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Malaysian GP 2004 - Michael masters Malaysia.


Michael Schumacher said he though that the Malaysian Grand Prix would provide a truer test of the competitiveness of this year's Ferrari challenge. Now that verdict is in it's clear that this year will be tough for Ferrari rivals no matter what the weather conditions as the multiple world champion came home to take his second race win this season.

For Schumacher it was a race unchallenged, the number 1 Ferrari leading the F1 field for all but a handful of laps during the pitstop period in the heat of the Malayisan Grand Prix. With the heat at Kuala Kumpur around the 37º C range last year's wisdom would say a Michelin day, and the Ferrari's certainly didn't enjoy the dominance they did two weeks ago, but the Bridgestone tyre boffins have certainly worked on their area of weakness to great effect.

Despite the heat it was grey skies that greeted the start of the Malaysian GP and soon into the race rain began to fall and offer that other window of opportunity to the Michelin runners. When the track initially dampens the French tyre concern runners suddenly find themselves with a substantial advantage.

By this time Michael Schumacher had already built up quite an advantage, but this was quickly eroded by the hard-charging Juan Pablo Montoya. It was to prove to be just a brief shower as soon the precipitation passed and Herr Schumacher was back on his way.

The start of the race had seen Australia's hopes dashed as the getaway difficulties of the Mark Webber's car undid all his good qualifying work from yesterday. The Jaguar R5 is clearly not a car to use for bank jobs and Webber found himself at the back of the field with all to do.

Already at the back for the race start was Renault's young star Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard getting off to a trademark superb Renault start to pass some seven cars as the field barrelled down to turn one, which remarkably everyone got through without incident.

Webber's failure to leave the grid appropriately meant that the field was mixed up some as they all successfully avoided the Jaguar. Rubens Barrichello gratefully accepted the gift of second place whilst Juan Pablo Montoya slotted into third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Jarno Trulli.

Barrichello wasn't to put the pressure on his team-mate quite as much as he managed in Australia, as not only did the Brazilian struggle to match the German's speed as he had in the Melbourne race, but he outbraked himself allowing Montoya through to chase down Schumacher. This coincided with the wet weather meaning that Montoya gave Schumacher his greatest threat. The German out front was taking things cautiously, uncertain of the grip levels, but the rain was not to last and once the track dried the Bridgestones found their grip and the Williams threat lessened.

Jenson Button meanwhile found himself a willing and able sparring partner in the form of Renault's Jarno Trulli and their battle was one of the better ones of the race as both displayed able and well-tempered racecraft. Positions were swapped and there was a small amount of contact – for which the Italian apologised afterwards – but ultimately it was the Brit who won through.



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