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The 2003 Season
In a season of ups and downs, the reigning world champion, Michael Schumacher, found himself down once again. The reason was his streak of five consecutive lower-than-fourth-position finishes, which allowed Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya to blaze ahead. The Italian GP was one of the last three races, and so it was a do-or-die situation for Schumacher to keep the title hopes alive.
The determined German rose to the task and put up a smoking-hot qualifying lap to come ahead of Raikkonen. So, Michael was on pole beside Kimi on the grid.
Take a look at the blistering pace Schumacher set to take the pole:
There were few occasions in the 2003 season where Schumacher was on pole but could not convert it to a win. Would the Italian GP be any different?
That’s what the Ferrari team was hoping.
The 2003 Italian Grand Prix
The Italian GP started in the way that Michael would have expected with Kimi falling back. But Kimi’s absence was soon filled by Montoya fighting tooth-and-nail for nearly three corners. In fact, it was Schumacher magic to have been able to stay ahead despite Montoya almost taking the lead.
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Have a look at the race summary:
Take a look at the video from 0:25 minutes. Montoya almost took the lead, but Schumacher went wheel-to-wheel and wrestled back the position. Amazing fight from both the racers.
The Italian GP was one race where the positions did not change much even after the pitstops, so it was always Schumacher leading with Montoya in hot pursuit. However, after the second pitstop, Montoya was endlessly piling pressure on Schumacher, and backed off only when the last few laps were left. It was a strange decision considering that the final laps are where drivers usually start attacking. Maybe it would have been a team call to conserve the car tires and his position.
Whatever the case, Montoya’s aggression caused Michael to keep pushing too, and thus to finish the fastest F1 race ever at 247 kmph. It was a record in 2003.
The Championship at the End of the 2003 Italian GP
This was the second time in the 2003 season that Schumacher reclaimed the top spot. However, unlike the first time in Canada, this time the battle was not limited to Raikkonen. The points table showed Michael Schumacher at 82 points, Juan Pablo Montoya at 79 points, and Kimi at 75 points with two races to go. The three-way battle kept up right till the finish, and the fans were in for a treat. All three teams fancied their chances and prepared likewise to take the title.
Back to the Garage
Three teams got to work after the Italian GP to ensure that their respective drivers won the next race. The US GP, next on the cards, was surely going to be hotly contested and it was only Michael Schumacher who had everything to lose. So the pressure was on Schumacher and the Ferrari team.
The Next Win..
Want to know the story of Michael Schumacher's seventieth win? Click here to find out:
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