Michael Schumacher’s love affair with the iconic Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit continued in 2004 as he claimed yet another Melbourne victory.
The Ferrari man won the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix for the fourth time in five years, the perfect start to his ultimately successful bid for a seventh world title - and fifth in a row.
A blip in Australia at the 2003 event provided Schumacher with the necessary motivation and he did it all one year later, winning pole, setting the fastest lap and leading from start to finish in what was a very comfortable victory.
More tweaks to qualifying were made as the new season approached, with both sessions to now be held on Saturdays, while teams were restricted to one engine per car on each race weekend.
But the main question on everybody’s lips surrounded Schumacher. Could he be caught?
The German only won the 2003 world title by two points, with an eighth-placed finish at the season-ending event in Japan enough for him to hold off McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Convinced the gap on Ferrari was closing, McLaren (Raikkonen, David Coulthard) and Williams (Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher) stuck with their existing driver line-ups, but it was a weekend utterly dominated by the Ferraris.
Coulthard – a two-time winner in Melbourne who triumphed in 2003 – had to settle for 12th on the grid after running wide in qualifying, while Raikkonen did not fare much better in 10th.
Both had history on their side, though, Coulthard winning from 11th in 2003 while Raikkonen went from 15th to third.
Michael Schumacher and Barrichello were much, much quicker than their rivals, though, the pair occupying the front row of the grid for the fourth year in a row.
Montoya and B.A.R Honda’s Jenson Button were on the second row while local Mark Webber qualified sixth fastest.
Montoya’s race started poorly, though, as he went off the track at the first corner and lost valuable ground.
Michael Schumacher led to Turn 1 and never gave up that advantage, while Raikkonen ran off the track on the 10th lap and could not return.
The home fans were excited as Webber was as high as third at one stage, but gearbox trouble ruled him out of the Ferrari-dominated race.
Barrichello was comfortably clear in second but eased off after his brakes started overheating, allowing Michael Schumacher to relax in front and record a terrific victory.
Renault’s Fernando Alonso drove well to claim third, ahead of Williams pair Ralf Schumacher and Montoya.
Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1® dominance continued through the 2004 season as he claimed another world title.
The German finished 34 points ahead of teammate Rubens Barrichello in the driver standings but it was to be his seventh and last world championship – and his last win in Melbourne.