Background – Ferrari domination
For the previous couple of years heading into the 2003 season Ferrari had dominated Formula 1, with Michael Schumacher winning the last 3 titles for the prancing horse. McLaren had been their equal from 1998-2000, but in 2001 Ferrari pulled well clear of the pack while McLaren fell towards Williams in the battle for 2nd. Ferrari won 24 of the 34 races across 2001 and 2002, the car was fast and reliable, with Schumacher not only finishing but finishing on the podium in EVERY race in 2002.
Heading into the new season there had been a few rule changes from 2002, the 10-6-4-3-2-1 points system was replaced by a new 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system, intended to award consistency and keep the title battle more exciting. One shot qualifying was also introduced, aimed at giving smaller teams more TV exposure and creating more unpredictable grids. However when it came to the actual cars themselves the regulations were not altered (though in the name of cost saving tyre suppliers Bridgestone and Michelin were now only allowed to bring one wet weather compound to each race). So basically this paragraph is the long way of saying 2003 was already looking like another Schumacher/Ferrari dominated season before it had even begun.
Heading into the season Ferrari were still developing their 2003 car, so would have to use the 2002 car until the new one was developed. McLaren were in a similar predicament, with their radical new MP4-18 (Covered here), which they had planned to bring to the opening race in Australia, failing the mandatory FIA crash test and having to be revised and brought in later on in the season, at the Austrian grand prix to be precise. This meant that McLaren had to use an updated 2002 MP4-17 for the first few races. The 2002 McLaren hadn’t been very competitive and was very unreliable, winning just 1 race with David Coulthard and a young Kimi Raikkonen, with 14 DNF’s out of a possible 34. Coulthard had comfortably beaten Kimi 41-24 in points but couldn’t even beat either Williams in the standings. Given this little was expected of McLaren’s early season as all hopes focused on their new car.
Williams and engine partner BMW looked to continue their upward trend in 2003, which had seen them go from a distant 3rd in the standings in 2000 to Ferrari’s closest challengers in 2002. Despite only winning 1 race in Malaysia with Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya grabbed 7 pole positions and was ahead of Barrichello for most of the season, albeit nowhere near his teammates rampant brother. Unlike their 2 closest rivals Williams would have their 2003 car ready by Australia, the BMW engine was the most powerful on the grid but chassis issues had hampered the teams’ chance of challenging Ferrari before, and indeed in testing both drivers complained of understeer. Heading to Australia the question was whether Williams could take advantage of their newer car and challenge Ferrari, but a surprise was in store…
Round 1 – Australia
In qualifying it appeared that nothing had changed, the Ferrari’s locked out the front row with Montoya nearly a second off in 3rd. The new qualifying system had worked a treat, with the McLaren’s down in 11th and 15th and Ralf in 9th, behind both Sauber’s and BAR’s. At the start the Ferrari’s led and pulled clear, however Barrichello had jumped the start then crashed at turn 5 in damp conditions while Schumacher pitted at the wrong time during a string of safety car periods and fell back. Raikkonen emerged in the lead after starting on a heavy fuel load but got a penalty for speeding in the pit lane, leaving him to battle Schumacher for 3rd, which he just held to the end. All of this chaos left Montoya leading Coulthard comfortably, but with 8 laps to go the Columbian spun at turn 1, gifting the Scot a surprise win in the McLaren as Montoya hobbled home in a frustrating 2nd. The 2002 McLaren had gone the whole of that season without a win, only to win the first race of 2003. Ferrari meanwhile missed the podium for the first time since the 1999 European grand prix, giving hope that this wouldn’t be the walk in the park for them that seemed in store.
1. Coulthard 10
2. Montoya 8
3. Raikkonen 6
Round 2 – Malaysia The second round at Malaysia provided further shocks, as in qualifying not only were there no Ferrari’s on the front row, but no McLaren’s or Williams’ either! Indeed the Renault’s of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli locked out the front row, with Alonso becoming the youngest pole sitter in F1 history. Michael Schumacher was 3rd, with the McLaren’s, Barrichello and Montoya in the top 10, however Ralf had had an awful qualifying lap in the other Williams and would line up 17th. Off the start Coulthard launched past Schumi, however Michael went around the outside at turn 1 and lunged Trulli into turn 2, spinning the Renault and earning himself a drive through penalty, and also a new front wing. Montoya meanwhile was rear ended by Antonio Pizzonia’s Jaguar and effectively out of the race. Coulthard once again benefited from the chaos and moved to 2nd before an electronics failure ended his race on lap 2, momentarily giving 2nd to Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber, before he quickly dropped behind Kimi and Barrichello to 4th.
Kimi closed on Alonso then used a 5 lap overcut to take the lead on lap 19. Barrichello was stuck behind the Spaniard until lap 38, when he also overcut him. Meanwhile the Schumacher brothers had fought back through the field with Ralf claiming 4th and Michael recovering to 6th, ironically just behind Trulli. But the race belonged to Kimi, who took his first career win by 40 seconds from Barrichello. McLaren had taken back to back wins and suddenly Ferrari’s stranglehold on the sport appeared to be loosening as the circus moved to South America.
1. Raikkonen 16
2. Coulthard 10
3. 5 drivers 8
Round 3 – Brazil The Brazilian grand prix weekend started well for the home crowd, as Barrichello pipped Coulthard to pole by 0.011 seconds. Michael Schumacher could only manage 7th as the usual suspects covered the top 10, however there was a shock as Mark Webber put his Jaguar 3rd on the grid. But as race day came rain storms struck Interlagos, and chaos was about to ensue…
If you remember back to the second paragraph I mentioned that only 1 wet tyre compound could be brought to each race, and Bridgestone decided to bring intermediates to Brazil which were not suited to the treacherous conditions. After a delayed safety car start Coulthard got past the Bridgestone shod Barrichello and led away, there were surprisingly few incidents until lap 16 when Justin Wilson spun at the treacherous turn 3 which was wetter than the rest of the track due to rivers running across it. Ralf Firman’s suspension failed at turn 1, causing him to slide into Olivier Panis’ Toyota on lap 18. Montoya spun out at turn 3 on lap 25, followed by Pizzonia, then Michael a lap later, creating a parking lot by the barrier. Jos Verstappen spun out in his Minardi, as did Jenson Button on lap 33. As another chaotic race was playing out once again the McLaren’s were taking advantage at the front, but as the track was getting dryer Barrichello’s inters allowed him to overtake both of them and pull away. Things were looking good for a Brazilian home win until a fuel system issue on lap 47 meant Rubens once again faced heartbreak at his home circuit, having retired there 9 seasons in a row by this point. Coulthard pitted from the lead on lap 53, the next lap Raikkonen ran wide at Mergulho and gifted Giancarlo Fisichella the lead in his Jordan. On the next lap Webber crashed on the home straight, with Alonso ploughing his Renault into the debris then into the tyre barriers, the raced was red flagged with Fisichella leading, but the results were taken from 2 laps earlier and Kimi was declared the winner with Coulthard dropping to 4th behind Alonso after his pit stop. After 3 rounds no Ferrari or Williams driver had broken the 10 point barrier yet, and it was now 3 out of 3 wins for McLaren, or was it?
1. Raikkonen 26
2. Coulthard 15
3. Alonso 14
Round 4 – San Marino
For round 4 the paddock headed to Europe for the first time in 2003, but before a single car had left the pits there was already a ceremony and a new winner in F1. After reviewing the ending to the race in Brazil an FIA panel concluded that Fisichella had started his 56th lap at the time of the red flag, thus the results were taken from lap 54 rather than lap 53 and Fisichella was declared the winner with Kimi being demoted to 2nd.
Needing a result to kick start their title bid Ferrari had planned to bring their new F2003-GA to Imola but they were still dealing with some teething issues, thus the F2002 would get one more outing. In qualifying it appeared the car was still as competitive as ever with Michael Schumacher pipping his brother to pole with Barrichello and Montoya behind. Once again the McLaren’s were down the order on Saturday in 6th and 12th. A few hours before the race Elisabeth Schumacher, Michael and Ralf’s mother, died in Germany. Despite this the Schumacher’s raced but they flew to Cologne immediately after the chequered flag. Indeed at the start they led away as Ralf jumped Michael, but eventually he fell back in the pit stops behind his brother as well as Kimi. Eventually Barrichello closed in and also got past on the home straight. Coulthard came home in 5th while Montoya had a difficult race in 7th. There were no celebrations on the podium, but this had been a crucial win for Schumacher and Ferrari as they leapt up the standings.
1. Raikkonen 32
2. Coulthard 19
3. M Schumacher 18
1. McLaren 51
2. Ferrari 32
3. Renault 26
Round 5 – Spain
For round 5 Ferrari finally brought their new car and immediately locked out the front row, with the 2 Renault’s behind. Ralf, Coulthard and Montoya could only manage positions 7-9 on the grid, but the biggest loser of all of Raikkonen, who started last after his lap went horribly wrong. In the race things went from bad to worse for Kimi when Pizzonia’s Jaguar had a launch control failure from 16th on the grid, Kimi was unsighted and ploughed into him, retiring mere meters into the race. Meanwhile Coulthard and Trulli collided, taking the Renault out of the race and dropping Coulthard down the order. Montoya passed Button for 5th into turn 1, on lap 17 Coulthard tried to do the same but spun into the gravel, this time with no recovery. Alonso got ahead of Barrichello in the stops then Ralf made a mistake at turn 3 while defending 2nd from him while on a different strategy and eventually got passed by his teammate for 4th. Leaving a final order of Michael, Alonso, Barrichello, Montoya and Ralf. The McLaren’s had had a dismal weekend, and with back to back victories Michael was now right on Kimi’s tail.
1. Raikkonen 32
2. M Schumacher 28
3. Alonso 25
Round 6 – Austria With their championship lead dwindling and Ferrari rolling out their new car Austria was supposed to be the race in which McLaren debuted the MP4-18, however technical issues meant that this date was pushed back to the Canadian GP a few races down the line.
In qualifying however Kimi showed the updated 2002 car still had potential by qualifying a mere 0.039 behind Michael’s Ferrari. Though Coulthard didn’t do so well down in 14th. At the start 3rd place Montoya jumped Kimi before a safety car was brought out due to Jos Verstappen’s Minardi having a failure off the line. On lap 23 Michael pitted but an issue with the fuel nozzle cost him over 10 seconds as he rejoined behind Montoya and Kimi, but soon Kimi started suffering from engine issues and was passed for 2nd. Montoya was looking good but on lap 32 his BMW engine gave up and just like that Schumi had regained the lead, with Kimi struggling but just pipping Barrichello 2nd with some great defensive driving. Coulthard and Ralf came home in a quite 5th and 6th, behind Jenson Button’s BAR. With 3 successive wins Schumacher was well and truly back, but a new challenger was about to emerge…
1. Raikkonen 40
2. M Schumacher 38
3. Barrichello 26
Round 7 – Monaco
After 6 rounds you may be wondering where the Williams drivers are in all this. Well after his 2nd in Australia Montoya had struggled with consistency and was only on 15 points, while Ralf was too consistent if anything, scoring in all 6 races but with no podium yet. Williams seemed off the pace and were looking more likely to battle Renault for 3rd than challenge for the title. However things were about to change.
Heading into the Monaco grand prix Michelin introduced a new, wider front tyre. Though it didn’t seem like much and McLaren also used it the Williams cars suited the new tyre to a tee and duly qualified 1-3, with Ralf pipping Raikkonen to pole by 0.036 seconds while the Ferrari’s languished down in 5th and 7th. Off the start Montoya jumped Kimi, and the 3 leaders stayed close while the Ferrari’s got stuck behind Trulli in 4th. On lap 23 Montoya overcut Ralf to take the lead while the other teams went longer. As the stops played out Kimi and Michael got past Ralf too and hunted Montoya who held on for his second win in F1. Although both Williams drivers were still outside of the championship top 5 things were looking up for the rest of the season, but McLaren’s new car was still to come…
1. Raikkonen 48
2. M Schumacher 44
3. Alonso 29
Round 8 – Canada
Or it wasn’t… After finally testing the car McLaren found more issues that needed to be resolved, and the cars debut was further postponed until the British grand prix a month after the Canadian race.
In qualifying Williams confirmed that they were the real deal, with Ralf grabbing his second consecutive pole over half a second clear of his brothers Ferrari in 3rd, with Montoya making it a Williams front row lockout. Raikkonen meanwhile spun on his lap and started last for the second time in 4 races. Off the line the leaders maintained position, until Montoya spun out of the final chicane and lost a few places. For most of the race the Schumacher brothers went at it, with Michael emerging in front after the final pit stops. By the final few laps Montoya and Alonso were right with them but no one could make a move. So Schumacher took his 3rd win in 4 races and thus took the lead of the championship as Kimi could only recover to 6th.
1. M Schumacher 54
2. Raikkonen 51
3. Alonso 34
1. Ferrari 85
2. McLaren 76
3. Williams 64
Round 9 – Europe(Germany)
Qualifying at the Nurburgring provided a first in Formula 1, with Kimi Raikkonen taking his first career pole after pipping the Schumacher brothers by less than a tenth, Montoya was 4th and Barrichello 5th. At the start Ralf overtook his brother, but Kimi soon checked out and built up a comfortable lead. It appeared that Kimi was going to take his second win and regain the championship lead; however with the team focusing on their new car they gave Kimi’s engine a dodgy piston, and on lap 25 the piston gave way and Raikkonen was out. The Schumacher’s took the lead but on lap 43 Montoya challenged Michael for 2nd, as he went around the outside at the Dunlop Kurve they collided and Michael spun into the gravel, he recovered but was down to 6th. No action was taken by the stewards, leaving Williams to claim a 1-2 with Barrichello 3rd and Michael 5th. Williams had now overtaken McLaren in the constructor’s standings and both drivers were within 20 points of the championship lead heading to France.
1. M Schumacher 58
2. Raikkonen 51
3. R Schumacher 43
Round 10 – France
If the power dominant Williams pace was ever in doubt the twisty Magny-Cours circuit would show it. For 2003 the track had been revamped and made even tighter than before, but it did little to stop the in form team as Ralf claimed pole from Montoya, both around half a second ahead of Michael and the McLarens in 3rd, 4th and 5th. The race proved to be one of the duller ones of the year, as the top 5 positions remained the same basically throughout. This meant that Ralf and Montoya took a 2nd straight Williams 1-2, and with Kimi finishing 4th they were both within a race win of the Finn in the standings. But the McLaren challenge was set to be revived, as their new car was going to be unleashed at Silverstone…
1. M Schumacher 64
2. Raikkonen 56
3. R Schumacher 53
Round 11 – Great Britain
However yet again the car wasn’t present, and this time it was gone for good. After several testing accidents the car was shelved and the upgraded 2002 car would have to be used to the end of the season. This was a significant blow as McLaren were already slipping back in the performance charts, but Kimi was still close enough to give the team belief that the title could still be theirs.
But in qualifying it was Ferrari who took pole, not with Schumacher though, but with Barrichello. Trulli took a surprise 2nd, Kimi was 3rd with Ralf and Michael 4th and 5th. Montoya had a bad lap and ended up half a second off the top 5 in 7th, behind Cristiano da Matta in the Toyota of all people!
At the start Barrichello was immediately overtaken by Trulli and Kimi, but he managed to re-pass the Finn for 2nd soon after. The grand prix was just settling down when on lap 11 a mad priest ran onto the track, bringing out a safety car and triggering a chain reaction of pit stops. The Toyota’s of De Matta and Olivier Panis led after not pitting, with Coulthard in 3rd after a headrest issue earlier on meant he’d already stopped. On the restart Kimi quickly dispatched Trulli and his teammate while Barrichello passed a struggling Ralf Schumacher after he’d been jumped by the Williams in the stops, with Ralf soon pitting again due to an issue. Barrichello and Montoya passed Trulli before the Toyota’s pitted and normal business resumed at the front. Barrichello overcut Kimi to reduce the gap then closed on and passed him in the final stint, Montoya also got by in the dying laps after an error from Raikkonen. Michael Schumacher was a lonely 4th but the race was all about his teammate, Ralf meanwhile had a tough race after picking up 28 out of 30 points in the last 3 races, ending up outside the points in 9th. The top 5 in the standings were now all within 20 points of each other with only 5 rounds to go.
1. M Schumacher 69
2. Raikkonen 62
3. Montoya 55
Round 12 – Germany
After an average race at Silverstone Williams were back on top form as the circus travelled to Germany for the second time in 2003. The new Hockenheim layout made the track much less power dependant than before but that didn’t stop Montoya from grabbing pole, with Ralf just 0.018 seconds behind. Barrichello was over 3 tenths off in 3rd with Kimi and Michael another 4 tenths behind in 5th and 6th, behind Trulli.
Off the line Ralf got a bad start and was level with Kimi and Rubens heading towards turn 1, then, in an incident reminiscent of the one at the start of this year’s Singapore grand prix, Ralf and Barrichello touched and swerved into Kimi, sending the McLaren hurtling into the barriers and ending their own races too. This left Montoya to pick up the pieces with a dominant win, Michael Schumacher had passed Trulli for 2nd late in the race but he suffered a puncture moments after, dropping him down to 7th and keeping his championship lead below 10 points. Coulthard also passed Trulli to earn a 2nd place finish, though his season had fallen off the cliff at this point having not scored another podium since his win back in Australia. Montoya though had won by over a minute and after the drama behind him he was up to 2nd in the standings and closing on Schumi fast, while Williams closed to within 2 points of Ferrari in the constructors…
1. M Schumacher 71
2. Montoya 65
3. Raikkonen 62
1. Ferrari 120
2. Williams 118
3. McLaren 103
Round 13 – Hungary
After a strong start to the season Fernando Alonso in the Renault had struggled recently, with a poor mid season dropping him out of the top 5 in the standings, however he made a resurgence in Hungary, grabbing pole by a quarter of a second from Ralf Schumacher. Mark Webber in the Jaguar took a surprise 3rd on the grid as he had done in Brazil, Montoya and Barrichello lined up in 4th and 5th having set identical times while Kimi and Michael disappointed down in 7th and 8th.
At the start the Williams quickly fell back, with Ralf ending up facing the wrong way at turn 2. Alonso launched away from a slow Webber in the opening stages, pulling seconds per lap on the Aussie and the train that followed him, led by Raikkonen after he had a good start. After the first pit window Kimi jumped Webber, before Barrichello suffered a suspension failure and skidded into the wall at turn 1. Meanwhile Michael and the Williams were stuck behind Trulli in 4th, though Ralf managed to overtake his brother who was struggling in the Ferrari, the car’s Bridgestone tyres not being suited to the hot Hungarian weather. As the next round of pit stops unfolded Montoya jumped Webber, with Ralf having to wait several laps to make an on track move. Montoya spun but kept 3rd while his title rival Schumacher continued to struggle, getting lapped by Alonso and ultimately finishing 8th, even behind Webber’s Jaguar.
So Alonso celebrated becoming the youngest race winner in Formula 1 history, but the main focus shifted towards the championship, as the top 3 were now within 2 points of each other after Kimi’s 2nd and Montoya’s 3rd while Williams assumed the lead of the constructors table. At this point Montoya had the momentum after 7 straight podium finishes since Michelin introduced their wider tyre, but Ferrari had other ideas…
1. M Schumacher 72
2. Montoya 71
3. Raikkonen 70
Round 14 – Italy
If you follow motorsport in any way you’ll probably know that Monza is just about as much of a power track as can be, given this Williams and Montoya were looking to take big strides towards both titles in Italy with their powerful BMW engines, but before the weekend had begun they were dealt 2 big blows.
In testing before the race weekend Ralf Schumacher suffered a massive accident at the Lesmo 1 corner, meaning that he had to be replaced by the teams test driver for the race, backmarker legend Marc Gene. This wouldn’t seem too bad but for a protest lodged by Ferrari and Bridgestone after the Hungarian race, they claimed that the wider Michelin tyres were illegal and that they should be banned, the FIA agreed and just like that Williams had lost their competitive edge over the competition.
Despite this the Monza track still suited their car and Montoya proved it by nearly beating Schumacher to pole, losing out by just 0.051 seconds. Further down the grid Raikkonen’s McLaren was half a second off the pace in 4th behind Barrichello. Trulli made the best start from 6th and was up to 3rd before a hydraulics issue ended his race after just half a lap. On lap 1 Montoya went for the lead at the 2nd chicane but Schumi held him off, the Williams shadowed the Ferrari for the whole race but ultimately didn’t have the pace to get past. Meaning that Schumacher took a crucial win in front of an ecstatic Tifosi. Barrichello also played his part, holding Raikkonen off in 3rd by a second. After a disastrous few races Schumacher and Ferrari had halted their rival’s momentum, though Gene’s 5th place meant that Williams still led the constructor’s championship by 4 points. Ralf, Barrichello and Alonso were also now officially out of the title race meaning it would be a 3 way fight between Schumi, Montoya and Kimi heading to Indianapolis.
1. M Schumacher 82
2. Montoya 79
3. Raikkonen 75
Round 15 – USA
Qualifying at Indy provided a shake up to the championship chances of the 3 contenders, as despite Barrichello qualifying his Ferrari in 2nd place Schumacher could only manage 7th with his. Meanwhile Kimi stormed to pole with Montoya 4th just ahead of his returning teammate in 5th, but the star of the session was Olivier Panis who grabbed 3rd in his Toyota.
Off the line the drivers on the dirty side of the grid got dreadful starts, this meant that Montoya lost out while crucially Michael moved up to 4th behind Ralf and Panis. Rain had begun to fall by lap 3 when Ralf passed Panis into turn 1, while behind his teammate went around the outside of Barrichello. Entering turn 2 they were side by side, Montoya held firm and the 2 collided, spinning the Ferrari out of the race while Montoya lost a few places but suffered no damage. Michael passed Panis on lap 5 and was soon up to 2nd after Ralf spun out, Panis pit for wets at the wrong time and gifted Montoya 3rd as the leaders carried on and chose dry tires in their first stop. Montoya was looking fast but disaster struck as his fuel hose malfunctioned, dropping him down the order before he was hit with a double whammy by the stewards who awarded him a dubious drive through penalty for the Barrichello incident. To further compound the Columbian’s pain the rain had gotten heavier, meaning that he had to do a whole lap on dries after his penalty before pitting. With Montoya out of the running Kimi and Michael battled it out, but only for third, as they had fallen behind Button’s BAR and Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Sauber after an extra stop for wets. Schumi got past Frentzen and quickly caught Button, taking the lead just before the BAR blew its engine on lap 42. The track had dried by this point and Kimi had pace but the Ferrari was too dominant in the wet, leaving Kimi’s McLaren miles behind. At the finish Schumacher won by 18 seconds and took a huge step towards his 6th title. Also worth mentioning that with Frentzen grabbing the final podium spot and Nick Heidfeld finishing 5th Sauber jumped from 9th to 5th in the constructors standings, going from 9 points to 19 in one race.
Montoya fought back to 6th but ultimately had lost too many points, falling 10 points behind Schumacher and due to having less wins he was officially out of the championship battle. Kimi still had a chance, but he would need to win in Japan and hope that Schumacher didn’t score, an unlikely prospect given that he hadn’t won since round 2 in Malaysia. Meanwhile Williams still had hopes of a title, with the gap in the constructors table sat at 3 points as McLaren officially fell out of contention on that front.
1. M Schumacher 92
2. Raikkonen 83
3. Montoya 82
1. Ferrari 147
2. Williams 144
3. McLaren 128
Round 16 – Japan
So Formula 1 came to Suzuka for the final round of the 2003 season. The title seemed a formality, but in qualifying things were well and Trulli (hehe) shaken up. As everyone completed their lap Barrichello emerged on pole, with Montoya alongside him in 2nd. The 2nd row was locked out, not by McLaren or Renault, but by Toyota! De Matta had qualified a stunning 3rd with Panis in 4th. As the order shuffled out you’d have to look further and further down the timesheet to find the title contenders. Kimi qualified 8th, which was not too unusual by McLaren’s Saturday performance standards, but the biggest shock was that Michael could only manage 14th. In the constructors battle meanwhile Ferrari were looking good after Rubens’ pole and Ralf failed to set a lap.
At the start Barrichello maintained his lead over Montoya, but the Williams had much better pace and soon got by into spoon. Michael survived the start while his brother did not fare so well, spinning at the final chicane and dropping to last. Michael quickly worked his way up to 11th and dived to the inside of debutant Takuma Sato at the final chicane for 10th, however he did not get alongside enough and clipped the BAR causing him to lose his front wing, suddenly there was a real chance for Kimi. This chance was further increased when Montoya, dominating the race out front despite the Williams struggles with the old Michelin tyre, broke down and retired. This left Barrichello and Alonso to battle for the lead in the pit stops, the Ferrari crew just doing enough to keep their man ahead. Down the order Ralf spun again at the final chicane while battling Frentzen’s Sauber, effectively finishing any last chance Williams had of winning the constructors title with Montoya out. Alonso’s Renault blew up leaving Kimi 2nd, while far behind the Schumacher brothers had ended up fighting for 9th after their troubles, which were further compounded when Ralf locked up and nearly took out Michael into the chicane. The Williams needed a new front wing but crucially Michael emerged unscathed after taking to the run off. He proceeded to pass Panis and bring the Ferrari home in 8th, guaranteeing him a record 6th title, though his teammate had played his part by beating Kimi to the win and thus the title was Schumacher’s regardless.
After 2 dominant seasons Ferrari had been pushed to their limit, but they didn’t care as they celebrated a 4th consecutive double title win. Kimi had done a great job to get within 2 points of Schumacher in the year old McLaren, embarrassing Coulthard along the way. While Williams had been near unstoppable in the mid season, but couldn’t match the front runners without the newer Michelin tyre design. Despite a pointless race in Japan Williams still pipped McLaren to 2nd in the constructors, but it was Ferrari and Schumacher’s year once again…
1. M Schumacher 93
2. Raikkonen 91
3. Montoya 82
1. Ferrari 158
2. Williams 144
3. McLaren 142
After the tight 2003 season F1 fans were looking forward to another mouth watering year in 2004, McLaren designed a de-bugged version of their MP4-18 meaning the 2002 MP4-17 car could finally be replaced, while Williams had a new “walrus nose” front wing design that they hoped could give them the edge over Ferrari and McLaren. However it wasn’t to be as Ferrari dominated once again. Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races while McLaren and Williams won just 1 each all year and fell behind Renault and the surprise package BAR in the standings. The regulations changed for 2005 and Ferrari fell back, as did Williams who have only won 1 race since. Michael Schumacher would challenge for the title again in 2006 for Ferrari but ultimately fell short and retired from the sport, before a comeback from 2010-2012. Kimi did get his title in 2007 (Described in detail here) after replacing Schumacher at Ferrari, Montoya wouldn’t get another chance however and he left F1 in 2006 after disappointing at McLaren next to Kimi.
2000-2004 has become known as the Schumacher/Ferrari era. Despite their dominance across this period 2003 provided a rare change, and although Ferrari still won both titles the season should be remembered for the tight battle it was and considered one of the most exciting Formula 1 seasons of all time.
Credits to – /u/Klayyyyyy
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