#701 2003 San Marino Grand Prix

2023-01-20 23:00

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#2003, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Greta Allison Martorana,

#701 2003 San Marino Grand Prix

Projects of immediate collection, the examination of errors and their origin, a healthy self-criticism. No trial, no red alert symptoms: there is time


Projects of immediate collection, the examination of errors and their origin, a healthy self-criticism. No trial, no red alert symptoms: there is time to remedy, if already in Imola will return the winning step of the last three seasons. Ferraris relaunch plans, after the disappointing start of the World Championship, emerge Tuesday, April 8, 2003 in Maranello from the summit of the States General. As always, after the race weekends. Luca Montezemolo called to report Jean Todt and the leaders of the racing team. Dictating the line. Waiting for the technical feedback on the cars returning from Brazil, the president began regretting that he did not get what was realistically possible, that is two victories, but acquitting the strategies. The F2002, he reiterates, was still the fastest car: this is demonstrated by the two pole positions (Melbourne and São Paulo) and the fast laps of Sepang and Interlagos. Confirmed that the stop of Rubens Barrichello in Brazil was determined by an anomalous consumption (same problem experienced at Spa in 2000), not detected by telemetry out of use. Luca Montezemolo reiterates to his collaborators maximum confidence in the future and in the drivers, robbing the disappointments of fortuitous circumstances and imputing the last mistake of Michael Schumacher to the absurd conditions: no mental relaxation. The president urges everyone to the maximum effort, to show that Ferrari has not lost the good habit of treasure the negative moments transforming them into positive energy. And working, as and more than before. The ordinary operational meeting becomes extraordinary for two basic decisions: the choice to deploy at Easter the new F2003 GA and the policy to be adopted Wednesday, April 9, 2003 in London, where Ferrari will ask to rewrite the most discussed rules (the one related to tires), but also clarity about the mysteries of the park fermé. 


Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali will reiterate absolute opposition to the imposition of a single tyre wet, regardless of the weather. The Maranello team and Bridgestone (unlike Michelin) had accepted this novelty that for the rival teams, struggling in the wet last year, proved to be a real advantage and did not reduce the costs at all, as the dry tyres remained two. Ferrari considers unacceptable the danger deriving from this choice, as demonstrated by the bumper car of São Paulo. Another battle is about the clarity of the rules. Not so much (or not only) for the elastic interpretation that allowed Kimi Raikkonen to replace the engine a few hours before the race, as for allowing substantial changes to the set-up: in case of rain is permissible, for the Maranello team, intervene on the brakes, front wing and cooling vents, not on the rear wing nor on the height from the ground, as happened in Brazil. Michael Schumacher, who had bet on a wet set-up on Saturday, was penalized by the recovery of rival teams against the spirit of regulation. Ferrari will also demand better safety standards to avoid risks such as those of the crane on the runway that could have caused serious damage to Michael Schumacher. The tests credit the new cars a second less per lap: that is absolute competitiveness, even if it remains an unknown the immediate reliability. Meanwhile, Luca Badoer and Felipe Massa will be at Mugello, while the following day it will be Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Ferrari starts again from Imola to return that model of efficiency that had magically accustomed us. 


"Sorry, maybe we were wrong". 


Meanwhile, on Wednesday, April 9, 2003, the FIA admitted that the timekeepers present at São Paulo may have made a mistake and suggested that the Brazilian Grand Prix was won by Giancarlo Fisichella instead of Kimi Raikkonen. Bottom line: after the bumper car, after the chaos on the new rules (by the way, all the teams agree: they will ask to have two types of rain tires again), you do not even know who arrived first. It was Jordan, the team for which Giancarlo Fisichella runs, who brought the evidence. The FIA found them convincing and called for Friday, April 11, 2003, in Paris, the race stewards and all the teams affected by the change in the standings. Will be taken into consideration the data on timing, the filmed shooting of the last, rocambolesche stages of the race and the testimony of the protagonists. The reconstruction starts from lap 54: Giancarlo Fisichella overtakes the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen and takes the lead, while Mark Webber, who is in P7, has an accident just before the parabolic curve that leads to the pit straight. 


The leading drivers start the 55 lap: Giancarlo Fisichella passes unscathed in the middle of the wreckage of the Jaguar, while Fernando Alonso hits a wheel, loses control and bounces from one guardrail to another. On track is chaos: after 8 seconds Giancarlo Fisichella crosses the finish line and begins the 56 lap, after 20 seconds is given the red flag signal that stops the Grand Prix for safety reasons. According to the rules, the ranking is that of two laps before: Giancarlo Fisichella started lap 56, so we should consider lap 54 (and not lap 53, as the Brazilian commissioners did). The new ranking would see in the lead the Italian driver (who would be fourth in the ranking of the World Championship), ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve. The seventh place would go to the other Italian, Jarno Trulli, in place of Mark Webber who did not finish lap 54. For the same reason also Ralf Schumacher would gain a position and conquer the point assigned to the eighth classified. Giancarlo Fisichella says:


"The team sent very important data to the FIA, but I dont want to be under any illusions before the verdict. I dont want to feel bad again". 


In São Paulo, just back in the pits, Giancarlo Fisichella had exulted, hugged the patron Eddie Jordan, received the compliments of opponents and friends. Then the disappointment that denied him the joy (that no one will ever give him back) to rejoice on the podium for the first time in life. Giancarlo Fisichella has never won a Formula 1 race. He is 30 years old and has been in the Circus since 1996, when he made his debut in Australia at the wheel of a Minardi. Since then he has raced 110 Grands Prix: after a season with Jordan in which he had as teammate Ralf Schumacher, he moved to Benetton, where he remained until 2001 and then returned to Jordan. He took pole position in Austria in 1998, five second places and four third places. Last year he received the Drivers Award, which drivers award to the best of the season. 


"After Webbers accident I managed to pass because the box warned me to slow down. I slalomed through the debris and went straight. If the victory comes back to me I will be more than happy, however I still have the annoyance of not being on the top step of the podium. I Raikkonen had passed him by force: I had made a fake on the right, I had induced him to lengthen the braking and I had inserted it inside. It seemed that it had done nothing... Lets hope well". 


Even Jarno Trulli hopes: 


"I would take another step forward in the standings, but it is better to wait for the official decision". 


McLaren reacts with fairplay: 


"If it is proved that there was an error, any consequent change in the ranking would be understandable". 


The comment of Tag Heuer, sponsor of the Woking team and official Formula 1 timekeeper, was embarrassed. It is limited to saying spokesman Jean Campiche:


"We are surprised". 


Giancarlo Fisichella says:


"Lets talk about it when everything is decided". 


The appointment is for Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. in Paris at the Place de la Concorde, home of the FIA. Ferrari will not participate in the meeting in Paris as it is not involved, although - as admitted by Michael Schumacher - a victory of Giancarlo Fisichella would have taken two points from Raikkonen, who is at the top of the standings. Meanwhile, Ferrari continues testing with the F2003GA, which could debut at Imola. The results were positive, close to the track record (1'21"287 for Schumacher, 1'21"210 for Barrichello), but the German engine went up in smoke after 50 laps. On Thursday, April 10, 2003, the F2003-GA tests continue at Mugello, but the bad weather overturns Ferraris programmes. Michael Schumacher only covered 14 laps (best time 1'45"684), then the team decided to anticipate the shooting of a television commercial for Vodafone. Friday will resume the tests: at Mugello with Rubens Barrichello and Fiorano with Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa. The Imola Grand Prix, the first European event of the season, will be accompanied by social events. Jean Todt will be sworn in on Monday, April 14, 2003 as ambassador of the Republic of San Marino. 


"The vast international reputation enjoyed by Jean Todt will enable him to fill this diplomatic post with the best effectiveness, serving, in particular, humanitarian causes".


Friday, April 11, 2003, for the first time in Formula 1 many things happen: a driver wins a Grand Prix without anyone being disqualified or penalized; the ranking of a race is reviewed for a timing error, which in sport is the basis of the right; the decision is made without anyone having claimed. And, above all, for the first time Giancarlo Fisichella wins a race. 


"Im happy, its a beautiful day. Fortunately in Formula 1 the nightlife is worth it. Im just sorry I missed the party on the podium". 


Dont worry, Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren-Mercedes will organize a tailor-made one: Thursday 17 or Friday 18 April 2003, at the Imola circuit they will simulate an award ceremony during which they will give Giancarlo Fisichella the trophy of the first place. The new ranking also makes Ralf Schumacher climb from P9 to P7, while Jarno Trulli remains in P8. No one is opposed to the verdict of the FIA, so it is clear the wrong suffered by Jordan and his driver. At the meeting in Paris, Giancarlo Fisichella did not even show up. Needless to say, the objective data of timing and lap counting are sufficient. Already put to the test for an hour and a half of bumper cars and the controversy over the new rules, the image of Formula 1 had been tested by the Brazilian Grand Prix. In the weekend of Imola will meet the teams and the FIA to take stock of the situation. The managers of the ten teams have reached a first agreement: return to the double set of rain tires. If there is unanimity, the rule can be introduced immediately. For Giancarlo Fisichella it is a feast day. He will have lunch with friends at the Grazia Deledda restaurant in Rome, then he will begin to plan the future. 


"The goal is to score as many points as possible and get on the podium again sometime". 


Whats he gonna do? 


"Well, I already have my years. I hope to drive for one of the three top teams (Ferrari, McLaren or Williams, ed). Now it will be easier to deal, given the business card I just made in Brazil". 


Michael Schumacher applauds:


"Bravo Giancarlo, you ran a great race". 


And the compliments come from McLaren, who also lost two points in the story. Remaining leader of the standings, Kimi Raikkonen congratulates Giancarlo Fisichella and Jordan: 


"For me there will be other victories". 


And patron Ron Dennis says he is glad that clarity has been made. It is not that we have yet understood who made mistakes and why. The race stewards will compile a detailed report on the circumstances that led to the issuing of a wrong ranking, writes the FIA in a statement. The procedures adopted in Brazil are under review. The report will be made public in June. On Friday, April 11, 2003, Ferrari is not sure that it can start the F2003 GA at Imola. This is because in the tests at Mugello problems also arise related to the rain that does not allow Rubens Barrichello to do the planned race simulation. And since the F2002 (on which Michael Schumacher still drives in Fiorano) has proved competitive so far, a prudent choice for the San Marino Grand Prix is not excluded. The technicians are working to evaluate all the possibilities and the final decision. Still Saturday Luca Badoer will try the new car in the Tuscan circuit. In chat with the fans, the president Luca Montezemolo announces that a decision will be taken shortly, remembering that there is always a F2002 so far competitive and reliable. The uncertainty of the Maranello team leaves indifferent the former Gerhard Berger, present in Italy to talk about the fourth race of the World Championship. Says the Austrian, director of Bmw in F1 almost resigned, because he will retire at the end of the season:


"In my opinion Ferrari remains the team to beat. If it has not won so far it is only because of a series of adverse and negative circumstances. The F2002 is still very competitive, Michael Schumacher always the best. I am convinced that he will recover. Its true that McLaren has made progress as Michelin tyres have improved, but I dont think they have surpassed the current champion team". 


Gerhard Berger awarded the seasons Oscars to Jaguar Australian driver Mark Webber and considered Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen to be confirmations. He is puzzled by the Saturday qualifying system with cars forced to fill their tanks with petrol for the race strategy. 


"The era of Senna is over with this system. Otherwise I would wait a few more races before making a judgment. In Australia, Malaysia and Brazil the show came mainly because of the rain". 


Very happy for the victory awarded to Giancarlo Fisichella, the Austrian recalled that it was him in 1992 to contend the last Italian success to Riccardo Patrese in Japan: 


"The engine of my McLaren lost competitiveness in the final laps. Giancarlo is however a very talented driver who deserved to have better cars. I thought about him last year, but we already had great drivers. Williams-Bmw? The engine is fine, the car less, we have to solve aerodynamic problems. Maybe at Imola we will be faster. But Ferrari remains at the top of my predictions".


In Ferrari, in the end, logic and prudence prevail. Ferrari will race the San Marino Grand Prix with the F2002: postponed debut for the F2003 GA. Says Jean Todt:


"He still suffers from youth problems".


The decision is made after the last tests held Saturday, April 12, 2003 on the new car, still disturbed by the rain. The single-seater presented at the beginning of February, for various reasons, has only covered 4200 kilometers, while the previous model last year debuted in Brazil (third race) with 5800 kilometers covered. 


"Our goal is to race the F2003 GA in Spain on May 4th. The F2002, which has won two World Championships, is still very competitive, as seen in the first races. The new one is, of course, a step forward, but we do not want to take unnecessary risks if we are not sure about the reliability. All the more reason to have a vehicle that has the potential to win. With this spirit we are preparing to compete in front of our fans in Imola". 


The drawbacks that have slowed down the F2003 GA are known: a couple of runway exits by Luca Badoer, some difficulty in tuning the new compact engine, with all the accessories that have been modified, the impossibility to push to the bottom for the bad weather in the tests in Spain and in Italy. It happens, having to develop a completely new car. Similarly, McLaren behaves with its MP4/18, whose debut has been postponed to a date to be scheduled. Confidence in the F2002 is more than understandable: two pole positions in Melbourne and São Paulo, two fastest laps in the race (Sepang and Interlagos). Not to mention that the opponents have made considerable progress, well supported by Michelin. And there are valid explanations to the not brilliant placings of Schumacher and Barrichello. The wrong choice of tyres and various vicissitudes of the German, plus the accident of Barrichello in Australia; the collision of Michael Schumacher at the start with the Renault of Jarno Trulli also cost him a penalty in Malaysia; The World Champion went off track and the fuel consumption trouble that stopped Rubens Barrichello in Brazil. 


"Im happy for Giancarlo Fisichella. He deserved it. We also recovered a couple of points from the first. In the current ranking there is nothing dramatic: from the beginning I said that it would be a more difficult season than the past one, we were always aware of it. Without looking for useless justifications, it was clear to me that we had to fight. So lets fight: I have no problems".


And Giancarlo Fisichella adds:


"From Imola onwards Ferrari will return to success". 


Just proclaimed winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Jordan driver dedicates Sunday to his second passion: football, that is Roma. In the grandstand at the Olimpico you can enjoy the success of the Roman team against Parma. For the past few days, he has been doing all right: he now wishes the Giallorossi the success of the Italian Cup and wishes himself more success on the podium. 


"Ive always been an avid Giallorossi fan. Roma have great players. I wouldnt mind if Adriano came along, though. Im sure he will. 


Other triumphs in Formula 1, for now, are not in the budget. 


"The new rules have changed everything. For us smaller teams are very convenient, but Ferrari is experiencing an unfortunate period and will soon restore distances". 


The Interlagos race is especially reminiscent of the arrival: 


"Immediately I thought I had won, then came the cold shower. Friday finally the good news of the final victory. Im happy, happy and proud. Interlagos is one of the most beautiful and difficult circuits. We raced in terrible, disastrous conditions, but I brought the race to a successful conclusion. My future? I hope in a top team, the dream is Ferrari. I think I have proved to be up to the task". 


A few gaps could open at the end of the season. Not so much in Maranello, where the pair Schumacher-Barrichello is armored until the end of next season and Felipe Massa is on the bench, as in McLaren and Williams. Since Woking, Ron Dennis has been sporting in complimenting Fisichella, although the FIA ruling has taken away his third win of the season in three races. Kimi Raikkonen has earned the trust of the team, while David Coulthard, who has the contract expiring, must win on track the renewal. In Williams there is a crisis: it seemed the good year, it will be another transitional championship. Juan Pablo Montoya has lost his flair and speed, Ralf Schumacher has become a bummer, even if - taking advantage of other peoples troubles - he collected eight points like his teammate (and his brother Michael). But there will be time to talk about helmet-market. Never as in this period the main concerns of Ferrari are short-term. As said, Imola will race the F2002. The F2003 debut was postponed to the fifth race of the season. The San Marino Grand Prix is already a decisive race, because the new regulation makes it more difficult to fill the gaps in the standings. Kimi Raikkonen is at the top of the standings with 24 points, the two Ferrari drivers are chasing at 8 points. President Luca Montezemolo was at Mugello, during a practice session, to give charge to the team. Such a difficult start was not expected, although Jean Todt always warns: 


"In this sport the balance changes quickly, we must never give up". 


Ferrari goes to Imola strong of some points. First of all the car. Another decisive factor is drivers: Michael Schumacher may have made more mistakes in 2003 than in the previous three seasons. A bad start can happen to a champion, but hes unlikely to make similar mistakes again. And Rubens Barrichello, who grew up and matured in the three years he lived in Maranello, has become more constant and fast. There are still some unknowns. The opponents, first of all. McLaren has managed to put on track an excellent evolution of the old car, waiting for the debut of the new car in Spain. On the contrary, Ferrari entrusts the relaunch to the F2003-GA, which has suffered so far some problems of youth. The same team appeared less lucid in difficult times than in 2002, perhaps because defeats take away serenity. The public of Imola, in these cases, is the best medicine. Monday, April 14, 2003, for the first time in a long time, when he is not on track, Jean Todt leaves his office at the Ferrari Sports Management mid-afternoon. A flight on the Al4 highway to be at 7:00 p.m. at the Public Palace of the Republic of San Marino, where before the two Captains Regent, he swears allegiance before being appointed ambassador of the small state of Titan. Not only a symbolic award: the French manager will make available his knowledge, notoriety, for important works in the field of assistance and scientific research. An activity that, when he decides to leave the world of racing, will engage him full-time. 


"To try to return at least a part of all that I have had of beauty from life". 


But, first, Jean Todt talks about the F1 World Championship that did not start in the best way for Ferrari, the new regulations and the future. Mr Todt expected such a difficult start? 


"Yes. We havent won three races and it could happen. Its part of the game. In the environment there was the terror of seeing on television two more red cars in the front row in the opening test in Australia and to witness our domination. We put the two cars in front of all of them, then we could not repeat the system that had led us in years past to achieve many successes". 


Is it the new regulations? 


"No, our fault. Due to a combination of circumstances we did not collect the results that were within our reach. Of course, we have never been in favour of using only one type of wet tyres, we do not like to see the mechanics who only have to polish the cars from Saturday afternoon until half an hour from the start of the Grand Prix, as well as we are not happy to compete in the qualifying with petrol in the tank to face the first part of the race. But we recognize that we lacked the ability to interpret or exploit the situation globally". 


What were the causes? Is there a crisis in Ferrari? 


"What crisis? Neither motivation nor commitment have disappeared. On paper the F2002 is still the most competitive car and we have prepared another one that is better. The competition has made considerable progress, but we have not fallen behind. Lets say that some uncertainties have paid off. Because we are a team used to working in detail and always looking for excellence. The new rules have only complicated our work. We must become accustomed". 


On Thursday there will be a meeting in Imola between the team leaders. Is there any chance that any of the regulations imposed by the Federation will be changed? 


"I dont know. Its difficult. It takes unanimity. It could only be for safety reasons, but the FIA itself must do it. In any case, I repeat: we have never approved the adoption of the single rain tire".


By the way, some of the rules are unclear, they lend themselves to different interpretations. 


"Sure. In Brazil engines were replaced before the race without penalizing those who needed them, as would have been expected. But that didnt bother us much. It wasnt right, instead, to change the set-up of the cars before the race because of the rain. It was not allowed. This penalized Schumacher who had chosen in qualifying to prepare the car for the wet track and had finished seventh on the grid. After the changes, everyone got even and Michael paid the handicap". 


However, returning to the results and what happened, we talk about imo Schumacher who would suffer the pressure... 


"People are in a hurry: Michael would be retired and after the Adelaide race someone also claimed that Barrichello would be the last of the morons. I dont think it is the case: we will respond to these people. We are not phenomena, we do not want to be, but we will respond with facts. Even in the short term". 


So in the next San Marino Grand Prix... 


"Why not? We have to recover. And we also want to give satisfaction to our fans. In their land and everywhere". 


The rankings are not brilliant, but not dramatic. 


"Attention. We lost very important points. With the current system is rewarded reliability over victory. Unfortunately, on balance, 3 second places are more productive with 24 points than two successes that bring only twenty". 


Meanwhile we talk about new champions, about phenomena of the future... 


"Phenomena dont exist. There are talented drivers. Some have great potential, like Alonso. However, I think that many drivers have highlighted themselves because they have good cars. Raikkonen, Trulli, Webber, before they could not emerge". 


What about Fisichella? 


"He did well and we sent him a message of congratulations. He doesnt have the winning car yet, but he was able to seize the opportunity in abnormal conditions. Were very happy for him. Among other things, he won with the Bridgestones, the tyres that we also use. Many have not taken over". 


So Ferrari is willing to redeem itself at Imola, but without the new F2003 GA. 


"There are those who have thought that this is a sign of weakness. Instead it is our strength, we do not let ourselves be overwhelmed, we act with confidence and our heads. The new car was not ready yet, it is not enough to be fast, you have to cross the finish line. We had problems, we couldnt do the traditional cycle of trials. Now almost everything is solved. I promise: you will see it on track on May 4th in Spain. And it will be very fast".


Meanwhile, cigarettes and engines prepare for divorce. The link between the tobacco industry and Formula 1 is still strong and rich, but laws and restrictions are pressing. While the FIA and the European Union argue over the dates of the total ban on advertising, Williams anticipates the time by displaying a anti-smoking logo. This is the Niquitin, the group Glaxo-Smithkline, manufacturer of drugs that help overcome nicotine addiction. The symbol and writings of Niquitin will appear on the cars of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher already starting from the San Marino Grand Prix, in Imola. Since the Rothmans agreement expired, Frank Williams had no longer wanted to sign sponsorship agreements or simply collaborate with tobacco corporations. Now he exaggerates the concept, agreeing to advertise a product that fights the habit of smoking. Williams marketing director John Wright explains:


"And we are sure we have made a very significant step for the world of Formula 1, the first of a long road. Bad habits must be kicked". 


According to Frank Williams:


"This is proof that Formula 1 has a future even without the sponsorship of tobacco multinationals". 


According to the FIA, the advance to July 2005 of the total ban on advertising undermines the future of the Circus, because all teams have contracts that expire at the end of 2006 (deadline set in a first time). The FIA has already deleted the Belgian Grand Prix from the World Championship calendar and will do the same next year with the Austrian Grand Prix, which will be replaced with the Chinese Grand Prix (provided that the pneumonia epidemic does not suggest a postponement)where there is a very high number of smokers and there are no restrictions. In addition to the new advertising, the San Marino Grand Prix presents important racing themes. Ferrari tries to redeem itself in front of its audience. Michael Schumacher says:


"Imola is the best place to start winning".


And even Barrichello is convinced: 


"Here I have almost succeeded in the past, it would be the right time to achieve it". 


At the same time, as professor, Flavio Briatore promotes with flying colors Fernando Alonso. 


"It will be the new Schumacher".


It guarantees the Italian manager in charge of the adventure Renault in Formula 1, which Wednesday, April 16, 2003 speaks at the school of business management of Bocconi, master in Business Administration. In a crowded classroom, Briatore tells of himself, of his entry into the world of work ("I was a surveyor and ski instructor"), of work for Benetton ("I went to open shops in New York, without knowing an English word"), of engines. 


"Benetton has decided to enter Formula 1 applying the same rule: high risk margin, courage in betting on the new. In three years we have won the World Championship". 


The criteria for managing a team are simple: believing in men, demanding efficiency, knowing how to choose them. 


"When I called Schumacher, I had everyone against me. At the time, the Benetton drivers were Piquet and Moreno, Zanardi test drivers. Right here in Monza I decided to bet on Schumi instead of Moreno. They also sent a magistrate to seize the garage. I held out, in the end the results came. Yet they kept telling me that the Germans go slowly". 


The new bet is called Fernando Alonso. All to tell him that the Spanish are slow and he nothing, convinced of the talent of his new pupil, who has already given him two podiums. 


"This is a driver who retires me on the team. Trulli is a perfect couple". 


Briatore says he is sincere with himself, instinctive in his choices, capable of recognizing mistakes and immediately changing course. 


"And then, anyway, it always takes a little bit of luck". 


Thursday, April 17, 2003 the old F2002 is in great shape, the audience of Imola is exciting, the great mood, the serene spirit. According to Ferrari, optimism shines at the San Marino Grand Prix. The only clouds are on the horizon: after the sun this Thursday, meteorologists guarantee a wet weekend, of those in which everything can happen (see Brazil). Lets hope we can at least figure out who wins. Rubens Barrichello sparkles tranquility, because his Grand Prix is another, that of São Paulo, finished in a pitch of the Interlagos circuit with an empty tank. 


"I dont feel any pressure at Imola. Now I have more points than a year ago, without so many bad episodes in Malaysia and Brazil I could have won, our car is still competitive. Lets not talk about Ferrari crisis".


Lets talk about Michael Schumachers crisis, then. His start to the season is a small disaster, considering that the German has come back from three consecutive world titles: eight points and zero podiums in the first three races. And several mistakes, always determining. However, says the German driver:


"I am confident and relaxed. This is the same team that has passed difficult seasons like 1996 and 1997". 


Is it the same Schumacher? 




Do you have any regrets after the first three Grands Prix? 


"Im missing a few points. Thats all. I dont think about the races, but about the beautiful memories I have of this circuit. Here with Ferrari I won in '99, 2000 and 2002, I hope to achieve the fourth success on Sunday". 


Is the old F2002 the right car to do this? 


"Lets not forget that we dominated with her last year. I am optimistic, I think the right decision has been made: using the 2002 car gives us more guarantees of reliability and we know that the new scoring mechanism rewards the placings. The F2003-GA has better potential, but its not ready yet. We cant risk it. However, we will be on track with an extremely competitive car, as demonstrated in Brazil. We have a good chance of winning". 


How did the new rules affect your results? 


"In Australia for nothing. There was a first row all red, then the weather changed the race. The same in Brazil: it was the rain that affected the race, not the rules. I was wrong in Malaysia". 


He will admit that something has changed in qualifying. 


"I was talking about Grand Prix". 


In Brazil she had to start from the fourth row for having chosen a heavier set-up. In the race he would have had an advantage, if the opponents had not been allowed at the last minute to change the set-up: dont you think that with the old rules things would have been different? 


"Certainly starting with the seventh time on a flooded track is not an advantage, because the visibility is bad".


Are you worried? 


"No. The important thing is to understand what happened, so that we can find the right solutions and react in the best way. We understand. In sport sometimes circumstances are favorable, other times they are not". 


FIA President Max Mosley says his trip to Interlagos was driven by excessive speed. Do you agree? 


"Of course, aquaplaning is also related to speed, but with another type of tyre it might not have happened. How do you determine a priori which speed is excessive?"


Among his colleagues, the disappointing start of Montoya is striking. 


"Last year I was now more brilliant, like me on the other hand. But I am disappointed by my ranking, not his". 


How long could the pursuit of Raikkonen last? 


"It depends on the reliability of McLaren. If Kimi gets to the finish line, he always scores points and it gets harder to reach him". 


What do you promise the fans? 


"I can only guarantee that I will give my best. I invite them to come and support us, for the emotions that this circuit offers and for our past". 


Juan Pablo Montoya is not just hot-blooded on the track. On the eve of the San Marino Grand Prix, the Colombian driver, on his arrival at the Imola circuit, is the protagonist of a hint of brawl that could end badly. Hand in hand with his wife Connie, the Williams driver is surrounded by photographers and television operators. In the fray an Austrian ORF cameraman hits the Colombian lead in the face with the camera in a completely innocent way, because pushed by others. Juan Pablo, with his fist stretched, immediately tries to punch him, jumping towards the rival who is also a man almost double the size. 


Fortunately men of the Anglo-German team immediately block Juan Pablo Montoya with free-fight moves. He still tries to escape the grip, then when he realizes that he would not have made the renunciation, not without having addressed threatening gestures against the unfortunate. Meanwhile, FIA President Max Mosley defends his creature by saying that the new rules dont change. Theyre perfect: 


"People who meet me on the street congratulate me for the show, for a Formula 1 that has resumed vivacity and interest". 


Wed like to see old Max wander around the pubs to meet the fans, he only moves with private jets, helicopters and chauffeured limousines. It is clear that after imposing rules that upset the sports code, the president of the FIA does not want to back down. In some respects, for now, the facts prove him right: the three start races were exciting, especially due to the rain that created unpredictable situations. In truth, Mosley takes advantage of the differences of ideas and intentions between the teams. In the absence of unanimity, the status quo remains. After all, asking for a step back from Jordan, which has won again after four years, to McLaren that dominated the first part of the season or to Renault, that with less horsepower manages (also thanks to a good car) to be protagonist, would be difficult. In a World Championship that began under the sign of misunderstandings, the President of the Federation grants only a few small and irrelevant adjustments. In qualifying the cars will no longer enter the track 30 seconds after the previous one has finished its throw lap. For a double reason. First: to lengthen the show, which was now reduced to just over half an hour; second: to prevent a driver to find the road barred by another driver because he is slow in returning to the pits. Small concession also for the use of the third car. It can be used in free practice, but if used for the race the driver will start from the pits. No news about the type of wet tires. There will be only one. Ferrari has always opposed this decision, also for safety reasons, but must accept the decision, even if there is also a team that uses Michelin tyres. Mosley takes the opportunity, in this regard, to resume Michael Schumacher, After Luca Montezemolo complained to the FIA that the German had hit an inopportunely placed tractor in the area where many of the cars affected by the water planing crashed into the protections. 


"Charlie Whiting will report him today in the driver briefing, because he was going too fast under yellow flags". 


The same accusation is leveled at Fernando Alonso. They could both risk a penalty. But Whiting should explain why he was wrong to fill out the order of arrival in São Paulo, assigning the victory to Raikkonen. Tag Heuer timekeepers were called in. But they knew exactly how things were. They were forced to change the ranking, then adjusted for Giancarlo Fisichella (who will receive the trophy from the Finn and Ron Dennis on Friday). The truth is that Ferrari won too much. And the only way to make it difficult was to change the rules. It worked, but if it came back to dominate Mosley will come back to hunt for more spectacular new rules? Well see. Meanwhile, Ferrari is that of 2002, the results also. Friday, April 18, 2003, in Imola there is a Michael Schumacher in world form, 0.5 seconds faster than the circuit record he set a year ago, unapproachable for everyone and grumpy with those who provoke him. 


"An answer to criticism? And why? I dont think I drove differently just because someone accused me of making mistakes. I always try to give my best and this time I succeeded". 


Barrichello follows at 0.4 seconds, to reiterate the good health of the cars of Maranello, the others are far as and more than in the past. Friday doesnt matter much for the race, but it is also the only time when everyone runs in the same conditions, with fuel tanks in reserve to save weight, as in the qualifying of the past. If we compare yesterdays ranking with that of pole position 2002, nothing changes in the first four places, except the almost doubled gaps. 


In third and fourth place are the Williams-Bmw of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, favored by ima track where engine power is more important than elsewhere (the 10-cylinder produced in Bavaria would be the only in the Circus to exceed 900 horses). From the fifth place down the news begin: Mark Webber (Jaguar) confirms how good he showed in Brazil, the two Bar-Honda Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve are growing (even the Japanese engine is credited with excellent power), the McLaren-Mercedes down, Giancarlo Fisichella (P11) pays a driving error beyond the limits of Jordan, the Renault of Fernando Alonso (P13) and Jarno Trulli (P16) are in difficulty on this track. Saturday will change a lot, because the performance will affect the race strategies. Someone will start with little fuel to gain positions on the grid (from this season is not allowed to top up until the race started), others will try the opposite tactic and, as usual since the new rules are in force, until the moment of the race you will not understand who is really the strongest. Michael Schumacher explains, that in the morning free practice he goes off the track and breaks a suspension:


"Facing the qualifying lap last is an advantage. This track improves quite quickly". 


Just as important is getting the pole position. On the contrary, in Brazil, where overtaking is easy and the German driver sacrificed Saturdays finish to have a race set-up, in the San Marino Grand Prix those in front can easily resist the attacks of even faster opponents. After three mediocre races, Michael Schumacher is optimistic: 


"I had already said that in Malaysia and Brazil it would be hard for us and that things would change in Europe. We want to win the first race of the season. Opponents? Williams has improved. Im glad not so much for my brother Ralf, but because they could help us take points from McLaren". 


To the fans, only 8200 paying in the stands, the World Champion sends reassuring messages: 


"We showed that the F2002 is still a great car. When I finished my tour I kept thinking that I could do even better". 


The tyres have always been decisive for safety and results, often arousing controversy. The decision of the FIA to allow only one rain tyre this year sparked protests. Many teams are against, the majority of drivers ask that the regulation be changed. The Bridgestone lets you know that so spends even more than before: nothing but cost reduction. Tyre manufacturers are in fact forced to manufacture tyres that are incorrectly called intermediate, with tread that can fit with heavy rain and only wet track. But they do not work properly, as we have seen in Brazil. Michelin has two types of tires, one with different tread between front and rear: in the Thursday punch decides which to use. Absurd. Among other things, since Imola is in danger of rain and a consequent Interlagos-style bumper, as estimated by Max Mosley, the brothers Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are called to report by the president of the FIA. The three answer of their behavior during the race in Brazil: all three are accused of not having slowed down when they waved the yellow flags, warning sign, but they get off with a call. In particular Alonso, the youngest and afraid of the trio, is scolded for the accident that led to the end of the Grand Prix. Next time, Mosley says, penalties and penalties will be issued. Meanwhile, Jacques Villeneuve does not lose the habit of always saying what he thinks. The Canadian, forgetting to have been overtaken by team-mate Jenson Button by 0.035 seconds (but both are fast in qualifying: P6 and P7), lashes out against colleagues - just to change the Schumacher brothers and the new star Alonso - for the events of the Brazilian Grand Prix. 


"We always use double standards here. The penalty I had suffered in Suzuka in 1997, when I overtook under yellow flags, is still burning. These are signals that nobody respects. If there were accidents in Interlagos and the race was interrupted, it is the fault of those who did not respect the rules. In any case, during that race no kind of tyres would have saved us from the track exits. It would be good to have two types available to choose from. We are the drivers who drive and risk". 


For the San Marino Grand Prix many teams have prepared interesting news. The BAR of Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button has a modified Honda engine. Williams, however, uses mechanical and aerodynamic modifications that in Brazil, due to the bad weather, could not be tested thoroughly. Although Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya denounced some problems linked to the oversteering of power, they said they were very satisfied and optimistic, both for todays decisive qualifying and for the race. Optimism also reigns in McLaren, at least apparently. Says Kimi Raikkonen:


"We lost time in the morning to choose the tyres for the race, so we didnt prepare well for the timed lap. Meanwhile, Saturday counts. We can improve, we expect to be much closer to our rivals". 


Among these a Rubens Barrichello in great shape and convinced that he can conquer a great placement. 


"Some people are convinced that Ferrari is in crisis. This is not true at all. We are competitive. The F2002 is fantastic and the F2003 GA will be even better. Among other things in the first three races I accumulated more points than I had taken in the same period last year. Michael was a little more unlucky and is further behind than he was in the past season. However, I am convinced that we are still facing a wonderful season. Obviously it would be great to start the comeback winning in front of our fans. A result that is not excluded, indeed we are on the right track. The important thing is to make the most of our potential". 


On the other hand, the result of the first qualifying round gives rise to three important considerations. First it confirms that the old Ferrari F2002 is not as decrepit as some people think. Overall, the Maranello car that has won the most in F1 history remains the fastest. So the regrets of Jean Todt are justified when he says that the budget after three races could have been very different. Then theres the Michael Schumacher speech. The German is just not exhausted, if he manages to inflict certain detachments ripping up records difficult to beat. The third point concerns the desired formula of the Federation and pushed by some teams who hoped to shuffle the cards. The one shot lap, the double qualifying Friday-Saturday, the variable gasoline in the tanks when it comes to conquering seats on the grid is a non-spectacle. A lie if you will. People in the stands get bored, follow the evidence between yawns and attempts to find something interesting to see. And you can believe that even in front of the video, after the attempts on the track of the top ten of the standings, many fans have zapped themselves in front of the show offered by this aseptic laboratory motoring. Max Mosley, president of the FIA, can only do the dance of the rain, hope that the water makes the best slide behind and the worst in front so as to make uncertain the San Marino Grand Prix. Although the rules in this World Championship are the same for everyone, it is not right to create artificial handicaps in a sport that should be the exaltation of the performance of the car and the driver. While the controversy about the imposition of a single type of rain tyre continues (even Giancarlo Fisichella, who won in Brazil, criticized it and said he was not), it is clear that you should not get too excited when a driver gets important results. As always, the car, the type of track, the tyres count. Fernando Alonso is good but it is still early for hunger a phenomenon and the heir of Michael Schumacher. Kimi Raikkonen is a security, but if McLaren doesnt agree he has problems. 


And so on. However, it must be acknowledged that there are elements to look at carefully. One of these is definitely the Australian Mark Webber, fifth with Jaguar, the real revelation of this beginning of the championship. Not surprisingly, Saturday, April 19, 2003, Michael Schumacher and his brother Ralf, dispute the most beautiful qualifying of the season. The two German drivers finish the fastest lap in an almost identical time, although the chronometer assigns the pole position to the Ferrari driver for 0.014 seconds. The two brothers detach their respective teammates, who often had placed themselves ahead this year. Focus, fast, aggressive on the Imola curbs, punctual in the braking. Then they return to Germany on their private plane: Mother Elizabeth is dying in a hospital in Cologne. They knew before they put on their helmets and went into the narrow cockpits of Formula 1. They knew for a long time, because the cancer has been consuming it for months, but the situation has precipitated in the last few days, until the coma. The two brothers accepted the rules of the show: they faced all the institutional appointments, on the track and outside, then they took advantage of the twenty hours of break between qualifying and race to return home. No one knows how you can drive on the 300 km/h without making mistakes with the soul full of sadness. Nor do the two protagonists want to explain it right now. Someone asks for news and Michael answers with cold courtesy: 


"Please dont expect me to answer that question". 


It seems that the pain has loaded them, emptying them of all the other negative thoughts, from the criticism for the bad start of the season to the controversy about the mistakes committed so far. They hit the accelerator as if they were in a hurry to cross the finish line and leave the circuit. In the motorhomes of Ferrari and Williams, the wives Corinna and Cora remain in contact with the hospital and relatives. With the engines off, the two brothers face the ritual press conference, skipping all other contacts with microphones and notebooks and solve in a minute the briefing of the pilots. Then they climb with their wives on a black Maserati driven by the team manager of Ferrari, Stefano Domenicali, who accompanies them to a hotel in Imola equipped with a heliport. From here by helicopter to Forlì airport, then the private flight to Cologne, with the promise: 


"Well be back for the race". 


They will probably be in Imola already in time to participate in the drivers parade, the circuit to greet the fans, scheduled at 11:15 a.m. The two teams protect the privacy of the worlds fastest brothers: 


"It is a family matter, every decision depends on them". 


In recent days, the outburst of Ralf Schumacher was reported by Bild: 


"The doctors tell us that our mothers condition is stable, but we are so afraid for her. We can only hope. In this situation, Michael and I have wondered whether or not to run in Imola". 


The doubt has been resolved because Mother Elizabeth would like it so, they say in these cases. Fifty-five years old, married to Rolf, now separated, he rarely attended racetracks. In recent times his health conditions had worsened, until he was hospitalized on Thursday, April 10, 2003. Ralf Schumacher immediately stopped testing at Le Castellet to visit her, Michael joined him the next day, suspending the practice session in Fiorano. 


Then they were back on track, faster than before. Meanwhile, the fact remains that the time set by Michael Schumachers Ferrari on Friday was not an illusion, one of many of this troubled start to the season. The Ferrari is there and Michael Schumacher too. Despite the bad news about his mothers health, the German driver faced the qualifying with a fierce look. Starting last (a deserved advantage with the best time of the day before), in the second intermediate he had 0.3 seconds ahead of his brother and forced again, making a small mistake that made him pass the finish line with a margin - as mentioned - of 0.014 seconds. Rubens Barrichello does his part: less brilliant on Friday, the Brazilian driver closes in third place with a delay of 0.230 seconds. He will start behind his teammate, with the task of mortifying the ambitions of Juan Pablo Montoya (fourth) and taking advantage of any mistakes of the brothers in the front row. The eve of the San Marino Grand Prix, the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, offers few surprises. The support of the 20,000 spectators present at Imola has dragged Schumacher in the conquest of pole position number 52, the second of the year (the 65 of Ayrton Senna are now in record reach), the number 161 of Ferrari. The German brothers find themselves paired in the front row for the seventh time. No one bluffs by speculating on the gasoline load (or if he does, fails). It was known that McLaren would not be competitive on the circuit named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari: the two leaders of the standings, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, have always been behind, since free practice. The young Finn has a chance to climb from sixth place, his teammate will have to hope in other peoples troubles to emerge from twelfth place, because overtaking in Imola is difficult. Behind Ferrari and Williams is Mark Webber. 


So far little considered because he never scored points, the Australian driver, in the second season in Formula 1, is 0.7 seconds from Schumacher, but also 0.7 seconds ahead of David Coulthard. Just to give another order of magnitude, his teammate, the newcomer Antonio Pizzonia, is detached by more than a second. If a comparison must be done with the same car, every comment is superfluous. Bad, indeed very bad the two Italian drivers. Sorry to say, after the joys (posthumous) of Brazil: not even the universal flood could allow Giancarlo Fisichella to return to the podium. His Jordan is fourth: behind him only the two Minardi (a crash, that of Jos Verstappen, protagonist of the first red flag in qualifying) and the other Jordan with Ralph Firman. In front of the Roman driver will start Jarno Trulli, forced to use the reserve car that was prepared for Fernando Alonso (the Spaniard is eighth). The only thrill for the leading quartet is caused by the weather: black clouds and a few raindrops in the middle of the session could have upset the starting order. It did not happen, but the problem is postponed until Sunday. During the race there is a 60% chance that it will rain. And with wet track, goodbye strategies, detachments, consolidated values. The rules on tyres have not changed, so Bridgestone and Michelin will provide only one type of wet tyre, unsuitable in case of a downpour. McLaren and minor teams hope for a miracle, while Ferrari and Williams avoid the mistakes made in Brazil so far. At Interlagos, Michael Schumacher in particular made a mistake in the flood: on Saturday he chose an aerodynamic set-up, which was more charged and favoured him in the race. He qualified in the seventh half, but all were allowed to change the set up. But on Saturday, the German Ferrari driver does only one calculation: go as fast as he can, the specialty that he does best. Rivals rely on superstition and historical appeal. David Coulthard says: 


"Im disappointed, of course. I made a mistake at Rivazza. Looking at telemetry data, I found I lost seven tenths. But Im not too worried. Everything happened in the first three races of the season. I have already achieved excellent results starting from the rear of the group. It will not be easy, but I also trust in the reliability of our McLaren".


David Coulthard and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen dont tell us what they think of Williams, with Ralf Schumacher qualifying just 0.014 seconds behind his brother and Juan Pablo Montoya fourth behind Rubens Barrichello. Yet the cars driven by Bmw engines here have shown clear progress. 


Michael Schumacher had anticipated it, that evidently has information and has also happened the situation that the German had wished, with the same Williams able to extract precious points to McLaren. Ralf Schumacher explains, before running away with his brother to Germany:


"I made a mistake leaving the track in the morning, when I also damaged my car. The team did a great job. We were competitive, I hope this will continue in the race". 


Juan Pablo Montoya is also optimistic: 


"If I consider that in the fast lap I was wrong a couple of times and that I had too understeer, the second row on the grid is fine for me. I will have an attack run". 


Rubens Barrichello does not make any proclamations, he sits in the shadow of Schumacher, but he probably has great ambitions: he is always convinced that this will be his best year. 


"I have faith. I went off the track in the warm-up fifteen minutes before qualifying, the mechanics had to check the whole car and I could not prepare as I would have liked. But Im happy with the result, which also allows me to start from the cleanest part of the track, behind Michael. Im in shape". 


Apart from psychological implications, of which he rightly does not want to talk, Michael Schumacher also has positive feelings: 


"The so-called old machine has shown what it can still do. We knew that. In the winter tests with the F2002 at Imola we had always had positive results. There are many questions to answer for the race, but we are sure to be fast. Besides, my qualifying lap wasnt perfect. I was cautious and slowed down in the last sector so as not to take excessive risks. It is nice to be back at the top in front of our fans. I know it may rain during the race, but we dont have to fear any changes in the weather. Here for sure we will not see water streams as unfortunately happened in Brazil". 


After this has happened so far, however, many are hoping for something that will mess up the values on the track. Among these also Giancarlo Fisichella, who as mentioned is third last at the start with a lot of petrol in the tank of his Jordan: 


"It would take a good storm, otherwise goodbye dreams of glory. Ill give it all, as always".


As always it will be a lottery. With the unknown factor of rain: before or during the race. But the factors that will play on the result are multiple. Strategies, gasoline load, tires and variables (reliability or other trouble). To analyze the starting line-up, or rather the times recorded in the second qualifying, it would seem that some teams have opted for three pit stops or a very early pit-stop. Michael Schumacher set a time of 1'22"327, exactly 1.699 seconds more than he had done on Friday, beating the circuit record. Hypothetical that on the German Ferrari were loaded between 60 and 70 kg of gasoline, based on the approximate calculation of 0.3 seconds of slowdown for every 10 kg. 


If the evaluation is correct, the World Champion can play a regular race with two stops, but he must beware of the attacks of his brother Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya that could be lighter at the start. As for the tyres, the F2002 should have been fitted with those with a harder compound, therefore with a higher resistance to wear. Mark Webbers placement in P5 is no longer surprising. The Australian confirms his skills and also the progress of the Jaguar, will be the wild card of the race. How could Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button fit in well with the BARS. Difficult to interpret the situation at McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen did his part, but the car doesnt seem to have a lot of fuel; David Coulthard got his lap wrong and is only in P12. For the Scotsman it will be a difficult day, even if this track is congenial to him. The eighth place of Fernando Alonsos Renault gives an idea of a desperate move, with about thirty kilos of gasoline: there were no other opportunities. The Imola circuit enhances the power and quality of the engines. The V10 engine of the French car is still lacking too many horses. In fact, Jarno Trulli, who in extremis for electronic problems had to drive the reserve car prepared for the Spanish, did not have fun and will not do it on Sunday. Unknown at the start: apart from the difficult psychological situation of the Schumacher brothers, there is a fear of the impetuosity of those who will try to recover positions at the first meters, since overtaking here is a problem. If it really rains, those in the front will have undoubted advantages, provided the wet tires work. Sunday, April 20, 2003, at the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, which starts in dry conditions, Ralf Schumacher sprints better than his brother, leading to the first corner. Behind them Mark Webber lost several positions due to a problem with the automatic starting system and Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso took the opportunity to move into fifth and sixth position. From the first laps Michael Schumacher is clearly faster than his brother, but he cant get past him until the Williams driver returns to the pits to refuel during lap 16. Ralf Schumacher has a hesitation that costs him a lot of time. Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya made their pit-stop one lap later and returned to the track in that order. 


Michael Schumacher also stopped at the pits in the next round. The two McLaren led by Kimi Räikkönen and David Coulthard, who started with a strategy with two stops against the three main opponents. When these two also refuel, on lap 21 and lap 22, Michael Schumacher takes the lead of the race ahead of Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Räikkönen, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Coulthard and Fernando Alonso. Practically nothing happened until the second pit-stop series, opened by Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 30. The Colombian, however, has a problem with the fuel system, which forces him to make another pit stop two laps later. Rubens Barrichello, despite being faster on the track, failed to overtake Ralf Schumacher at the second stop. Among them and Michael Schumacher, in the lead with a good margin, is Kimi Räikkönen, who makes the second refueling during lap 44, returning to the track ahead of his team-mate and behind the brothers Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. The third pit-stop series was inaugurated on lap 48 by Ralf Schumacher, who returned to the track behind Kimi Räikkönen. Three laps later Rubens Barrichello also refueled for the third time, but he lost time for a problem with a wheel nut and returned to the track in fourth place, behind Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Ralf Schumacher and ahead of David Coulthard, Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya. Rubens Barrichello, however, is clearly faster than Ralf Schumacher and overtook Tosa during lap 52. Michael Schumacher crosses the finish line in first position; behind the German rider cross the finish line, in order, Kimi Räikkönen, who strengthens his first position in the championship, Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Fernando Alonso, Juan Montoya and Jenson Button, who won a point thanks to a two-stop strategy. Michael Schumacher ran with the mourning arm, Ralf Schumacher with a black mark on the helmet. The firstborn won, the brother finished fourth, for both was the best Grand Prix of the year. So the Schumacher brothers honored the race in San Marino. A few hours before the start they had lost their mother Elizabeth, 55, who died of cancer after a long agony. They had time to greet her: after qualifying on Saturday (with the two best times), they flew to Cologne on a private plane for a last hug and in the evening they were back in Imola. 


No one would force them to get behind the wheel of a single-seater and put their lives at risk. Not Ferrari and Williams (says Jean Todt: "We would never force a driver to race if he did not feel"), not the organizers, who had exempted them from the various ceremonies and would not have taken the responsibility to insist that they go on track in such difficult psychological conditions. 


"My mother would have liked to see us run. She loved to be on the slopes". 


A few words confide privately to the men of Ferrari. 


"She liked it when we were driving old karts on the home track. She was happy to see us racing. Mom and Dad always supported us, they made it possible for us to become what we are now". 


Great race of Michael Schumacher, epilogue of a weekend always led. Surprised at the start by Ralf Schumacher, he chased his brother’s Williams until the first pit-stop and overtook him staying on track two more laps. 


Since then, no one has bothered him anymore: gaining almost a second a lap on McLaren, the Ferrari driver has accumulated a sufficient advantage to make an extra pit-stop (three, against the two of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard). The two Williams drivers adopted the same strategy as Ferrari, only they were slower. Ralf Schumacher hoped to get on the podium with his brother, but the ruthless overtaking of Rubens Barrichello (on lap 53, a masterpiece: double fake at the low variant and passage at the beginning of the finish straight) relegated him to fourth place. His teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, was delayed in the pits because the gas door wouldn’t open. And speaking of trouble at the refueling: Rubens Barrichello also had his own, as the left front wheel bolt did not screw. The 14 seconds lost were decisive in the final, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to save second place from the Brazilian driver’s assault. Two Ferraris on the podium were a usual epilogue in 2002, but this year they hadn’t been seen yet. Yet there is no party in front of the home crowd (82.200 paying for the weekend, historic minimum for the San Marino Grand Prix). Back in the pits after the lap of honor, Schumacher lingers a few seconds in the cockpit of the F2002. The cameras try to cross their eyes through the narrow visor, to catch the tears that were probably coming down, now that the competitive tension has faded and the thoughts of the man replace those of the pilot. Rubens Barrichello hugs him hard and he rests his head on the shoulder of his partner as he had never done at the end of the many victories. On the podium he listens to the national anthems impassive. The award ceremony ends without champagne and the post-race press conference presents Jean Todt. 


"What Michael did in Formula 1 is well known. Now he added something, he did a fantastic job for the team. He is a great pilot and he is also a man who has suffered great pain. Many have not fully understood his burden of humanity. I’m proud of him and Rubens". 


Before returning to Germany for the funeral, the German champion thanks the guys of the team: 


"Everyone, I say really everyone, from the president to the engineers to the technicians to the mechanics to the cooks, everyone has offered me great support, they have given me a sense of how close they are to me". 


The Schumacher brothers are asking for confidentiality on the date of the funeral. In Kerpen, the village about twenty kilometers from Cologne where the two brothers grew up, their will is respected and the sign of mourning is in the three red flags at half mast in front of the kart track run by Father Rolf. Barrichello sends a moving message to his partner: 


"Michael is a professional and an exceptional man. I don’t know if I could have done such a race in such a situation. He chose to run and I support his choice". 


While Luca Montezemolo calls just after the victory:


"I want to pay tribute to Michael Schumacher as a driver and as a man, and applaud an excellent Rubens Barrichello and the most successful car in our history". 


The F2002 won the farewell race, gave a moment of joy to Michael Schumacher, redeemed a difficult start to the season. An occult direction seems to have led the retirement of the best single-seater ever produced in Maranello: technical problems, accidents and bad weather have suggested to postpone the debut of the new F2003 by two weeksGA and they allowed the old woman to close beautifully in front of the fans of Imola. The performance of this car is extraordinary (only the McLaren champion in 1988 with Ayrton Senna won the same): 14 successes out of 15 Grands Prix held in 2002 led to the conquest of the World Championships Drivers and Constructors. In Monte-Carlo the first place has escaped despite a clear superiority for the impossibility of overtaking in the narrow streets of the Principality. The engineers of the Maranello team have always repeated that the secret is an exceptional package consisting of a powerful and reliable engine, tires made to measure by Bridgestone and an excellent chassis. Aerodynamics, in particular, thanks to the reduction in the rear area, was the revolution that everyone tried to copy. In 2003, the opposition narrowed the gap. It took a few driving and strategic mistakes, as well as particular situations, to keep Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello off the podium in Australia and even far from the finish line in Brazil after almost four years of uninterrupted placements. Now the Ferrari turns the page, although the debut of the GA in Spain is defined only presumably in the official website. On the single-seater dedicated to Giovanni Agnelli, the reduction of the dimensions has been taken to the extreme. The aerodynamics is even more refined and the engine guarantees almost 900 horsepower in eighty pounds of weight. In terms of performance, the gain is 0.7 seconds on the lap at Fiorano, but so far reliability has not been what Ferrari expects from its products. A couple of accidents probably caused by the rupture of a suspension forced to stop a first time testing. Fixed the problem, it was the engine to report overheating problems, which forced to change the chassis to accommodate slightly larger radiators. Tuesday, April 22, 2003 resume rehearsals. Absent Michael Schumacher, in Germany for the funeral of his mother Elizabeth, it will be up to Rubens Barrichello and the two test drivers to cover the kilometers missing at the debut scheduled on May 4, 2003, on the Catalan track of Montmelò. The first day of work is for Luca Badoer (at Mugello) and Felipe Massa (at Fiorano). Wednesday and Thursday work will continue at Mugello, Friday again testing on the two circuits. 


"The F2003 is superb. I cant wait to run".


Rubens Barrichello, who comments on the overtaking of Ralf Schumacher, says: 


"It was a beautiful moment, liberating I would say. Thats why I raised my fist in a sign of joy. Before Ralf slowed me down, I could only push at most in three laps, and prevented me from doing my strategy. A fact that led us to opt for three stops instead of two". 


Todt hopes that the new F2003-GA will help bridge the gap in the standings from the McLaren-Mercedes of David Coulthard (one point more than Michael Schumacher) and Kimi Raikkonen (who has 14 points ahead). 


"We knew things would change from last year, but we felt reliability was more important than performance. This is the main reason why we decided to go to Imola with the F2002. We are not far from the goals that we have set ourselves and we will evaluate exactly our position at the end of the week, but we are quite confident that the car will be ready for the Spanish Grand Prix".


After four races, three of which were affected by the difficult weather situation, the San Marino Grand Prix had the merit of clarifying the situation in the Formula 1 World Championship. Two important confirmations: the continued competitiveness of the F2002 and the unchanged desire to race and win of Michael Schumacher, beyond any consideration on the particular and difficult moment experienced by the German champion these days. At the same time, the San Marino Grand Prix reiterated that this year the fight for the titles will be tight, a bit because of the unpredictability of the results linked to the new sports rules, a bit 'also for the growth of rivals of Ferrari. McLaren-Mercedes has definitely taken on the role of first challenger. For the strategies and reliability found after years of trouble and breakups, the team of Ron Dennis is back to be the battleship that had caused so many annoyances to the team in Maranello, especially from 1998 to 2000. A fast car that knows how to exploit the tires, which has a powerful and elastic engine. The ideal vehicle for the emerging Kimi Raikkonen, a driver who proves fast, combative, concrete and intelligent. Leader of the standings, the Finn now has 14 points ahead of Michael Schumacher. If from now on the German always wins and Raikkonen finish second every time, with the new scores it would take seven races for the reigning World Champion to reach the opponent in the world ranking. Unlike the cold Kimi, however, Michael Schumacher can count on several allies, even involuntary. You can of course rely on Rubens Barrichello, in shape and always ready to get on the podium, and also on David Coulthard, who must absolutely beat his team-mate to maintain a valid position within McLaren. Then there will be the pair of Williams, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, and any insertions such as those of Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber. While Williams-Bmw did not live up to the expectations created after qualifying (Ralf Schumacher just 0.014 seconds behind Michael Schumacher), it must be said that the British team has also made progress. 


Certainly there will be Grands Prix in which it will be difficult to beat her, although her two excellent drivers are very discontinuous, unlike Kimi Raikkonen who is a mastiff. Ralf Schumacher seems to be more and more psychologically vulnerable, while Juan Pablo Montoya never manages to do one lap the same: he is brave, he has a sense of the show, but in the long run he becomes a loser. Perhaps Patrick Head, technical director of Williams, is right when he urges him to train with greater care and intensity even on the physical level. One of Michael Schumachers secrets lies in his meticulous physical and mental preparation. An important reflection after Imola also concerns the tires. The fact that in Brazil Bridgestone won with the tyres fitted to Giancarlo Fisichellas Jordan was quite a coincidence. In the last weekend at Imola, Michael Schumacher has literally dominated thanks to the Japanese suppliers: best time in Fridays pre-qualifying, pole position on Saturday, best lap in the race and first place. Its called a hat trick. It is the thirteenth of the German, which detaches so in this special ranking Jim Clark, who had collected eleven. Bridgestone has only one problem: among the top teams only serves Ferrari, the others (BAR, Jordan, Sauber and Minardi) do not have a big weight in high-level results, while Michelin can count on McLaren, Williams, Renault, Jaguar and Toyota. Among these is the Renault to grow continuously. If Jarno Trulli was forced to drive the reserve car, Fernando Alonso reached with the sixth place the maximum result within reach. In a circuit where the engine counts, the French team could not hope for more. But the Spanish driver, very mature for his age (21 years) and the Italian driver, starting from the Austrian Grand Prix (18 May 2003) will have an engine-evolution on the car and become more dangerous, especially in the next appointment in Monte-Carlo. Young people make themselves heard. Kimi Raikkonen (with Fernando Alonso and Ralf Schumacher) and one of the three drivers who have always taken points since the beginning of the season.


But, unlike the French and the German, the Finn is firmly at the top of the standings thanks to a victory (Malaysia), two second places (Brazil and Imola) and a third (Australia). Twenty-three years old (he will turn 24 on Wednesday, September 17, 2003), the McLaren driver, engaged to Jenny Dahlmann, former miss Scandinavia, has competed so far 38 races in F1, after winning a lot in karts and in Formula Renault. It was discovered and launched by Peter Sauber after a test at Mugello. After a year of apprenticeship, Kimi Raikkonen was traded to McLaren. In the operation it seems that Peter Sauber has collected something like 25.000.000 euros. But Kimi says not to think too much about money:


"They are nice, but they do not make life easier, I would be fine even with less than I have now".


The Finnish driver is so cold and disenchanted that he never gets upset when things go wrong, he trusts his determination and talent. Before the races he can sleep a lot, so much so that his only fear is not to wake up in time. Relations with other drivers? He doesnt have any outside of racing. He sometimes hears on the phone fellow countryman Mika Hakkinen, says he has nothing against teammate David Coulthard:


"From which I initially copied the cars structure". 


Michael Schumacher only talks about engines. The World Championship? 


"I have to do better in qualifying".


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