Great racing cars: 2004 Ferrari F2004



A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Carswhich is available to buy here

To buy the lead image click here

From the editor Damien Smith

How would you define a ‘great’ racing car? Race wins and championship titles are an obvious place to start – and admittedly, when we began the process of rounding up the ‘voices’ to fill this special magazine, published by the team behind Motor Sport, we had in mind the likes of the Lotus 72, Ferrari F2004, Porsche 917, Audi R10 and so on.

But as the interviews of familiar racing figures began, we realised greatness is often a very personal thing. Naturally, most – but not all – would pick cars they had experienced first-hand, as a driver, designer, engineer or team boss. And on occasion the cars that stood out in their minds as ‘great’ weren’t necessarily so in the grand scheme of history. That’s why you’ll find a Minardi here among Formula 1 cars from Lotus, Williams and McLaren.

Unexpected? Certainly. Wrong? Not to the man who chose it.

As the interviews accumulated, our magazine took on a life of its own, full of personal anecdotes about the myriad cars that made careers. Some of those we spoke to, such as Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, couldn’t be tied to a single choice from multi-faceted lives at the wheel. Such heroes have earned the right to choose an F1, sports and Indycar, so we allowed them more than one bite.

Others refused to be confined by category. Hence the short ‘Odd ’n Sods’ chapter on cars that, by and large, are mere footnotes in lower divisions of racing lore.

Thus there is nothing definitive about the selection listed herein. Then again, there’s no claim that this compilation offers the ‘Greatest Racing Cars’ of history. It’s much more personal than that, much more quirky – and all the better for it.

2004 Ferrari F2004

Rob Smedley
Long-time Ferrari F1 engineer, now working for Williams

The best thing I ever worked on was the 2004 Ferrari. It was just absolutely the perfect racing car, just massively impressive. It was an epic proposition in all departments.

It really had it all at every single circuit, whether high-speed, low-speed, whatever. You could have done the bloody Mille Miglia in it and it would still have won! In qualifying trim, in race trim, whichever driver you put in, it was just very quick and well balanced.

It was my first full year at Ferrari and I was on the test team. I couldn’t believe the levels of excellence at first, because when you think about Ferrari at that time, the speed at which they got things through the door was sensational. They were just pushing a huge amount of development through. They had this massive appetite to dominate and they did from 2000 to 2004. It was hard work at the start with the development, but it paid off because we won all bar three races that season.

Michael just destroyed everyone that year. There is no doubt about it – even a journeyman driver would have won with that car. It was so good, but in Michael’s hands it was devastatingly good.

We tested the car very late in order to maximise development. Michael was the first one to test it. He was in the old car at Mugello and went out for a long run. Then he switched to the new one and came back after a few laps with a massive smile on his face. ‘Now this is a seriously quick racing car,’ he said. He was laughing as he spoke!

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