/2003 - Michael Schumacher

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2003

ABOUT THIS SEASON

2003 Record World Champion

A fist jabs triumphantly out of the red cockpit. This is Michael as his fans know him. Hardly has he arrived in parc fermé then he leaps out of his car, hugs team-mate Rubens Barrichello and team boss Jean Todt and then wades into the arms of his mechanics. And, of course, wife Corinna also gets her victory kiss.

The only slight discrepancy is that Michael hasn’t actually won the race. On this Sunday in Suzuka, he has secured a ’mere’ eighth position. However, in one of the most dramatic title battles of his career, this eighth place gives him precisely the right number of points to secure the championship. He can now claim the record for number of world championship titles.

Taking a bath in Champagne

At this moment, however, statistics are of little interest to either Michael or his ecstatic mechanics. They carry him shoulder-high through the crowd, bounce him up in the air and spray him mercilessly with more and more champagne. Almost three hours after the race has finished, Michael joins his mechanics and engineers in leaping over the pit wall, taking the home straight by storm and celebrating their triumph in front of a grandstand still packed with spectators.

A triumph they have had to work hard for during the 2003 season. The dominance of the previous two years has waned. New regulations and a new points system have been introduced to make the championship more open and keep the excitement going longer. And in any case, Michael’s campaign hardly gets off to the best of starts. Fourth in Australia, sixth in Malaysia and a flyer in the chaotically wet conditions of Sao Paulo. This is the first time since Hockenheim 2001 that Michael fails to finish a race. His main rivals are Kimi Räikkönen and BMW-Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya, both of whom are using Michelin tyres, a factor that will play a decisive role in the way the season pans out.

‘Red Shark’ displaces ‘Red Goddess’

In Imola, the ’Red Goddess’ (the immensely successful F2002 model) makes her F1 curtain call and Michael duly records his first win of the season, a triumph that is somewhat overshadowed by the death of his mother Elisabeth. Two weeks later comes the debut of the new F2003-GA, named after the late Gianni Agnelli; however, it’s not long before the ventilation ’gills’ lead to it being nicknamed the ’Red Shark’. On his first outing in the new Ferrari, Michael takes top podium spot and repeats this triumph in the Austrian GP, where even flames shooting from the vehicle during his pit stop cannot prevent his victory march.

After coming third in Monaco, Michael is four points behind Räikkönen. Following his next victory in Canada, there is a setback at the Nürburgring. A duel with Montoya leaves Michael stuck in the gravel bed. The marshals push him back onto the track, but the best he can now muster is fifth place; even so, the points are to come in handy later on when the title race begins to narrow. P3 in France and P4 in England contribute a few more points to his tally, though the German result is less useful: a damaged tyre means the best he can manage is seventh.

Then comes the low point of the season: in Budapest, Michael is lapped by Fernando Alonso who wins his first GP race to release a wave of F1 euphoria in his Spanish homeland, just as Michael had once done in Germany. Michael manages some damage limitation with eighth position, which leaves him one point ahead of Montoya and two ahead of Räikkönen.

The tyre war is heating up

In the build-up to the Italian GP, the tyre war reaches its climax. It is claimed that the tread of the Michelin has not conformed with every aspect of the regulations, so the FIA implement new, more stringent specifications. And Michael chooses Monza, the home race for Ferrari, to turn the title race around. He records his first victory since Canada and goes on to win the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis as well. As Montoya drops out of contention, Michael goes into the final race of the season in Japan with a nine-point lead. He needs just a single point to secure his sixth title; eighth place would be enough for him to break the record.

The tremendous fight for 8th place

Easy as it sounds, it proves to be an elusive target. The rain-soaked qualifying session itself is a thriller. Räikkönen manages to book eighth place on the grid with Michael way back on 14th. The race gets off to an inauspicious start: as he moves off, Michael collides with Takuma Sato. Following an emergency pit stop to get a new front wing fitted, he emerges onto the track in last place. Once again, it’s a game of catch-up. Leading the field is team-mate Barrichello just ahead of Räikkönen: a single error or technical fault could hand the race victory and the world championship to the Finn. “So I had to try any way I could to get that eighth position.”

By the 40th lap, Michael has managed to claim the all-important 8th spot that would provide him with the single point he requires. But the race and the excitement are far from over. As Michael is trying to avoid the Toyota of Cristiano da Matta going into the chicane, his brother Ralf clouts him from behind and both cars skid across the grass. Fortunately the Ferrari is still drivable. “However, the skid had left a bald patch on the tyre,” Michael recalls. “It felt as though I was driving over cobble stones. I could barely see where I was going after that.”

His sixth title ends up as one of the most spectacular and hardest fought of all. “I’m very happy but I’m also totally drained and exhausted,” he says afterwards. “At the moment, I haven’t got any feelings about the title, only for my team. I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved together.” The celebration party turns out to be a suitably exuberant affair in which a forklift truck plays a featuring role.

Courtesy by motorsport-magazin.com

STATS

2003 Saison Figures

1

DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP

6

GRAND PRIX WINS

8

PODIUM POSITIONS

93

POINTS TOTAL

5

FASTEST LAPS

5

POLE POSITION

THE CAR

Ferrari F2003-GA

F2003-GA

ALL GRAND PRIX

The races of 2003

MELBOURNE

09.03.2003

MELBOURNE

Australia

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 1

Rennen 4

SEPANG

23.03.2003

SEPANG

Malaysia

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 3

Rennen 6

SAO PAULO

06.04.2003

SAO PAULO

Brazil

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 7

Rennen DNF

IMOLA

20.04.2003

IMOLA

San Marino

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 1

Rennen 1

BARCELONA

04.05.2003

BARCELONA

Spain

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 1

Rennen 1

SPIELBERG

18.05.2003

SPIELBERG

Austria

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 1

Rennen 1

MONTE CARLO

01.06.2003

MONTE CARLO

Monaco

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 5

Rennen 3

MONTREAL

15.06.2003

MONTREAL

Canada

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 3

Rennen 1

NÜRBURGRING

29.06.2003

NÜRBURGRING

EUROPEAN GP

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 2

Rennen 5

MAGNY-COURS

06.07.2003

MAGNY-COURS

France

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 3

Rennen 3

SILVERSTONE

20.07.2003

SILVERSTONE

Great Britain

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 5

Rennen 4

HOCKENHEIM

03.08.2003

HOCKENHEIM

Germany

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 6

Rennen 7

BUDAPEST

24.08.2003

BUDAPEST

Hungary

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 8

Rennen 8

MONZA

14.09.2003

MONZA

Italy

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 1

Rennen 1

INDIANAPOLIS

28.09.2003

INDIANAPOLIS

USA

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 7

Rennen 1

SUZUKA

12.10.2003

SUZUKA

Japan

PLATZIERUNG

Quali. 14

Rennen 8

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