Adam Cooper's Track forward

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Expect a closer-fought F1 world title battle in 2005

A memorable 2004 Formula One season began with an astonishing sequence of successes for Michael Schumacher, and ended with an equally spectacular run of disasters for the world champion. In the last four events Michael endured three race spins (Italy, China and Brazil), a collision (China), a costly qualifying off (China) and a spectacular practice crash (Brazil). Had he spread those incidents across the balance of the season, the title fight might have been tougher.

It would be easy to conclude that after securing his seventh title, Michael took his eye off the ball. While there might be a grain of truth in that, he was also unlucky, for Monza and Interlagos both started in the type of damp conditions that hardly favoured his Bridgestones. So don’t expect the mishaps to signal the start of the great man’s decline. After his early delays in Italy, Michael stormed back to second place, taking huge chunks of time out of team-mate and winner Rubens Barrichello. And in Japan he took pole and won at a canter.

But his slip-ups do remind us that Schuey isn’t invulnerable, especially when pushed hard. He was rarely troubled in the first two-thirds of this year, but next season should be closer fought. As ever, it’s a question of the others raising their game.

BAR did that to spectacular effect this year, and while that was a breath of fresh air, in truth we’re relying on the old guard. Juan Pablo Montoya’s narrow win for Williams over future McLaren team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at Interlagos was timely. Both teams have endured tough times of late but have the strength in depth to sustain a challenge. Can they maintain the momentum? I think so.