The 2003 Austrian GP: Michael Schumacher’s 67th Win in a Burning Car
The 2003 Season
The Austrian GP came after two successive wins for Ferrari in San Marino and Spain; however, Michael still remained four points adrift of the table leader, Raikkonen. A combination of the new points system and an uninspiring start to the 2003 season caused Schumacher to lag in the title battle. Schumacher had to give his everything in Austria to better his chances of winning the championship.
The battle started even before the race. During the qualifying, Raikkonen put up a blistering lap taking provisional pole. Michael had to respond, and he did so in style.
Take a look at Michael’s qualifying run:
Michael gave his all to take the pole position. To be at the pole is one thing and to get out first on race day, totally, another thing. Could Michael do it?
Let’s find out.
Did You Know?
After Mika, McLaren expected David Coulthard to lead the charge against Schumacher and the Ferrari team. However, it was Kimi Raikkonen who took up the mantle.
Such was the fight for the title in the 2003 season between Kimi and Michael that the championship remained undecided until the very last race.
Michael hadn’t experienced such rivalry since 1994 where, again, the championship went right up to the last race.
The 2003 Austrian Grand Prix
The Austrian Grand Prix had every ingredient in place to be a soap opera. It had a rivalry, it had cars bursting into flames, it had blow-ups, and it had a winner. Leaving the cryptic comparison aside, the Austrian GP could have been one of the most challenging races for Schumacher.
The race started well for Schumacher as he got away cleanly ahead of Raikkonen and was followed by Barrichello and Montoyo. Schumacher then opened up a gap to the others. However, a safety car condition levelled the field again, and Montoya and Raikkonen closely followed Schumacher. Then started the disasters.
Take a look at the race summary:
Suggestion: There is a music on along with the commentary of critical encounters. Keep the audio on with low volume.
At the first pitstop, Schumacher’s car had a fueling incident leading to a fire and a subsequent 20-second pitstop. The delay promoted Montoya to first place, and Schumacher was second. Unfortunately, Montoya’s engine blew up, leading to Schumacher regaining his spot. Just when things appeared normal, he once again had a bad pitstop of 13 seconds, but he still managed to come out ahead of Raikkonen.
After that, the position remained so for the rest of the race. The long and arduous day concluded with Michael taking the chequered flag followed by Raikkonen and Barrichello, still fiercely fighting for the second spot.
The Championship at the End of the 2003 Austrian GP
Michael Schumacher’s victory took him closer to the championship lead. The new points system of 2003 awarding 10 points to a first-place finish and 8 points to second-place meant that Schumacher only clawed back two points from Raikkonen’s lead. As such, Schumacher was still two points behind Raikkonen and had everything to fight for the lead.
The Ferraris hoped to continue this run of three consecutive wins and, if possible, win the next few races and make it comfortable for themselves in the constructors and drivers’ championship.
Did You Know?
Despite winning six races in the 2003 season, Michael finished eight races between 4th and 8th position, including a retirement. As a defending champion, 2003 season would have been the first one where Schumacher had such drastic variation in performance in each race.
Even as a defending champion for the Benettons in 1995, Schumacher had a better consistent run.
Back to the Garage
Winning the third consecutive race would have raised the confidence for the Ferrari team. For the first time, they would have fancied winning the championship. How they would fare in the other races, only time would tell.
But winding up the Austrian GP on a winning note was the best way to aim towards the championship lead.
© 2020 S K