With the prestigious Monte-Carlo Grand Prix looming, F1 Hub looks back on a race that highlighted the unpredictability of the Principality street circuit.
The race that could have been Michael Schumacher’s sixth successive win in 2004 instead gave a first ever win to Renault’s Jarno Trulli.
The Italian started from pole, ahead of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, though not before the race suffered two aborted starts.
1996 hero Olivier Panis stalled twice; both before the parade lap and after, subsequently starting his race from the pit lane.
Both Renault’s gained the advantage at the start, as Alonso managed to jump Button and follow his team-mate into Saint Devote.
Button’s team-mate Takuma Sato would make an even more impressive getaway, launching from eighth and bustling past Schumacher into fourth.
However the inconsistent Honda engine on the BAR would mar the Japanese’s race, leading a queue of cars whilst couching smoke.
The V10 engine then expired spectacularly on lap 3 whilst leading Kimi Raikkonen and Schumacher out of Tabac, forming a huge cloud of smoke.
With visibility diminished, Giancarlo Fischiella’s Sauber careered into David Coulthard’s Mclaren, overturning the Italian’s vehicle and causing both to retire.
After a safety car period, both Renault’s would continue to lead in between their first stops, until a lap 42 crash for Alonso again brought out the pace car.
In an attempt to lap Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel, Alonso found himself on the outside line, clouting the barrier of turn 9.
Describing the incident, Alonso was incensed by Ralf’s driving that led to the incident.
“Ralf was in front of me, he moved right into the tunnel, and then when we were side by side he went on the throttle again until he pushed me on the outside into the barrier.”
“Yes, [this was Ralf’s fault] like most of the accidents Ralf was involved in.”
It started becoming evident that Schumacher would not gain his sixth successive victory of the season, as the Ferrari team had been opting for longer stints in between stops.
Pitting on lap 26 instead of the predominant lap 18 first stop for the leaders, Schumacher found himself in front during the second safety car period as the other front runners again used it as an opportunity for fresh rubber and fuel.
The idea was to allow Schumacher the opportunity to be himself, and use the clear air to build a lead, before pitting and slotting back into first.
In the words of Ross Brawn, “Michael could have put in some quick laps with a clear track ahead of him, building up a big enough lead to stay ahead of the others.”
The opportunistic tactic was to no avail as leader Michael Schumacher re-emerged from the tunnel during the safety car period with a ruptured nose and dangling front left tyre.
Michael appeared to have slammed his brakes to warm them going into turn 9, with Juan Pablo Montoya avoiding and ducking to the inside.
The pair then collided around the corner, Schumacher coming off second best; firstly spinning then going nose-first into the barrier.
The German was livid, expressing anger by famously throwing his helmet in the Ferrari garage and later accusing Montoya of collecting him.
“I was leading the race so the situation is that the race leader was knocked out of the race after being hit by a back-marker.
“I am sure there was no deliberate intention on [Montoya’s] part and I accept the steward’s decision.
“I was accelerating and I was braking just as we do when go to the grid in the standard way when running behind the safety car.”
The Mclaren-bound Montoya accepted responsibility for the accident, allegedly sending a radio apology to Schumacher soon thereafter.
Speaking to the media after the race, Montoya explained his move to the inside line.
“Michael braked very hard as he was warming up his brakes and I moved to the right side of the track to avoid him.
“But the gap narrowed and we touched.”
The second post-safety car period would feature a Trulli released back into the lead, albeit it fiercely hunted by BAR’s Button – both vying for their first win.
The pair would go into the final laps with a narrow margin, however lapping traffic tipped the contest into the Italian’s favour.
Eventually a solid defensive drive towards the end of the race would earn Trulli the prestigious title of having conquered Monaco’s narrow streets.
Celebrating the win by kissing his R24’s Renault logo, Trulli explained his race winning tactics.
“In the end I took no risks. I was just doing what I had to do and just responding to the lap times and there was no point taking any risks.
“It has been a faultless weekend and it is the best way to win – being on top all weekend.”