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The Bahrain Grand Prix 2004 Race Report
As the day of the race dawned it was sunny in Manama, the capital. However, some were predicting rain and there were questions as to whether the sand would cause problems by getting onto the track and in everyone's way. With remarks being voiced about the track's inability to cope under full race conditions, the pessimists were having a good day already.
Kimi Raikonnen (McLaren) chose to start from the pit lane due to engine problems, instead of starting from the back of the grid. Then poor Gianmaria Bruni's (Minardi) car failed to get away for the parade lap; he bravely battled on but was several laps down for the whole race.
Then it was go, go, go. Everyone got away and through the first corner safely, although Cristiano Da Matta (Toyota) ran wide and Fernando Alonso (Renault) lost his nose-cone. As the two Ferraris (Schumacher first, Reubens Barrichello second) braked for the first corner, plumes of what looked like smoke filled the air - but it was just brake dust. This looked ominous after recent brake problems had caused them to change their suppliers (and they were still unhappy with their choice), but fortunately for them there were no serious problems this time.
On the second lap Alonso had to pit for a new front wing, which took 16.7 seconds. By this time Raikonnen had battled his way up to 15th position and was fighting with Christian Klien (Jaguar) for 14th. Ralf Schumacher2 (Williams) and Takuma Sato (BAR) were enjoying a fight for 4th and 5th. Ralf managed to squeeze past Sato on the sixth lap, but Sato retaliated and, even though Ralf clearly had the line, pushed him off the track. This meant Ralf had to pit to see if he had sustained any damage.
The battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Christian Klien was heating up by the seventh lap, if the flames coming out of Kimi's engine were anything to go by!
The ninth lap was pitstop time for Michael, who came in from the lead. David Coulthard (McLaren) and Mark Webber (Jaguar) also pit and Coulthard managed to get ahead. Ralf showed that his car hadn't sustained any serious damage by setting the fastest middle sector time.
Lap 11, and Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams), Barrichello and Jarno Trulli (Renault) pit. Barrichello failed to get away when the 'lollipop man'3 told him to go, causing him to nearly crash into Trulli - a mistake earning Ferrari a nice fine.
After some of the aforementioned pitstops, Jenson Button (BAR) was in the lead. But he was soon forced to pit himself, and as the rear jack didn't go down properly his stop took 12 seconds. Klien, by this point having a flying afternoon, was now battling with Felipe Massa, whom he soon overtook after Massa (Sauber) made a mistake and ran wide.
After everyone had taken their initial pitstop, the first six drivers were M Schumacher, Barrichello, Montoya, Trulli, Sato and Button - with M Schumacher having a lead of about 12 seconds.
Klien spoiled his afternoon's good work by spinning off from 12th, although he did recover. Sato ran wide and damaged his front wing, which meant Button passed him. After his stop for a new nose, Sato ended up in 14th.
Lap 20, and Alonso and Ralf (remember, the collision with Sato earlier was not his fault) passed Massa after a short battle.
Then came the second round of pitstops. After making his stop, M Schumacher almost collided with Trulli at the first turn. R Schumacher pit and played skittles with his pit crew. The rest of the pitstops were uneventful and by lap 28 everyone had pitted twice, with Nick Heidfeld (Jordan) being last to to do so.
Mark Webber and Alonso battled hard for 8th place, with Alonso becoming annoyed and gesturing at the Australian when he moved across late. Due to Webber out-braking himself Alonso made it through.
With 22 laps to go, Ralf tried to pass Giancarlo Fisichella (Sauber), but a touching of cars sent Fisichella into a spin. Ralf didn't feel the need to need to stop though, believing his front wing to be okay.
Then it was pitstop time again! By this point Barrichello had dirty side pods from all the brake dust. Michael's stop took 7.6 seconds.
The end of the race was nigh, with M Schumacher in the lead. Montoya slowed down, but it seemed he was having a problem. Button passed Montoya to take 3rd place and Trulli, Sato, Alonso and Ralf also managed to pass before the end of the race. Six laps from the end and Coulthard was forced to make an unscheduled stop. He was quickly sent on his way again, but his engine died before he left the pit lane. The ailing Montoya only just crossed the finish line and slipped down to 13th place on the last lap.
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