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The 2004 season started with a total Ferrari domination. The gap to the other top runners was so huge that not even Ferrari expected it. It appears that the Ferrari/Bridgestone combination have done their homework over the winter while the rest have some hard work ahead of them.

A few highlights;

  • Ferrari appear to have moved a significant step forward despite their conservative approach. Have Bridgestone finally delivered a tyre that is a match or close to matching Michelin ?

  • Renault seem to have improved significantly as well despite running an underpowered engine. The performance of Alonso was impressive and with major engine improvements in the pipeline would Renault be a threat to Ferrari ?

  • Williams appeared very strong during winter testing yet they were not only significantly behind Ferrari but also behind Renault so they can't blame the track temperatures. Do they need half a season to understand their new car ?

  • BAR are finally showing some promise and managed to finish both cars. Button mixed it with Williams and that is an achievement. Was the switch to Michelin all what they needed to improve ?

  • McLaren appear lost. The MP 4/18 never raced and the MP 4/19 was the most tested car of the lot yet one fails and the other manages 8th and a lap down. Will it take them a full season to sort this one ?

  • Jaguar have improved their performance particularly with Mark Webber mixing it with the top Michelin runners but reliability is an issue and they'll need to sort that out.

  • Sauber appear to have an average chassis as they can't blame the 04 Ferrari engine. With a state of the art wind tunnel, will they get it right ?

  • In general the cars appeared very reliable despite being the first race and despite the single engine rule and they were much faster than they were last year even though the cars have less downforce!

  • The new regulation changes, did they make any difference ? Is Friday worth watching ? Was the back to back Qualifying enjoyable ?

Your thoughts ? Of course you can comment on other aspects of the race - Have Your Say (What others are saying)

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What others are saying:

Don't I feel the total fool for believing the Mac/Merc machine would, at last, shoulder Sir Frank's boys out of the way and stuff Ferrari? Instead they gave Kimi a J.V. experience and let David motor around like he was in a Bentley for crying out loud! 
I expect the "Ice Man" had some heated things to say to the engineers when he finished his long walk to the pits! 
My point is that this is called "disappointment" and, as far as I can remember, it's been part of what makes racing worth watching: how do people deal with losing? The champions, like Fangio and Senna and Michael, shrug it off and motivate their teams to come to the next race trying to find a way to win. The less than champions find a million excuses and whine about losing to money and politics. 
Now let's talk about the actual race which so many found "boring." According to my notes, Ralf bettered his starting position by four places; Fernando drove a fine race, picking up two positions. J.T. in the other Renault (as under-powered as Fernando's one assumes) also picked up two spots and D.C. (the man so many so love to hate) picked up, like Ralf FOUR spots. This he managed in a car, as I said, that has all the punch of a Bentley! Fisi, a driver as talented as any on the grid (some say he's as good as Michael!) in a car with what we know to have an excellent engine, (though his team-mate might dispute that!) also managed to pick up FOUR spots! Panis, an under-rated performer in a the latest SUV from Toyota managed to move up FIVE places (not that it earned him anything) and Klein in the green car that disgraces its heritage managed to pick up EIGHT places. So much for the "overtaking" matter. 
What was of most interest to me, though, after Kimi's engine failure, was Jensen's and JPM's BACKWARDS slide from excellent starting positions. 
Was Michelin REALLY to blame? I find that hard to believe when so many OTHER Michelin shod folks managed to move UP. 
As to "Hating the Champion," it's an old sport and if it helps kill the pain to believe that he's purchased his title with his good looks, or money, or connections, I say, keep on believing it. Don't worry, Bernie, about these folks who howl that they're leaving the sport because their driver can't win. They'll be back: where else will they find fuel for their fury? Not in NASCAR (high priced demolition derby "excitement"). 
Finally, if you don't think that money moves towards winners and away from losers then you're not paying attention. Maybe that's why you don't have any money. 
Now here's the kicker! I'm thinking that we'll have a Finn driving a Mac/Merc on the pole this week --and his engine will last the race. Go on: call me crazy. Isn't that what racing's about!? Isn't that, in fact, why we actually run the race? - Jim W - USA

Well, I do agree with a lot of comments that has been shown here. Watching the Australian GP live here in Malaysia has been a routine as it is the season opener. Then, at the end of the race MS won by quite a margin. Leading his team-mate by more than 30 seconds at some part of the race. Like most fans, I do agree that Ferrari has the best package to become champion again this season. Though it would be lovely if there is some action but, I do think the other teams has to be blamed for failing in giving Ferrari the fight for their money. It is not about who drives the car or what is the engine of the car. It is more about how everyone in the team work together as a team and I feel that Ferrari has a team that work together perfectly. As example, Juan Pablo Montoya will not be a champion this year if his pit crews fails him again. 
FIA can introduce more regulation but, the results will be the same if the other teams fail to improve and really fight with Ferrari. 
I am a Ferrari fan but I do hope the other teams will improve to give Ferrari a fight. Hoping for a tough battle here in Malaysia - Fred M - Malaysia

If the race was boring this debate sure is not!!!! 
Sorry, Charles, I have to support Geoff. Toyota's budget is as big as (or even bigger) than Ferrari's but that doesn't mean they are going the right way. Maybe now with Gascoyne they can improve but it seems that this car is DOA. 
Some facts: 
- Ferrari is constantly improving a good project born on 2000, while the others are trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat 
- Ferrari has the best pair of pilots while people like Sir Frank Williams are certain that the car and the engineers play the biggest role 
- to "achieve total obliteration of the opposition" is the common goal of all teams, including Minardi 
As suggested, blame the losers...Andre B - Brazil

I think many of us would prefer Ferrari wasn't doing quite so well, but bad for the sport? No. The other teams could build a better car, that would be nice. 
Was it bad for the sport when McLaren had it's foot on the throat of every other team from 1988 to 1991 ? No....Heck, for ten years ('84-'94) if it wasn't Williams or McLaren it wasn't worth a f..... well, you get the picture. 
Total domination lasts until someone can top it, or they change the rules to stop it. I would prefer the former, and sooner rather than later - Tom H - USA

I have to say the it's not Ferrari problem it's the rest that can't make it. It's not only the money... it's the ability to make it work, and a " Team " it's not only one player, it's more than one, and all of them are going in the same direction... that's the difference. 
Ferrari it's class and they are making what the rest can't during the winter. 
It's only the first race ! 17 to go !!!! MS champion once more!!!!!! - Yuri - USA

Renault bought Nissan's 15 billion $ debt in Europe in 1998 2 or 3 years before it had even turned a wheel in F1, then consumed Benneton as a side dish without burping, brought in brilliant designers and managers built wind tunnels, employed IT staff and utilities, hired Engine designers, who even persisted with a revolutionary design that was a fizzer for a year or so longer than they should've, hired electronic wizards, and then with a brilliant launch control stamped their feet in mid to late 03 and announced their arrival as the best of the rest of the F1 field. 
Then the first race in 04 score a massive, solid, hard fought, technologically brilliant 3rd place, in a sea of giants with a mild, and paltry couple of hundred million dollar VISIBLE budget is quite significant. 
You see in formula 1 it's what you don't see that costs rude amounts of money, not the visible advertised signage and livery. Forza Renault.
I didn't buy the Akula she wouldn't let me have it. Sooner or later it will be mine. 
P.S Do you see the Budweiser sign just fore of the cockpit on the Williams BMW F1 car? Do you know what that cost to put it there?... A 5 year $50 million dollar hard fought deal that took 4 months to broker and put 8 inches square on the front of the FW26 and an inch square on the website. 
Visible budgets mean FA mate. Forze technology and screw the one engine rule - Cooky - Australia

Can somebody please explain to me why DC is still driving that McLaren? There a only 6 or 8 decent seats in F1 and he is just wasting space. While DC is a good driver, those seats require the very best - Chris - Australia

While I always enjoy watching any Grand Prix, I have to admit the Australian race was a tad boring. To see Michael Schumacher dominate the race is very familiar. I want to see Rubens Barrichello win, but 2nd is almost as good. 
I believe this season may even be a repeat of 2002. I think Ferrari made less improvements while the other teams took significant steps. But now Ferrari will dominate again. 
Renault will be a big force this season, mostly through Fernando Alonso. I think they will probably finish in the top 3. 
Williams will struggle more than last year, despite the fact they probably have the fastest car out there. Moving to McLaren is not the answer for Montoya and if Ralf moves to Renault, I have a feeling he will be fairly criticised. I think Sir Frank is right in saying he is only going for the money. The 2005 line-up will most likely be Mark Webber and I wouldn't be surprised if Jenson Button went back there. 
McLaren will struggle as well, though Coulthard will have a better season. I believe we won't see the best of Raikkonen until Montoya becomes his teammate in 2005. 
Sauber will be the team that improves, but it will be Felipe Massa who does the work. I don't see Fisichella at Ferrari any time soon. 
BAR will go even better, and ditching Villeneuve for Sato was a good decision and that will bring out Button's true colours. 
Jaguar will be watching 2003 all over again, except with the improvement of Webber and Klien to score some points. I doubt Klien will stay though. 
Jordan will be worse off than last year, but Pantano will be a surprise packet. 
I also believe that Minardi will score 1 or 2 points. Bruni and Baumgartner is probably the best Minardi pairing in years. Webber has been their only good driver until recently. 
Finally, a message to Bernie Ecclestone: Get Lost! - Daniel P - Australia

Charles, Your wit and wisdom overwhelm me. What more can I say? 
You are, of course 100% right in everything you say. Lets just agree to disagree on your knowledge and understanding of the sport (your exalted position as a decision maker in F1 corporate sponsorship board rooms notwithstanding) and let the real fans take it from here - Geoff - Australia have no idea what your talking about. Didn't your mother tell you before you open your big trap think and know the facts......Charles - Australia
(This post was edited)

Cooky – succinct and erudite as always, and as usual, right on the money. You will have to decide one day whether you’re wearing scarlet or white and blue though. Maybe the Williams suit got wet playing with the Akula?

Charles, You’re still full of %*#@.

Methinks you argue too much and from a very shaky base. Not only can I read (as can Johan based on his comments) but I can remember too. I can even remember your quote: “What a disgraceful performance from the Italian team!”. Wasn’t that how it went?

Now you’re trying to tell me you weren’t cultivating tall poppies but merely bored by the race? Ferrari had, according to you, one goal in mind – to “achieve total obliteration of the opposition”. Yes, they probably do, which of course puts them at odds with the objectives of Messrs Williams, Dennis, Briatore et al! These erstwhile gentlemen are only in the ‘sport’ for the joy of competition and would all gladly throw a bag of sand or two onto the back of their cars should they find themselves too quick for the competition.

I’m sure Ferrari would be fascinated to learn that they have all that extra cash they weren’t aware of to play with. 2 ½ times the next tier I believe was the number? Yes, that was it. And by the way, you left Toyota off the list of big spenders. With a billion dollars or so of funding, based on your esteemed advice of the relationship to Williams and McLaren, it’s no wonder the red cars got it so right. But then, the other big budget teams only have the backing of bit players like Mercedes, Toyota, Honda and BMW while Ferrari have the might of the crumbling Fiat Empire to support them. Ferrari certainly get the largest share of TV revenue – why shouldn’t they? They won the points that the revenue is based on.

Grow up Charles, if you’re bored with it take Cooky's advice and follow Marc's lead – go watch auto SPORT elsewhere, just don’t come your holier-than-thou excuses because you (like I) backed a loser this time round. Ferrari did NOT make the race boring, the teams that couldn’t match them did. Oh, and by the way, while you were nodding off watching a boring race I guess you didn’t notice a rookie picking up 4 places on the track in his first stint, driving a Minardi!

Racing doesn’t start and finish at the pointy end of the grid you know. But then, no, you probably don’t!  - Geoff - Australia

Frank USA.....All I can say to you is this: Being involved in corporate sponsorship in F1 there is serious discussions going on in the boardroom regarding the feasibility of sponsoring a sport that is slowly showing a slow decline in attendance and TV ratings. That said, there is no doubt that Ferrari and the all conquering MS are probably the undisputed champion team of the modern era. The brilliance and the execution of his drive on Sunday further cements MS as the greatest driver after Ayrton Senna to ever race F1. However if this obliteration of the opposition continues then you will not have any F1 sport to watch let alone have a discussion forum as this to put forward your opinions and thoughts of the sport that wont even exist. 
There is no doubting the other teams need to start getting act together but to do so without corporate sponsorship will be almost impossible to catch the Ferrari. But how are you going to get sponsorship money when corporates are looking to slash and in some cases withdraw completely from F1 and if that is the case how will the teams be able to bridge the gap to Ferrari?????? 
You see, if you take your head out of your #$% then you will understand that without an even competition there will not be a sport to follow - Charles - Australia

Geoff bring back Godzilla and the Sierra Cosworths I reckon. 
I loved the race, as I'm a technobuff, but hey warmer weather may not save the Michelin shod hudlums.
All y'all who want to stop watching F1 piss off and stop bothering us. Yours insincerely Cooky - Australia

MS is a freak. To come out Friday and put a track record down on your first hot lap. The man is a brilliant driver and the red barons are masterful at building a race-car. That said, the Aust GP was the most boring 3 days I have ever spent at a race track. 
Friday was boring MS put down that lap and no-one knew if the others were trying or conserving their engines. 
Saturday, again we had this back to back qualifying with the first lap being run to determine the running order of the 2nd. To be honest, no-one knew what was going on and no-one was sure of who was carrying fuel and what their true speed was. 
Sunday - 2 laps in you knew it was all over. 
As for Malaysia evening things up, Saturday in Melbourne was quite warm and I believe the track temp was around 40degC. Ferrari were still 1sec+ ahead of it's nearest rival. Whilst it should be warmer, I don't think that anyone will go near them. 
Back in the old days it used to be exciting to be there as the battle in practice and qualifying was genuine. Something needs to happen to even this thing up or it will be a as Bernie said, a disaster. Last year attendances were down throughout the season, most overtaking happens in the pits and if you have the same team winning everything, the supporters will not watch or attend. I love the sport, but I'm not going to watch it if it's the same story every race. 
It's not Ferrari's fault, they have the budget and are just good at what they do. To keep the sport alive their needs to be some sensible regulation that will hopefully even it up. Perhaps they need to go to a controlled tyre to take that component out of the equation. I really don't know how it should be done, I don't like the idea of regulating for it, but it needs to be done - Frank J - Australia

Hi All, As I said in prior comments; Ferrari truly are Number One Team! 
They have the most Powerful Engines without question! Let it be written: 
> BMW DO NOT have the most powerful engine! < Ferrari does! < Ferrari also has the best drivability! To the tune of 1 to 2 seconds a lap! Staggering! 
Maybe it is time for Williams and McLaren to move over and let some of the lesser teams start their rise. BAR, Renault, Sauber, really made the show. I hope they advance. 
It was a stunning victory for the Ferrari Team and the best two drivers in the business! 
You can keep the loud mouth Montoya! 
Ralf is having to live up to the legend of his brother and having a tough time of it! 
DC is just not that fast anymore. 
Kimi is too young and in a very poor car. Whether it the car or themselves or both, they all have some very real problems to deal with! 
I see Alonso and Button as two standouts. The rest must still prove themselves. 
I hope the engine and chassis rules don't change! Keep them for at least another 4 to 5 years. The sport needs stability! 
Lastly, A question I was debated one in my last comments: Who had to highest top speed ? Anyone know ? Not Williams ? Not Toyota ? Not Renault! It was Ferrari!!!!!! Again! Need I say anymore? 
Forza Ferrari! NUMBER #1 Talk to you soon, Frank, USA

Geoff & Johan.... If you can read which I don't think either of you can, I clearly stated that the race was BORING. It has nothing to do with who the winner is or tall poppy syndrome you idiots. I want what most F1 fans want.....a competition and I don't mean 2 Ferraris. 
From a spectators perspective which is why this sport is so successful world wide, there is no excitement in going to the race or even watching it on TV. Our own local newspapers (Herald Sun & The Age) have been writing about it since last Friday and making the main story of the GP apart from Schueys win. All I am saying is lets see a dog fight out there and not one that keeps buying championships. 
PS. Ferraris budget is 2.5 times that of the next biggest being Williams/Mclaren - Charles - Australia

Ag c'mon Charles and Marc, F1 is about winning - and nothing less will do. And Ferrari is doing that the best of all. What do you expect them to do? Build stupid slow cars that break? And while we're at it, why don't they fire MS & Co. Unfortunately everything revolves around money. 
John N is talking a lot more sense. Unfortunately Toyota will need somebody more substantial than Panis and Da Matta to help them develop the car. Somebody that knows how to set a car up and give input in its development. Montoya could have helped (as much as I dislike the guy). Even DC could have something to contribute seeing that it is unlikely that he will be employed by McLaren next year. And while I am daydreaming: Can't Mika Hakkinen contribute something - maybe not as a driver but with their budget I am sure they can make him a nice working offer. Of course MS, Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and maybe Paolo Martinelli will have Toyota winning the Constructors title within 2 years (but that's now really dreaming but I think you get my point) 
While I am all for more exciting racing, lets not pull the front guys down (thanks Geoff that's more or less your line), lets hope the other teams lift up. 
You can always let everybody work within specified budgets which will bring them closer together but then you create another Indy Cars or Champ series - Heaven forbid!!! - Johan M - South Africa

Yesterday Race was utter bollocks, watching paint dry would have been more interesting. Obviously all the other teams have learnt nothing and Ferrari must have pretty bored themselves because the championship is surely already in the bag. 
I honestly don't know how anyone else other than Schumacher will win this year - Adam - England

It was a decent enough race with an absolutely deserved result for everyone from the top teams, only bad luck I could register was for Mark Webber who probably had a fair chance for 1 or 2 points. 
Are the complainers aware that it is part of the sport that some have a better day than others? Remember when McLaren were 2 seconds faster than all others in 1998, it just can happen especially in the first race. For me its just great to see the individual performances and I have to congratulate at least 10 drivers for having done a great job. What's wrong with a vintage performance like that of Michael once again? Do the complainers hate other dominant figures in sport as well, the Valentino Rossis, Michael Jordans, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassis, the Brazilian Soccer Team? 
Reflect on yourself, maybe there is more wrong about you personally than you might like to admit.... Of course we can hope for closer results in the future but its up to the thistimenonwinners to improve. Actually there was one big positive in Melbourne - BAR (really a pity for JV to have missed the moment) and one big negative - McLaren (how could they get it that wrong?). 
May SEPANG come, I for one am really looking forward to that one. Cheers, Tomas - Czech Republic

Charles and Marc, you are full of #$%^. While I'm not a Ferrari fan (and based on McLarens performance in Melbourne I don't think I'm anybody's fan at the moment) I have to simply acknowledge that Ferrari got it right and everybody else got it wrong. You two make it sound like Ferrari went out and bought the race. Budgets kept the Jordans, Minardis etc off the podium, but Williams, McLaren and Toyota all have more funds available than most 3rd world countries. 
McLaren had the first car out testing long before Ferrari or anyone else - and stuffed it! 
Ferrari and Bridgestone had a dream weekend, come Sepang and 50 degree track temps the pendulum will swing. 
Here in Aus, as Charles will know (he understands it brilliantly), we have a concept called the 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' - lets knock the guy at the top off his pedestal and bring him back to the masses. What are you two really whining about? That Ferrari are doing a more professional job than the hicks you favour? Or that they have drivers who can deliver when our preferred jockeys can't? Get over it and accept that the best team on the worst rubber kicked arse (again) and point your venom at the losers we backed for not delivering after spending a squillion bucks, not at the team that did deliver!
It sticks in my throat to say it but Ferrari, Renault and BAR delivered this weekend while the other mega-budget teams didn't. Personally, I'm sick to death of guys like you blaming winners for winning, rather than losers for being also-rans. 
It's your type that created the situation here in Aus that banned Sierra's and Skyline GTR's from racing because our local crap couldn't keep up. Instead of blaming Ford and Holden for building crap cars, we banned the good ones. 
I just hope Bernie and Max aren't listening to your drivel. Ferrari have got the best mousetrap around today - let them eat the mice! - Geoff  - Australia

Well, all I can say is that this had better get better, or I won't watch anymore. Or at least I'll just watch casually. I read something that Bernie said a couple of days ago. He has already condemned the rule changes before the first race! Particularly the 1 engine rule, sighting that the whole idea back-fired. The have's benefit and have nots got worse. 
As for me, I'm an employee of Toyota in the US, and this has just gotten beyond painful. I understand that F-1 is a whole different animal, but here in the USA they have Toyota Racing Development, who are able to dominate everything they get involved with in short order. I wish Toyota would consider letting TRD getting involved before they completely embarrass us all. Panis gets over-taken by Christian Klein in a Jaguar? 
I saw some pictures of JPM. He looked suicidal. You gotta love the aggressive style, but he took himself out in the first turn. 
I'm pretty sure McLaren will pull it together, but it might not happen in time for them to contend. 
I think Sauber will be good. I think their car is as good as Jaguar or maybe Honda. Although Massa looks the same to me. Wide in the turns, understeer, wide out, oversteer coming into the straight, and swerve 3 times. It's the same routine about once a lap. 
And then there's Honda. I hate that they look good now that J.V. is gone. Not that I'm a huge J.V. fan, it's just that I felt he deserved to go out with a little more dignity. 
As far as Friday goes, I like the third driver idea. But the whole thing is, is that the more rules they have, the harder it is to figure out the strategies. Now with the 3rd driver, he does the majority of the running, so they can reduce the miles on the other 2 engines. So the team gets more data, but the drivers have to try to interpret it to each other. And then there's the fuel strategy. It's all so confusing. I wish they would just wave the flags and let them race. 
We all know that F-1 has lost some of it's market, but I think it has more to do with the Economy. And lets face it. It's the out-lay of money versus the quality of entertainment. And what I saw yesterday...? Maybe if you stopped the race at the halfway mark, and had the drivers switch cars with each other, that would have been entertaining, but other than that, it was just no fun to watch - John N  - USA

Ok, who do you think might have a chance to beat Ferrari/Schumacher next year? - Byron F - Australia

I totally agree with Charles from Australia... Being the start of the season... I was kind of hoping to find back the sport in F1... I guess not. 
After 25 years of watching in my case... these past few years... well... last year did gave me some hope... until the Montoya incident which I still can't believe... but now.... I wasted enough time and money... To make things worse, in the driver's quotes... Ferrari is trying to make it look like there was actually a fight between Rubens and Michael, now they're playing political style manipulation on us and don't worry Michael, if needed... you can hit all the cars you want... you won't get any penalties... and Rubens will be a nice guy and let you pass... and go ahead Ferrari... why not put a human on mars while your at it... well don't worry Ferrari... if you want to save money one day, we can always remove all the other teams from competition so you can win all the Grand Prix you want... in the meantime... I will be watching auto SPORT events.... elsewhere. 
If the FIA wants a corporate saga or soap to run on TV, they have one with F1... Marc - Quebec - Canada

For the first time in my GP spectator life (20 Years) I have never been so bored and disappointed at a GP race than I was today at the Melbourne GP. After watching the Ferrari of MS absolutely trounce the rest of the field without even breaking a sweat I walked away convinced that F1 is no longer a competitive motor sport where the worlds best drivers fight it out race after race for that crown they all so hungry to win. Its about one team "FERRARI" who have one goal in mind "achieve total obliteration of the opposition no matter what the cost $$$$$$$$$". 
What a disgraceful performance from the Italian team! Don't get me wrong, I have been a Ferrari fan for many years and will continue to be a fan however, I can no longer watch or follow a sport that has become so boring and uncompetitive that I fall asleep at the track....A first for me! 
What happened to the days where the likes of Senna, Prost and Mansell where fighting it out like titans in battle. The competition was so fierce, on race day any one of these drivers or even other drivers would have a chance at winning the race or even the crown. It seems Ferrari is prepared to throw as much money into its F1 budget as it takes to stay ahead of the rest the teams with total disregard to the damage it is doing to the sport. 
I don't know if the FIA and Bernie can do much about it at this stage of the season but all I can say if  they don't act quickly F1 I'm afraid is going to take a nose dive in spectator attendance and corporate sponsorship. 
I spoke with numerous spectators at the race today and the feeling was very much the same. A number of people even went as far as saying they would not be attending next years event. I sincerely hope for the sake of the sport I have followed for over 20 years something is done to make the competition closer. Might not be back next year - Charles - Australia

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