End of the chatter, indiscretions, and rumours: Michael Schumacher will neither retire at the end of the next season nor be replaced by Juan Pablo Montoya, let alone change team. Until 2006 he will be a driver for Ferrari. Then we will see. He could decide to continue, and that should not be excluded if Ferrari’s extraordinary winning streak were to continue in the next three years, or he could find an advisory role in Maranello, or else enjoy retirement in his Swiss residence on Lac Léman with his wife Corinna, his daughter Gina Maria and his son Mick junior, his horses, dogs, and whatnot. His salary with Ferrari until the end of the contract, integrated with the sales of signed merchandise as well as personal sponsors, is top-secret. President Luca Montezemolo only added:
"Michael is a dear boy, and I underline dear. If he signed, it means he is happy".
Still, like many secrets, it can be estimated with some approximation at around 60-70 million euros, of which 40-50 was paid by the team. Along with Michael Schumacher, the entire team that from 1999 until now has won three Drivers’ and four Constructors’ Championships will be confirmed. 57-year-old French manager and head of Gestione Sportiva Jean Todt will remain. Then, in hierarchical order, technical director Ross Brown, 48 years old, British, head of strategy; Rory Byrne, 59 years old, South African, head of designers, he is the father of the F2003-GA and the cars from the previous years; Paolo Martinelli, 50 years old, from Modena, head of the Engine Department, and Gilles Simon, 45 years old, Moroccan, the engineer who designs Formula 1 engines. A multi-ethnic team that Montezemolo secured in its entirety for two additional years after the previously set end date of 2004.
"Continuity is something that has to do with me too. We have an exceptional team of people but none of them would lock in their contracts if they weren’t happy and motivated to stay at Ferrari".
Among the contracts that count, one renewal is missing: Rubens Barrichello who is under contract until the end of the next season.
"Let’s talk about Schumacher now before everyone starts talking about it in the next months and whether he is retiring, or not retiring, and reiterate continuity. It sends a strong message to our staff, our sponsors and our Tifosi, as well as shutting down outside efforts to destabilise an environment that already has gone through some tough times. Barrichello has a contract until 2004 and he has never thought about retiring, therefore there has never been room for speculations, just as someone who finishes seventh and claims that Ferrari is keeping an eye on him to replace Schumacher. It will be discussed in 2007. With Rubens, we will talk about the contract as it comes closer to expiring".
There is an unconditional faith in Schumacher.
"I am surprised to see that experts are doubting him. He is the greatest driver I have ever seen, and I follow Formula 1 since 1973. It is difficult to make comparisons, but this sport has reached levels of competitiveness that have never been reached before. But if someone likes or dislikes him…well, I think he is a guy who works extremely well with the team, he has always been nothing but fair, and he has always given his all. I think that Ferrari’s successes without him would have been difficult. Obviously, for him to win he needs a competitive car and a great team. As the president, my job is to put together the ingredients for success: great drivers, great men, and a good organisation".
It sends a powerful message to the competition, McLaren in particular, which has proved once again to be the most formidable opponent and is now leading the championship:
"Also, because with this point system, it is harder for those who are trying to win races: Schumi won three, Kimi only won one, yet he is in the lead. Everything is more complicated. The new regulations have made our lives more difficult, but the message today is that we will do everything to win the fifth Constructors’ Championship and fourth consecutive Drivers’ Championship".
A long time ago, Jean Todt made a promise:
"I will finish with this type of job in Maranello".
He didn’t say when, though. And now he celebrates the signing of the contract, as well as the ten years together with Ferrari:
"I feel proud, I work for the best team I could ever dream of. I still have great passion and great motivation".
Byrne feels honoured, as well as happy to stay in Italy, Martinelli jokes about it:
"I have been with Ferrari for 25 years; my stability is long-lasting".
Monday, June 9, 2003, the winning team leaves for Canada. On Sunday, June 15, 2003, a significant objective will be at stake: regaining the lead in the World Championship.
"I am proud to still be a part of this wonderful group".
Here is Michael Schumacher’s comment, holder of all Formula 1 records: championship wins, race wins, consecutive podiums, total points, points scored in a season, points average, kilometres in the lead… All that is missing is the number of pole positions (he has 54 as opposed to Ayrton Senna’s 65), but another two years of his career should allow him this last overtake. He is also the richest driver of all time. At the end of his career, Michael Schumacher will be a millionaire. But other than enriching himself, so far, he has repaid Ferrari’s investment, sharing his prestige and triumphs, as well as his financial returns.
"I love the sport I do".
Explains the World Champion, on holiday in North America as he awaits the Canadian Grand Prix.
"I am happy with Ferrari. My contract extension until the end of the 2006 season was already taken for granted. The fact that Jean Todt and the other key figures have decided to stay at Ferrari for the same period has only made my decision easier".
It is easy to speak well of a winning team, but Schumacher has always defended Ferrari, even during the tougher years, when a podium finish was considered an exceptional feat, as opposed to classifying it as half a failure nowadays.
"Being able to work with a team like this, with some very good friends, hoping to achieve many other successes together is something that I really appreciate. We still have many exciting seasons ahead, with great challenges that I am ready to face by giving my all as always. Ferrari is like a second family for me, and I am proud to still be part of it".
Most of all, Michael Schumacher is bluntly indicating the path Ferrari intends to follow from Friday 13th to Sunday, June 15th, 2003, the day of the Canadian Grand Prix, the eighth race of the World Championship.
"We have the car to win. It is amazing. And here in Canada, we want to prove that we are the best".
The race here on the track dedicated to Gilles Villeneuve will be tricky for the cars from Maranello, especially after the slip-up in Monaco caused by the Williams-BMW of the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and the McLaren-Mercedes of the Finnish Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second ahead of the Ferrari driver. But the very fact of having the new car at his disposal makes Schumacher confident:
"The Canadian track should suit the F2003-GA perfectly, just think of our top speed numbers in the last couple of races. The Canadian Grand Prix is a race where engine performance counts a lot. And under this perspective, we are on top. The North American circuit is a sort of stop-and-go track with added chicanes. You need to brake often, then accelerate harshly and that certainly puts a lot of pressure on the tyres. But, in this regard, our experience will definitely help, as well as the intensive program of tyre testing we went through".
Michael Schumacher is happy, relaxed, yet extremely motivated. The race classification is short, maybe too short and Kimi Raikkonen is only four points from the German champion:
"I will not deny that here in Montreal I have the chance to take the lead from Raikkonen in the driver standings. We will see how things go on track, but I can assure you that I will try at all times".
And to those asking him what it takes to win on the Canadian circuit, Michael answers, with no hesitation:
"A good car, good tyres and a good engine. And we have every chance to be successful".
Then, Michael Schumacher promises, talking in Italian:
"Always in Ferrari".
And he adds in English:
"I cannot see the end of this cycle of successes. I feel part of the Prancing Horse and its history".
Feeling recharged after his holidays in Texas and the renewal until 2006 of his rich contract with Ferrari, the World Champion raises the challenge. He wants to win, win, win. And as an immediate objective, he wants to retake first place in the Championship that sees Kimi Raikkonen in the lead by four points.
"You need tough brakes and great tyres. It is not my favourite track but you can overtake, hence you can have fun".
Short of details on the contract, he reveals that the only essential condition was the confirmation of the dream team: Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Paolo Martinelli, and Gilles Simon. What about Barrichello?
"I would like for him to stay too. Together we have been through some good moments and achieved great successes. Anyway, it has already happened that his renewal was signed at a different time from mine".
Rubens Barrichello confirms:
"There are no issues, the most important contracts have been renewed and that has given a signal of stability. I am willing to stay and we still have a year and a half to talk about it. It is better to come second in Maranello than be the first driver in a less competitive team. I know by experience, after having raced for seven years with lesser cars. And then, at this moment no one is able to do my job in Maranello better than me".
But when Brazilian reporters ask if he already discussed his renewal with Ferrari, the answer is rather laconic:
"The team can also decide that I am not part of their plans anymore. It’s their right. If that were the case, I would look for another team".
Jean Todt rules out that the Brazilian feels excluded from the dream team:
"It is true that some differences in treatment exist. Currently, he is under contract only until 2004 and he earns less than his teammate. What matters is that the Scuderia gives him the same equipment and the same team to win. Michael? With Ferrari, he has built a history of loyalty and affection that will continue as long as he feels like it".
On the eve of pre-qualifications, the future of Michael Schumacher is discussed by other drivers too. No one is surprised. As Jacques Villeneuve commented with regards to a local newspaper claiming he is close to retiring from racing:
"He wins and earns a lot, I do not see why he would change teams or retire. Me alongside him at Ferrari? I would do it, but only if we were treated equally, not as a number two like Barrichello".
Juan Pablo Montoya instead predictably shrugged his shoulders:
"I don’t care. If he is here, you need to try to beat him. If he is not here, you need to beat someone else. We have proved that he is not invincible, he is not leading the championship, therefore if he stays or leaves it does not change anything".
The others are not worried, let alone Kimi Raikkonen who still struggles to show his emotions even when he wins:
"It’s all good, we always try to be fast, whomever the rival is. I want to leave Montreal leading the championship".
In the days leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix, the Finn was involved in a bad accident in Barcelona testing the new McLaren MP4/18. The tests were interrupted, and the debut will be postponed: it is unlikely to be ready for the next European GP, as the team from Woking had hoped. At this stage, it would also miss its first appearance in Magny-Cours, where the race will be held seven days later. The debut will be postponed until Sunday, July 20, 2003, at Silverstone. Meanwhile, Friday, June 13, 2003, the Scuderia Ferrari offered a driving lesson on a wet track. If it rained on Sunday as well, the order of arrival of the Canadian Grand Prix could be already written: 1-2 finish for Ferrari, then everyone else lapped. Friday 13 seems to be a lucky break for Rubens Barrichello: a second ahead of his Majesty Michael Schumacher, who made a mistake at the hairpin, 1.8 seconds off Nick Heidfeld who set his pre-qualification fast lap at a time when the asphalt was less slippery. The gaps to the rest of the field would be embarrassing if they were expressed in tenths, instead, they are in seconds: over 4 to Fernando Alonso (fifth place) and Kimi Raikkonen (sixth), 5.5 seconds to David Coulthard (eighth), 6.5 seconds to Juan Pablo Montoya (P11), 7 seconds to Ralf Schumacher (P15), 10 seconds to Jarno Trulli (P19). Of course, it has to do with the tyres. It is the first time that full wet-weather tyres were authorised after the wreckage in Brazil: Bridgestone are reliable, but Michelin are not. It has to do with luck as well: the track worsened in the middle phase of the session, therefore the first and last were blessed (Montoya ended up splitting the two Minardi, which is unbelievable). Having made these premises, driving on a wet track is a mixture of technique, sensitivity, and madness. On the straights, the Ferraris reached 308 km/h, while their opponents hit 295 km/h. In the corners, most go around as if they were rallyists, while Rubens Barrichello seems to be on rails. They call him the master of the rain: if it were not for the inconvenience of the sunny skies, the Brazilian’s contract with the team from Maranello would have been renewed together with the others. What is the secret?
"I don’t know, when the others see the rain, they go: oh no. Instead, I am happy".
Is there a particular technique or talent needed to be fast when the track is slippery?
"It is a matter of feeling with the car and the track. I know that the visibility worsens and that it is more dangerous, but I like it. I feel at ease".
A single-seater that is perfectly fine-tuned helps. The Brazilian driver praises the team:
"Great work, it was not easy to quickly modify the set-up. Tyres were amazing as well".
The recent criticisms seem to be a thing of the past:
"I only care about doing my job: racing".
Michael Schumacher is another driver who gladly races in wet conditions.
"There are no particular secrets. You only need to be very careful, and you can’t drive on the limit, otherwise you risk crashing or at least wasting time. It’s better to adopt a more conservative driving style. My mistake? I had an aquaplaning issue under braking. Luckily there is a tarmac run-off there".
On Saturday they will go at it again: the chances of rain are slim. Unfortunately for Minardi who had profited wonderfully off the situation. Meanwhile, the Italian team is going through tough times:
"We will not vote in favour of the regulation changes for 2004".
As threatened by the Australian patron Paul Stoddart. Why? At the start of the season there were two promises made to small independent teams (his and Jordan, the only ones with Sauber which are not tied up with car manufacturers): payment in advance of television rights (a total of 15.000.000 dollars) and the supply of engines for a fixed price of 10.000.000 dollars. In exchange, Stoddart had agreed to abolish electronics and the introduction of a single engine for the entire Grand Prix, and these modifications require the vote to be unanimous.
"They want to make our lives difficult".
The Australian manager protests and ends with the proposal for conciliation:
"If they accept our requests, then we may revise our position".
Saturday, June 14, 2003, the good news for Ferrari is that Michael Schumacher can regain the lead of the World Championship; the bad news is that the superiority shown on Friday has evaporated along with the rain that fell overnight on the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal. The pole position – the second consecutive and third of his career – went to the other Schumacher. Beside him, his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, then the car of the World Champion, who can rejoice over the others’ troubles: Kimi Raikkonen, in fact, will start twentieth. The Fin manages to complicate his life at the first S: five hundred meters on his fast lap, then a snap, ending up in the grass and hitting the barriers. The end. On Sunday he will have to defend his lead in the Championship starting from the end of the grid, passing Minardi, Jordan, BAR, and avoiding possible collisions (the double corner after the start will be crucial, not only because it cost him a good qualifying). But Ferrari knows they are not facing an easy race. There is no rule not to overtake in Montreal: at the end of the long straights, where the fastest of the day, Montoya, reached 334.4 km/h, the race is on. Raikkonen then will try to come back, and Michael Schumacher will have to face the Williams, which on this track can fully exploit their claimed 900 horsepower as they try to get back in the race for the Formula 1 World Championship. Another variable is the weather. The forecast is uncertain: all Canadian weather forecasts agree on the clouds, whereas the probability of rain is between 30% and 60%. Bridgestone tyres perform better on the wet compared to Michelin, but a wet race is also full of crashes and can deliver unpredictable results. In Brazil, Giancarlo Fisichella won despite his rather mediocre Jordan-Cosworth using Japanese tyres. To get back in the lead, the German driver for Ferrari will have to score at least four points more than the Fin: those dividing the first and third position, the second and fourth and so on. Michael Schumacher is hopeful, Kimi Raikkonen reflects upon these two precedents: in Spain, he had to start from the back and crashed into the Jaguar of Antonio Pizzonia who still had not changed his gear to second; in Australia, he left the fifteenth place on the grid and started from the pit lane (in order to carry out a full inspection of the McLaren before the start, a trick that was then banned): he finished in third place. This young Fin is both talented and lucky. He has never gotten a pole position (not even in his previous two seasons at Sauber-Petronas and McLaren-Mercedes), he only won one race (in Malesia) and he is leading the championship. Another rookie in Formula 1, Fernando Alonso, is rather extravagant and came in fourth on a track that awards the most powerful cars (which his Renault is not). After the joy of the Friday, Rubens Barrichello did not match his performance on the dry track. He has the fifth time and he will start from the third row, right behind his teammate, with the aim to defend his race, to earn the renewal of his contract and to bring points to the Constructors Championship.
Back in Monte-Carlo, Ferrari was overtaken by McLaren-Mercedes (73 to 71 points for the team from Woking), but in Montreal, they have the chance to try to take the position back, especially because apart from the mistake by Kimi Raikkonen, the eleventh place by David Coulthard is not exactly promising. The Silver Arrows are complaining about an issue: they cannot put the tyres at the right temperature on time, therefore they are at a disadvantage with the current qualifying format allowing only one timed lap. It is a different matter for Ferrari: Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have ruined their laps on the double corner at the end of the start-finish straight. The German made a driving mistake, whereas the Brazilian ruined his front-right tyre with a lock-up due to a suspected brake failure. Then, in the next fifteen minutes of warm-up, something changed other than the weather conditions. As Michael Schumacher explains:
"Yes, we realized that, therefore I am not that disappointed. Mine was not a perfect lap, I have done better in my career, and I have also had worse days. We expected a difficult weekend".
The German driver does not believe that it all depends on the rain.
"It’s true that Bridgestone seem to be working better in the wet, but it depends on the tracks. In Montecarlo, our tyres worked better at the start of the practice when the track was not rubbered in. Here, with the track wet from the rain, the Michelin were faster. Raikkonen? We are waiting to see how the race evolves before talking about an overtake in the Championship. The fact that he is starting from behind means there is one less problem. I am surprised by the performance of McLaren, but it could be a matter of strategy. I don’t like these regulations".
When in doubt, the world champion will do a rain dance. The smile on Barrichello’s face has disappeared. He absolves Bridgestone too:
"Something went wrong with the brakes. At the first corner, the front right tyre locked up and scraped until it turned into a square. From that moment on, I was not able to push because the car was bouncing. It’s a shame because the first row was within our reach. Raikkonen? His last place is the only consolation of the day. I am not really happy, but we will see tomorrow. It’s a track where you can overtake".
Contrary to his teammate, the Brazilian hopes for a dry race. Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya joke like two friends.
"We will go around the first corner safely without damaging each other".
Says the German, as the other laughs and says:
"Are you sure about that?"
As usual, it is hard to read any particular expression on the face of Kimi Raikkonen.
"I still don’t know how much damage I caused".
Says the McLaren driver.
"But I don’t think it’s anything serious. During the race anything is possible. We will try to do our best to come back and finish in the top eight".
Sunday, June 15, 2003, at the start of the Canadian Grand Prix the first positions remain unchanged, with the two Williams-Bmw drivers ahead of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Barrichello, and Max Webber. Rubens Barrichello slightly hits the car of the Spanish driver of Renault, damaging the front wing of his car and having to box to change it. During the course of the second lap, Juan Pablo Montoya loses control of his vehicle, spinning, and being overtaken by Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Mark Webber. The Colombian driver will be able to come back and overtake Alonso, as well as Webber, but he will end up with almost a ten-second gap from the Schumacher brothers. With the first round of pit stops, Michael Schumacher, who remained on track longer than his brother, is able to overtake him. Ralf Schumacher begins to put pressure on his rival, without being particularly dangerous even towards the last part of the race, when the Ferrari driver slowed down his pace to the point of allowing Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso to reach them. Despite the tight gaps, there will not be any attempts to overtake worthy of attention and the first four will cross the finish line in the same order. So, Michael Schumacher wins, followed by Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso. Behind them is Rubens Barrichello, who made a good comeback after the initial drawback. The Brazilian driver precedes Kimi Raikkonen, who slowed down due to a puncture mid-race, Mark Webber, and Olivier in the points for the first time this season. Operation Canada is a triumph for Ferrari. Forget about the supremacy of the last season: Michael Schumacher has won and regained the lead in the championship that he dominated for two years, until the win in 2002, while the team from Maranello comes back ahead in the Constructors Championship. But the Ferrari seen in Montreal was not superior to Williams-Bmw. Instead, it was the German driver’s talent that decided the result. Overpaid and over-pampered, surely, but he is the best. The world champion’s Ferrari maintained third place after the first, extremely dangerous S behind Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Then he overtook the Colombian, who had a spin, and at the first pit stop - thanks to a perfect strategy - he got rid of his brother.
In the second part of the race, he was managing. Hunted down by Ralf Schumacher, the Ferrari driver slowed down to let the other opponents get closer, in order to make everyone watch their own backs, and he led the group until the finish line. It is his win number 68, he obtained 999 points in his career, and he is leading the World Championship (54 points, followed by Kimi Raikkonen with 51 points) halfway through the season. Rubens Barrichello struggled, but in the end, he obtained four points, and most of all he kept Kimi Raikkonen behind. The Brazilian driver immediately crashed into Fernando Alonso and broke his front wing. The mechanics changed it in 14 seconds while they refuelled. Halfway through the race, he ended up off-track and broke the flow deflector, an aerodynamic appendix that should not be fundamental, given that the #2 Ferrari still had a good pace. Overall, the result obtained by Ferrari is extraordinary. The weekend in Montreal had highs and lows. Unbeatable in the wet during the pre-qualifications, struggling in the dry on Saturday, then winning again during the Grand Prix. Bridgestone tyres were feared to be an issue, yet it was the brakes causing difficulties, put under particular strain at the end of the long straights of the Montreal circuit. Schumacher even feared he would not be able to finish the race. He was saved, apart from his capabilities, by the engine’s performance which pushed him to reach 348 km/h (the record in Formula 1 is 362.3 km/h, set by Jean Alesi with Jordan in Monza). There are eight races left. The next one is at Nurburgring, a few kilometres from Kerpen, the small town where the Schumacher brothers grew up. Ferrari has the chance to extend their lead on McLaren-Mercedes which seemed to be in crisis and betrayed by their own Kimi Raikkonen (85 to 76 is the gap in the championship between the two teams). Other than the race and the championship lead, the Fin lost some of his appeal as a winning driver. He qualified twentieth: it is the second time this happens, and he was even made fun of by Minardi who thanked him for sparing them the last place. In the race, the Finnish driver made a comeback up until sixth place. For a while, he chased Rubens Barrichello, who was missing a piece from his car, yet he never managed to attack him. In the end, he even says he is satisfied:
"We couldn’t do more than this, it was not a disaster".
Another disappointment comes from Juan Pablo Montoya, third, who ruined his race with a spin as he did in Australia at the season debut. But the Williams-Bmw are back: the success in Monaco and the double podium in Canada show that many issues have been solved. It may be too late to aim for the World Championship but Ferrari, this reshuffling of values, as well as McLaren-Mercedes and their difficulties, are no bother. Then, if Renault was to make a breakthrough too, the World Championship would be more balanced, and it would not take much for who is in front now to win the fourth consecutive title.
"I was afraid I was going to retire, the brakes situation was critical".
Said Michael Schumacher, who reveals that behind his win number 68, achieved with apparent ease, there was a major technical issue.
"I discussed on the radio with my engineer (Chris Dyer, Ed), and he told me to save them".
He was saved by the engine power as well as the extraordinary aerodynamics of the F2003-GA which allowed him not to be attacked on the straights. Now the German driver celebrates. Being number two, albeit momentarily, of the Circus is something he just did not accept. He is back in the lead.
"I will pay for drinks to my friends here in Montreal and then back home. We have this tradition here".
"Let me just say that the team and I deserved it. I won four Grand Prix as opposed to one by Raikkonen, yet I only have a three-point advantage. We will have to reflect upon these regulations. Anyway, now we are in a good position".
Talking about the race, he mostly focuses on the braking issue:
"It was tough. In the first stint, I tried attacking Ralf but I was not close enough, so I thought about saving them. With the first pit stop the mechanics were extremely quick and they allowed me to get ahead of my brother. Then he also was not fast enough to attack me. Pressure from my opponents? No, the more, the merrier because everyone needs to focus on the opponent ahead of them as well as be aware of who is behind them. McLaren? I think they struggled with the tyres, I expected to see them further ahead".
The strategy was crucial too. Did Williams and Ferrari have the same amount of fuel?
"No, I had a bit more than my brother and this is what made me win".
Jean Todt praises him:
"Good job, you had a perfect race. Barrichello was good too: his points are key for the Constructors Championship".
Ferrari’s head of Gestione Sportiva celebrates his 60 career wins in Maranello. And he waits for the next ones:
"We are convinced we have all the ingredients to obtain the objectives we set at the beginning of the year".
That is to say the umpteenth triumph. Ralf Schumacher is disappointed. It is the second time in a row that he does not capitalise on his pole position.
"Michael is right, I was never close enough to attack him".
Both Williams-Bmw lost a rear-view mirror that dangerously hung from the bodywork.
"In the corners, it hit on my helmet".
As Juan Pablo Montoya adds, he tried to no avail to get rid of it by tearing it off.
"It was swinging in front of my face, and it was bothering me. In the end, I was close to the two Schumacher, but there was no chance to overtake them. We have proved that our cars have improved and that we are finally on the right path".
Rubens Barrichello is satisfied:
"My race was conditioned by what happened at the start. My brakes were not yet at the right temperature (Formula 1 brakes lose their efficiency when cold, Ed) and I touched Alonso with my front wing which got damaged. When I stopped to change it we decided to go on another strategy. Taking into account that after two laps I was last, fifth place is good".
The Brazilian complains about a series of issues that troubled his race: brake failures, the left flow deflector breaking, and gearbox issues. Fourth after a great race (Renault had slim chances on this track that requires a lot of horsepower), Fernando Alonso complains about the result:
"I have never been this close to winning, yet I didn’t even finish on the podium".
In the Drivers’ Championship, the Spanish driver is still third behind Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. The Fin announces his comeback:
"We will be back soon".
In two weeks, we will race at the Nurburgring in German land.
"We will be there".
Assures Kimi Raikkonen, while his teammate, David Coulthard, curses the gearbox on his McLaren-Mercedes:
"When I couldn’t gear up into fourth and fifth I still thought I could finish into the points. Then I lost seventh gear as well and I had to retire".
Meanwhile, in Italy, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo, asked about Schumacher's success at the Canadian Grand Prix, says:
"It was a difficult but beautiful race, extraordinary. The best way to celebrate is the renewal of the whole team".
Montezemolo saw the race from his house in the hills around Bologna.
"I am happy for Barrichello too, with his car in those conditions after the start, who was able to finish ahead of Raikkonen".
It took four wins to get back in front. And only with three points: Michael Schumacher, 54, Kimi Raikkonen, 51. But in the end, Ferrari achieved its objective, to the great satisfaction of Luca Montezemolo. Monday, June 16, 2003, the president of Ferrari in his address at the annual industry union assembly in Turin recalled the winning recipe of the company: men, products, clients:
"Without exceptional, organised and motivated men who believe in their work, and are passionate, you cannot create an exceptional product. This goes for series production and even more so for Formula 1".
On his part, Fiat president, Umberto Agnelli, praised Michael Schumacher:
"He was extremely good because I believe that he did those last laps in very difficult conditions. Talented and generous toward his public".
With the mid-season objectives achieved, it is Jean Todt’s turn to draw his conclusions before leaving Canada:
"The new point scoring system has not been favourable for us so far, everyone has seen that. But these are the rules of the game. They may not be perfect, but we voted them. Even if Michael does not agree with them - Michael Schumacher has been quite critical on the matter: “Now I can say it: I deserve this leadership. Because I have won four races this season, Raikkonen only one, yet there are only three points between us in the championship” - he has to face them. What matters is that Ferrari and he are back in first place. Now the championship can start over".
It will be a close fight until the last Grand Prix in Japan. Jean Todt had announced it when no one could have imagined it. Few had believed him, as they were used to the overwhelming advantage shown in the last World Championship.
"A season like 2002 happens once every twenty years. All the variables went in our favour in an extraordinary way. We have improved but our opponents have taken a big step ahead".
As controversial as it may be, the new point-scoring system has achieved its goal: avoid the title being decided with many races to go. In 2002, Michael Schumacher swept away the competition at Magny-Cours where we will race in three weeks and Ferrari won the Constructors title in Budapest, two months ahead of the Japanese race. But Todt recognises the others’ merits as well: McLaren at top levels, Williams back to being powerful and reliable in Monte-Carlo and Montreal, and at last, Renault’s success.
"If we were able to win in Canada, it was not for one but multiple reasons: an exceptional driver, a very good engine, an excellent team, great tyres. At the same time, we were afraid we had to retire because of an issue with the brakes (for the first time the brake discs produced by Carbone Industrie were used instead of those by Brembo, Ed). Michael did a great job at managing them and drove his umpteenth extraordinary race".
"It can happen. Next time it may happen to us. A race going wrong is something to take into account in an extreme competition as is Formula 1 today. Every race is always open. McLaren and Williams are at our level".
Can Williams making a comeback help Ferrari by taking points away from Woking’s team?
"It could also damage us. Here in Montreal, we were on the right side of the line but if the roles were reversed we would have been the ones losing the points".
Is it easier to work when you are in front? Todt does not want to hear about it:
"I was not comfortable when we had a 40-point advantage, let alone now that we have three in the Drivers’ Championship and 9 in the Constructors".
It was a difficult day for McLaren instead, which along with the mediocre placement of the Fin (also due to the mistake he made during qualifying on Saturday and for a puncture which made him lose precious seconds) saw the retirement of David Coulthard caused by gearbox issues. The Scotsman too had not been brilliant during this weekend. It is clear that the Anglo-German team is paying off the technical strain it has been under for several months. Building new headquarters, the Paragon and the debut on track of their new car, the Mp4/18, presented four weeks ago but that still needs to be developed. It has been confirmed that the single-seater will not be able to make its first appearance before the British Grand Prix. In the meantime, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, from Tuesday, June 17 until Thursday, June 19, 2003, are going to be in Silverstone to test two new F2003-GA and an F2002, while Luca Badoer is going to test Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21, 2003 in Fiorano. After the overtaking operation, Ferrari is ready to extend its lead. Finally, there are some encouraging news about the second Italian team in Formula 1: Minardi is safe, at least for a while. It was Bernie Ecclestone who took care of things. With 4.000.000 dollars the Formula 1 patron bought a share of the team. Paul Stoddart, number one at Minardi, has given the good news to the whole team working during the Canadian Grand Prix. Their jobs are safe, and as the Australian manager assures, the scuderia will remain in Faenza.
"I have pointed out the situation to Ecclestone and he understood. We agreed with a handshake and for me that counts as a contract".
Already on Friday, during a press conference, Stoddart himself and Eddie Jordan, head of the small team bearing his name, had shared the stage with Ron Dennis and Frank Williams who would have gladly avoided discussing internal affairs with the public. In the end, Stoddart threatened:
"We will withdraw our support to the 2004 regulation changes".
Another problem: Minardi leaving would have reduced the number of participants to eighteen though there have to be at least twenty by contract. The good old Bernie solved a big issue.