Video: first 3 laps of the 2004 Italian Grand Prix, with Scuderia Ferrari Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello leading the field at the Monza Circuit
It doesn’t often rain on the Italian Grand Prix. But the 2004 race began on a greasy surface that played to the strengths of Michelin’s dry weather rubber and exposed the only real flaw in Ferrari’s Bridgestone armour.
Starting from first position Rubens Barrichello played it conservatively and opted for intermediate tyres. Michael Schumacher, third, opted for dry-weather grooves, which led to a poor start for the German driver, as he understeered into the side of Button at the chicane, spinning to a halt as the entire field passed him. Up front Barrichello’s intermediate tyres were proving the better Bridgestone choice – but not half as good as Michelin dry tyres. Fernando Alonso pinched the lead off him at Ascari on lap four, and Barrichello dived into the pits for dry weather rubber.
But by two-thirds race distance the Ferraris were back at the sharp end. The track had dried quickly and the F2004s instantly assumed their usual crushing advantage, Schumacher cutting a second per lap off Button’s lead. The opening laps had only been an illusion. Able to lap up to 1.5s faster than any other driver on the track the Ferrari decimated their opponents despite their early handicap.