The 2003 United States GP: Michael Schumacher’s 70th Win
The 2003 Season
Coming to the penultimate race of the season, Schumacher found himself in an unfamiliar scenario of having not one but two more title contenders with him. Kimi from the McLaren team and Montoya from Williams were not just any other contenders but strong ones with equally reliable cars. Though Michael was leading the points table, it was a matter of a simple error which could potentially bring down the curtains on his claim to the championship.
It wasn’t since 1986 that there were three contenders for the title so late in the season. And Raikkonen put up a blistering lap to take the pole position. Take a look at the flying lap.
Michael and Montoya qualified way behind on the third row, and now it was up to the race-day action.
Did You Know?
The 1986 F1 championship had a similar three-way battle between Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. However, it was still a contest between just two teams – McLarens (Prost) and Williams (Nigel and Nelson).
The only difference between the 1986 and 2003 season was the number of teams involved. There were drivers from three different teams vying for the title in 2003.
The 2003 United States GP
The 2003 US GP was supposed to be a straight-out battle of raw power. However, there was rain interruption, and everything changed. It became a competition of skill and strategy from thereon. Talking about the game plan, most of the teams, including the title rivals, got it wrong in the first pitstop. When they changed to dry weather tires, the rains hadn’t stopped, and they all had to scamper back for wet weather tires within a couple of laps.
Michael got going in the rains, a condition he was more than familiar with and started running through the field.
Have a look at the race summary:
Montoya though had a forgettable outing. First, he crashed with Barrichello, then he had to serve a drive-through penalty with no possibility of changing tires, and then he had to come in again for a change of tires. All this meant that he lost track position and rejoined at eleventh place. From there on it was a lost cause and Montoya eventually bowed out of the championship race. It was now between Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.
The Championship at the End of the 2003 US GP
Schumacher won the outing and celebrated his 70th win overall. The points table had Schumacher leading the race with 92 points followed by Kimi on 83 points, which meant that in the last race even if Kimi won, Schumacher just had to ensure that he finished seventh or higher.
Interestingly, the US GP was the first time in the 2003 season that Heinz Harold Frentzen made it to the podium in third place.
Did You Know?
When Alain Prost won the 1986 drivers’ championship, he was only the third driver in the history of F1 to win back to back championships.
The first driver to do so was Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-57) followed by Jack Brabham (1959-60).
Later, of course, many drivers did it, including Senna (1990-91), Schumacher (1994-95; 2000-04), Mika (1998-99) and many more.
2003 Drivers’ Championship
While the US GP was the last race that Schumacher won in the 2003 season, which meant that the final race, the Japanese GP, was boiling right up to the final lap.
The Japanese GP was one of high drama which had Schumacher losing his front wing, dropping down to 20th place and then ending at 8th place. Luckily for him, Raikkonen could only manage a second-place, and thus, the championship was sealed in Michael’s favour.
Take a look at this one hell of a Japanese GP:
Michael emerged a champ and had gone where no man had gone before. He became the only F1 driver ever to win the drivers’ championship six times. Despite an extremely tough season, Schumacher still ruled!
Hail Schumi! The German Red Baron!
Back to the Garage
A win in the US GP made life relatively comfortable for Schumacher to manage the Japanese GP. Thanks to Schumi’s fighting spirit and the never say die attitude, he prevailed and became the only driver to win six world championships. 2003 was indeed a roller-coaster season!
© 2020 S K