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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Rows cloud Schumacher's success
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor


YEAR IN PICTURES
The best action from 2004

Formula One will be glad to see the back of 2004, a year in which the sport staggered through a crisis which as yet shows no sign of ending.

Ferrari's on-track domination continued as Michael Schumacher won an unprecedented seventh drivers' title while rarely having to extend himself.

But that incredible achievement was overshadowed by politics and in-fighting concerning F1's future.

The ever-rising cost of Grand Prix racing was at the heart of the row.

Ferrari, as F1's best-funded team, have less financial concerns than most, but even they accepted the need for change.

But, as is so often the case, there was no universal agreement on what that change should be.

The sport's governing body therefore felt obliged to force through a series of changes aimed at slowing the cars and reducing costs.

But this action seems to have done nothing to end the sense that doomsday may be just around the corner.

And the year ended with the teams again split on the desire for more changes - with Ferrari standing in the way of dramatic cuts in testing and a switch to a single tyre supplier.

Michael Schumacher leads Rubens Barrichello in the Canadian Grand Prix
Ferrari dominated this year even more than in 2002
Ferrari's position stems from their desire to maintain their position of supremacy, one that looks as secure as ever.

The Italian team bounced back from a difficult 2003 to produce their best ever car.

Schumacher won a record 13 races in a season, and team-mate Rubens Barrichello another two as the team cantered to another title double.

Schumacher's march to glory was aided by the spectacular fall from grace of the teams of his two biggest rivals, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Raikkonen's McLaren team and Montoya's Williams outfit were expecting to challenge for the title, but produced poor cars and suffered a year of painful toil.

They emphasised their fundamental strength, though, by both taking late-season victories.

Jarno Trulli's Renault is followed by Jenson Button's BAR on the slowing down lap in Monaco
Trulli won at Monaco as Renault and BAR moved up the grid
In their absence, BAR-Honda and Renault emerged as Ferrari's closest rivals until late in the season.

Of the two, only Renault won a race - a superb performance by Jarno Trulli in Monaco - but BAR emerged as the more convincing outfit.

On paper, it was also business as usual in motorcycling's equivalent of F1, MotoGP, where Valentino Rossi took a fourth consecutive world title.

But the bare facts hid one of sport's greatest achievements.

After dominating MotoGP with Honda, the Italian switched to the struggling Yamaha team in the search for a new challenge

As Yamaha had not won a title since 1992, another year of triumph for Rossi was not expected, even if a few late-season wins were.

But Rossi confounded the pundits by utterly transforming Yamaha, winning the first race, and another eight on his way to a quite stunning championship win.

Valentino Rossi celebrates on his Yamaha
Rossi's title led to claims he is the greatest rider of all time
That the best result by any other Yamaha rider was a third place speaks volumes for the achievement of a man now regarded as probably the greatest motorcyle racer of all time.

MotoGP's former rival World Superbikes continued to decline.

World champion Neil Hodgson joined the ongoing exodus to MotoGP in 2004.

But after an unsuccessful year he decided to go back to Superbikes for a crack at the American title in 2005.

In his absence, fellow Briton James Toseland, who inherited his number one status at Ducati, won an expected first world title.

The world rallying also saw a new champion in Sebastien Loeb.

The Frenchman's Citroen team set Ferrari-style standards of pace, reliability and consistency, and Loeb's maturity matched them.

But, like F1, rallying faces an uncertain future.

Citroen and sister company Peugeot, who between them have dominated the sport since 2000, have announced their intention to quit at the end of next year.

Without them, there will only be two sensible teams left, something that threatens to diminish the sport's already limited appeal.




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BBC Five Live on Michael Schumacher's world title



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