The 2003 San Marino GP: Schumacher’s Emotional 65th Win
The 2003 Season
After the end of the 2002 season, Michael had touched the heights of F1 achievement as he equalled Juan Manuel Fangio’s five world titles. The Ferrari domination had continued since 2000, all thanks to the excellent work that the team had put in since 1996. But 2003 was proving to be a bit difficult.
What happened, you ask? Well, the new car to arrive in 2003 had reliability issues, and the team decided not to risk the drivers with the new car until it was sorted out. Michael believed that the 2002 car was still good enough to put up a fight. So, the Ferrari team decided that they would go ahead with the previous year’s car for a few races.
The first few races did not turn out as expected, with the defending champion having fourth as his best finish and a retirement. Barrichello had a better run with a second-place podium finish, at least, but he too had to retire once. Michael Schumacher was a lowly sixth place in the drivers' points table by the end of the first three races of the 2003 season.
The team was hoping to change all that by the time they arrived at the San Marino circuit, the fourth race of the season.
Would the fortunes change for Ferrari?
Only time would tell, but let’s find out what time had in store.
Did You Know?
Since the 2000 juggernaut of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, the 2003 season was the only one with a below-average first three races for the team.
Not one of the Ferraris took the top spot in the first three races, despite Michael and Barrichello taking pole once each.
The 2003 San Marino Grand Prix
Ferrari was determined to stand against the challenge posed by not one but two teams. The McLarens and the Williams team both appeared strong on pace and reliability. Ferrari was confident about changing the outcome. Just when things appeared in place with the Ferrari of Michael at the pole and the second Ferrari at third place, there was something unexpected that happened in the Schumacher family. Michael and Ralf Schumacher’s mother passed away hours before the race. Both the brothers flew back home for the last rites.
Both decided to join back and race despite the turn of events. Interestingly, it was both the brothers at the front row. Ralf was in second place and was the one to get ahead at the start of the race.
Ralf led the race until the first pitstop, and then the positions changed across. Michael got ahead of the Williams, and later Raikkonen took the second spot. All looked fine for a third-place finish for Ralf when Barrichello upped the ante to pass him. Ralf made a mistake and the Brazilian in the second Ferrari stormed past. And that’s how the race ended with Schumacher leading Raikkonen, Barrichello and Ralf.
Back to Business – The Ferrari Way
Ferraris finally got their game plan right. For once, both Ferraris made it to the podium with Michael at the top; it was a sight familiar to the audience and one that they missed since the beginning of the 2003 season. The excitement notwithstanding, the Schumacher family loss was kept in mind, and the management decided against the customary champagne spray.
The victory celebration remained muted, and both Michael and Ralf were excused from the post-race press conference. Jean Todd represented Michael in the press-conference. It was a great win for Michael but an emotional one. Ferraris were back in business with a hint of sadness.
Did You Know?
The 2003 season was one of the rare seasons which saw not two but three teams competing for the top spot in the Constructors’ Championship.
It was Ferrari, McLaren and Williams in a three-way battle. The teams finished the season quite close with Ferrari on 158 points, Williams on 144 points and McLaren on 142 points.
This is as close as it gets between three constructors.
Back to the Garage
Since the 2003 San Marino GP, Ferrari was back in the game. The utter ruthless domination that the Ferraris exhibited in the 2002 season appeared to contrast the 2003 beginning. However, there were enough and more races left in the season to show what Ferrari could do.
Despite the win, Michael would have hoped for a happier victory; Elisabeth Schumacher – may she find eternal bliss!
© 2020 S K