumacher to extend his title lead to eighteen points with half the season to run. Furthermore, his closest challenger was teammate Rubens Barrichello, and the latest spat of "team orders" in the US had made it clear that the Brazilian was not allowed to fight the German ace for race victories, let alone the crown. Jenson Button was therefore Schumacher's closest competitor, albeit with a 36 point deficit at the halfway point.
In the Constructors Championship Ferrari continued to ease away at the head of the pack, leaving North America with a huge 142 point tally. That left them with over double the number of points of second placed Renault, meaning the French squad were realistically in a fight for second with BAR-Honda. Eight points split the pair at the halfway point, while Minardi-Ford Cosworth were on the scoresheet for the first time, after a pointless run extending back to the 2002 Australian Grand Prix.
The full entry list for the 2004 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
The full qualifying results for the 2004 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|6||3||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW||1:13.377||1:14.172||+0.474s|
|11||16||Cristiano da Matta||Toyota||1:14.245||1:14.553||+0.855s|
|12||14||Mark Webber||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:15.332||1:14.798||+1.100s|
|13||15||Christian Klien||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:15.205||1:15.065||+1.367s|
|17||18||Nick Heidfeld||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:16.366||1:16.807||+3.109s|
|18||19||Giorgio Pantano||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:15.913||1:17.462||+3.764s|
|19||20||Gianmaria Bruni||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:18.070||1:17.913||+4.215s|
|20||21||Zsolt Baumgartner||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:18.108||1:18.247||+4.549s|
- 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||______________|
|12||Cristiano da Matta|
The full results for the 2004 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- * Bruni was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- 450th Grand Prix appearance for Williams as a constructor.
- Tenth entries for Christian Klien and Gianmaria Bruni.
- Michael Schumacher secured his 79th career victory.
- Schumacher matched his own record for most wins at a single Grand Prix - 7.
- Ferrari swept to their 176th win as a constructor and engine supplier.
- Fernando Alonso secured the 50th podium finish for a Renault chassis.
Michael Schumacher's march to a seventh World Championship continued in France with his ninth win of the campaign, leaving the German ace just ten shy of the 100 point mark. Teammate Rubens Barrichello had lost more ground, now facing a 22 point gap to the German ace, while Jenson Button in third left Magny-Cours 42 points away. Jarno Trulli had closed in on the Brit in the fight for third, while Fernando Alonso had inched closer to their fight in fifth.
In the Constructors Championship another strong weekend for Ferrari had put the Scuderia onto 158 points, and hence ensured they still had double the points of their closest challengers. Indeed, Renault left their home race, on the 25th anniversary of their maiden victory, on 79 points, and had hence all but given up hope of challenging for the crown. They were hence working to consolidate second ahead of BAR-Honda, with the Anglo-Japanese alliance having broken clear of Williams-BMW in fourth.
Only point scoring drivers are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'France 2004: Schumacher dishes out the blues.', crash.net, (Crash Media Group, 04/07/2004), https://www.crash.net/f1/race-report/49367/1/france-2004-schumacher-dishes-out-the-blues, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- 'France 2004: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- 'FORMULA 1 ™ Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France 2004 - QUALIFYING 1', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2004/races/762/france/qualifying-1.html, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- 'FORMULA 1 ™ Mobil 1 Grand Prix de France 2004 - QUALIFYING 2', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2004/races/762/france/qualifying-2.html, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- 'France 2004: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- 'France 2004: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- '10. France 2004', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2004/france.aspx, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
- '2004 French GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2014), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=2004&gp=French%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 22/12/2019)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
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Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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