Ferraris again go close to 1,000 kilometres. On Thursday, July 10, 2003, in Barcelona, Rubens Barrichello sets the best time of the day in a kind of Grand Prix of tests. Nine of the ten teams involved in Formula 1 run all day at the Montmeló circuit (Minardi was missing), because this is the last week of testing before the break until early September. To test new aerodynamic components and tires, the Brazilian completes 102 laps (over 480 kilometers), posting a time of 1'17"830. Behind him are two Williams-Bmw: Marc Gene (1'18"022) and Ralf Schumacher (1'18"414). Fifth time for Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1'18"726. The Maranello team's development work will continue on Friday at the Catalan circuit with Luca Badoer. At Mugello works Michael Schumacher, protagonist in the late morning cu a track exit at the curva delle Bucine in which he damages the rear of the F2003-GA. In the end the World Champion completes the work planned for the development of electronics and tires, in this third and final day on the Tuscan circuit (in the two previous ones it was the turn of test driver Felipe Massa). A total of 85 laps were run, including nine on the short version of the track (total 420 km), the best run in 1'21"942. Now Ferrari toma to Fiorano for two more days of testing that Michael Schumacher will still be in charge of. In these days the Maranello team puts all its forces in the field to respond to the attacks of McLaren.Mercedes and in particular Williams-Bmw. Wednesday, September 16, 2003, testing finally ends: until September, Formula 1 bans training but continues with racing. Sunday, July 20, 2003 at Silverstone, then August 3, 2003 at Hockenheim, August 24, 2003 at Budapest a big part of the World Championship is at stake. Frenzied testing has been carried out to take in all the necessary data, test new components, take care of the tires. Between Barcelona, Mugello and Fiorano, Ferrari covers 4252 kilometres. Apparently, it took to solve the problems.
"I am convinced that in Silverstone we will be very competitive: we will have some new components on the car and this makes us optimistic".
Word of Michael Schumacher who, despite the supposed winds of crisis, with six races to go still leads the standings with 8 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes) and 13 points ahead of Ralf Schumacher (Williams-Bmw). Bridgestone, which admitted at the Nurburgring and Magny-Cours that it was inferior to Michelin, also worked hard. Assures Hiroshi Yasukawa, the director of Bridgestone Motorsport:
"A year ago a car with our tires won. This year I vogue for it to happen again".
In Spain, where all teams took to the track apart from Minardi, the best time was set by Alexander Wurz in McLaren-Mercedes (1'17"611). But beware: it was the new single-seater, the MP4/18. Well, it will make its debut on Sunday, September 14, at the Italian Grand Prix. More significant was Rubens Barrichello's second time (1'17"830) ahead of Ralf Schumacher (1'17"908). The best McLaren-Mercedes was eighth with David Coulthard (1'18"694). Thursday, July 17, 2003, it is raining in London at times. It is a water that could drown in one fell swoop the recent sorrows of Ferrari fans and solve the tire sickness: on the wet asphalt the Bridgestones win, there is no history. Giancarlo Fisichella, in the disappointing Jordan-Cosworth, managed to win a Grand Prix (in Brazil) complicit with a downpour. But Michael Schumacher curbs enthusiasm:
"I don't know the forecast, let's see. We could use the water, but we've improved in the dry as well".
Credit to a week of hard work-which the German calls the Mammoth Program-to give an 'idea of the size. Everything has been tried, from tires to aerodynamics, from suspension to electronics to engine modifications that should give some valuable horsepower. There is the World Champion's guarantee:
"We took a big step forward, we even complimented each other at the end. It was not just a matter of tires, he adds. It was the whole that had not progressed far enough, while the sly Williams got the right move right (wider front tires, they say) that relaunched it in the World Championship. McLaren? Never superior to us, at most on par. That is why it is not fair to attribute all the credit and blame to the tires. McLaren and Williams fit Michelin, but they don't exploit them in the same way".
We will see if the progress of the Maranello cars is sufficient. In Michael Schumacher's opinion:
"The reversals are not over. In the last two races (Nurbuigring and Magny-Cours, ed.) we were not able to impose ourselves, here at Silverstone we will see".
What if brother Ralf wins?
"I will still celebrate. Last year, the superiority of our car allowed me to rest after so many duels, yet I enjoyed it. Now it is just as enjoyable to fight every time".
Rubens Barrichello agrees. So far he has not offered much help to the cause, and to those who point it out to him he smiles and repeats:
"I'm here to win".
In the nearby garage, the atmosphere is more competitive. Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, the two Williams-Bmw drivers, clash out of habit. The Colombian says:
"If I can qualify better, the strongest is me".
And the German responds:
"In the last two races I came first".
Among the other teams, the challenge is on less sporting themes. Jaguar hosts actor Arnold Schwaraenegger, who after his Tour appearance joins Formula 1, again to advertise the film Terminator 3. The film's logo will appear on the British single-seater. Jordan, on the other hand, has signed an agreement with Tiger Telematics. In the customary photos, driver Ralph Firman poses with a model whose clothing is totally inappropriate--by wide defect--for the cool English car. On Friday, July 18, 2003, one Ferrari returns to the top of the timesheet, while the other is in second-to-last place.
At Silverstone Michael Schumacher makes it clear that the Maranello cars are back, while Rubens Barrichello seems to disprove it. It is his to make the only track exit of the day.
"The kerb was wet".
Says Rubens Barrichello, but they all get through unscathed. Even Michael Schumacher is embarrassed. He is asked why Rubens no longer helps him.
"When did he do that in the past?"
The German driver replies with a smile that makes it clear that he only made a joke, but one that could not be more unfortunate. Later he will correct his shot:
"It's a shame, however Rubens can recover because the track here is clean from the first lap".
The Brazilian is fast for two-thirds of a lap, and at the end he theorises:
"The pre-qualifying result could be lucky. I will start second. If it starts raining in the middle of the session I'm on pole, but if it rains earlier and the track dries gradually then it will be good for Michael".
At Silverstone anything is possible. Impeccable performance by Michael Schumacher, who lines up the dreaded Williams-Bmw. Juan Pablo Montoya remains at 0.275 seconds, Ralf Schumacher at 0.314 seconds. They are there too, in short. They are the ones who have modified the car the least since the Barcelona tests: normal, since they come from two consecutive one-two wins in the race. Ferrari's engineers, on the other hand, have put their hands on everything.
"Aerodynamics, engine and of course tires".
Michael Schumacher again specifies. The results?
"We are in the position we expected".
With obvious reference to first place. Rivals?
"We have to watch out for both Williams drivers, especially my brother who is closer in the standings".
Sensitive topic the one about tires. Bridgestone has gradually lost its advantage of a year ago over Michelin, but it is convinced that it has done an excellent job in the last week of testing. To the point of wishing for a dry race, to show that the redemption has begun, in the wet the superiority is undisputed).
The McLarens reflected in the greyness of the sky. Kimi Raikkonen's is remembered as the most serious mistake since Rubens Barrichello's, worth 1.5 seconds of delay. David Coulthard does not go beyond a mediocre seventh place, 0.5 seconds behind Michael Schumacher. Better are the Renaults: Fernando Alonso is fourth. Jarno Trulli sixth despite a power drop during the flying lap. Between them comes the surprising Olivier Panis in a Toyota. Filed on Friday, the following day will be spent debating tactics and fuel loads. The Silverstone circuit allows overtaking, so exasperated strategies (which, moreover, have never been fashionable among the top teams since the rules changed) are to be ruled out. Michael Schumacher continues to fear McLaren-Mercedes:
"I don't know how they worked last week".
But he confirms optimism:
"We had already tested here with good results in mid-June. Since then, thanks to the team's fantastic efforts, there has been further improvement".
Down a second, while the Williams-Bmw cars remained on the same times.
"The family also helps me. My wife Corinna manages to motivate me before races and relax me afterwards".
Separate discussion for the drivers' market. The rumours of the day concern Giancarlo Fisichella, saddened by Jordan's performance and looking for a top team. On Wednesday he visited Sauber's wind tunnel in Hinwill, near Zurich. Not being an engineer, one suspects there is something going on. Sauber downplays:
"Our drivers are expiring contracts. They look around, we do the same".
The driver confirms:
"No agreement. The transfer might interest me if it would allow me later to move to Ferrari (which supplies engines to the Swiss team, ed.)".
Alternatively, he could stay at Jordan, which may be running Mercedes engines next year, with the hope of later ending up at McLaren. Perhaps in place of a wide-jawed Scottish driver who has half the points of his teammate.
"Today was better for me, but I avoid jokes".
Rubens Barrichello prefers facts. And on Saturday, July 19, 2003, he won the first pole position of the season, eighth of his career, and shrugged off criticism and sneers. Even Michael Schumacher, his teammate, had mocked him on Friday. Top drivers have never been humor phenomena. Spin a joke in Formula 1: The world's smallest book? The history of German comedy. The controversy is closed and the Brazilian driver is not reopening it. Maybe Michael Schumacher will be the one to help him?
"Who knows. The jokes don't matter. What matters is what we bring home".
The mood is on the rise as is the performance.
"I set out to win if I can. Silverstone is ima track that favors us: the Ferrari has really improved after ima week of very hard testing and the Bridgestone has worked exceptionally well. Compared to Magny-Cours there is a significant difference in performance. The important thing is to keep our feet on the ground".
It was since May 18, 2003, at the Austrian Grand Prix, that a Maranello car did not start on pole position. Then it was Michael Schumacher's turn, who went on to win the race. Two weeks later in Monte-Carlo began the Williams-Bmw era, which one piece at a time reduced almost all of the World Champion's lead. The British Grand Prix becomes a decisive moment of the season. Testing is suspended until September, so the British Grand Prix and the next two (at Hockenheim and Budapest) become an exam: those who have done their homework well pass. In Ferrari they are convinced they have studied enough. Could the predicted rain help? Rubens Barrichello answers:
"It matters to win. Water or dry makes no difference. I am calm: I slept well and forgot the mistake. Better to make a mistake on Friday than on Saturday".
Michael Schumacher the mistake he made right during Saturday's practice, slipping to fifth place. Very fast in the first sector, the pious German went wide at Abbey corner and laid his wheels on the grass.
"Driving on grass is not the best for traction".
His direct rivals are within sight: third Kimi Raikkonen, fourth his brother Ralf Schumacher.
"The F2003-GA performed well all weekend, that gives me hope. My fifth position is not then the end of the world, although it will make my life more difficult. Congratulations to Rubens".
The Brazilian thanked.
"During Michael's lap I had mixed feelings: I didn't want him to beat me, however, I hoped he would make a good time out of team spirit".
His pole position suffered: his mistake on Friday forced him to start second and anxiously follow the lap of all his rivals. Downbeat Williams-Bmw. After their two consecutive victories, something more was expected from Ralf Schumacher (fourth) and Juan Pablo Montoya (seventh). Says the German Williams driver:
"Overall I am satisfied. I had balancing problems and yet I will start ahead of my brother. Nothing is compromised".
More disappointed is the Colombian driver:
"I suffered oversteer and lack of traction. The car was difficult to drive".
In McLaren, the usual difference in performance is noted. It seems that Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard drive two different single-seaters, one top and one mid-range. Explains the Finn, who thus touches a sore point:
"It is a very good result, taking into account that we are the only team that did not come here to test last month".
The absence from Silverstone was dependent on the testing of the new single-seater in Barcelona: time wasted, since the debut has been postponed, and the new car will perhaps be ready for Sunday, September 14, 2003, at Monza. Rubens Barrichello has a very important task for the fate of Ferrari: to keep behind Williams-Bmw and McLaren-Mercedes. Michael Schumacher will take care of the rest. If the race confirms the indications of the last two days, Ferrari should not miss the English appointment. Bridgestone assures that it has figured out the mistakes and found the right tires thanks to the indications received from the Maranello team's two starting drivers, who have been grinding out a Grand Prix a day for a week. Michael Schumacher's words are worth remembering:
"We have improved, but this year the upsets are not over yet".
Between the disputants could fit Jarno Trulli's Renault, which deserves a win given the credit it has accumulated with good fortune. Watch out for the start: the electronic start control fitted by the French manufacturer has proven to be the best in the Circus. Meanwhile, the Italian driver amazed everyone. Even himself.
"I did a perfect lap, even one second below the time we had predicted".
In the morning's free practice he had technical problems, during the warm up he had taken to the track three times and as many times had returned to the pits without even crossing the finish line.
"Renault has grown by 0.4 seconds per lap compared to Magny-Cours, we have introduced aerodynamic innovations and an engine evolution that gives us a few more horses".
This is how the Renault driver explains the second place on the grid and the gap he trimmed to teammate Fernando Alonso (1'21"381 vs. 1'22"404). Another hypothesis is that he chose softer tires, while some malicious insinuates that it was a mistake: at the last moment Jarno Trulli would have decided to use the reserve single-seater, but the technicians would have forgotten to fill the tank (40 litres of gasoline less saves about a second per lap). If so, the first pit stop of Renault #7 would be very early. The person concerned denies:
"But no, I used the race car and adopted a good strategy. I don't want to waste this opportunity".
Jarno Trulli is the fourth time he has started on the front row, the second time in the season after the Malaysian Grand Prix. He still lacks a win, though. On Sunday, July 20, 2003, at the start of the British Grand Prix Rubens Barrichello gets off to a bad start and is overtaken by Jarno Trulli and Kimi Räikkönen, who move into first and second position. They are followed by Ralf Schumacher, Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso and Cristiano Da Matta. Jarno Trulli immediately begins to gain a decent margin over his pursuers, while behind him Rubens Barrichello closely trails Kimi Räikkönen, but is unable to overtake him. During the sixth lap from the McLaren-Mercedes of David Coulthard the headrest and side protections of the cockpit come off. Race management decides to bring in the safety car to allow the marshals to remove the debris scattered around the track. Cristiano Da Matta and Olivier Panis, who started with a three-stop strategy, take the opportunity to refuel. When the race restarts, Jarno Trulli retains the lead; behind him Rubens Barrichello continues to put pressure on Kimi Räikkönen, eventually passing him on lap 11. On the following lap, a man dressed in a kilt - who would later turn out to be an Irish priest named Cornelius Horan - makes a track invasion, running in the opposite direction of the cars on the very fast Hangar Straight. The man, waving a sign with the words:
"Read the Bible".
"The Bible is always right".
He is tackled by a marshal after being avoided by several cars and is later sentenced to two months in jail. The track invasion forces race management to make a new safety car entry, during which virtually all drivers enter the pits to refuel. Drivers from the same team line up with their teammate, losing a lot of time: in this situation are Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya, who lose several positions in the standings. After refuelling, the two Toyota drivers, Cristiano Da Matta and Olivier Panis, and David Coulthard, who had made their pit stop at the entry of the first safety car, are in the lead, followed by Jarno Trulli, Kimi Räikkönen, Ralf Schumacher, Ralph Firman (who also stopped during the first neutralization) and Rubens Barrichello. At the restart, on lap 16, Kimi Räikkönen overtakes David Coulthard, Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis in the space of one lap and is joined by Cristiano Da Matta. Ralf Schumacher is passed by Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya, while further back Michael Schumacher struggles to pass Fernando Alonso. While Kimi Räikkönen just follows Cristiano Da Matta, with a gap of about one second, Rubens Barrichello engages in a long duel with Jarno Trulli for fifth position, managing to overtake the Italian driver on lap 25. Two laps later Juan Pablo Montoya also passes Jarno Trulli. David Coulthard refuels on lap 28. During lap 30 both Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya overtake Olivier Panis, while Cristiano Da Matta pits to make his second stop, thus handing over the race lead to Kimi Räikkönen. One lap later, Olivier Panis also makes his second refuelling stop; Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya begin to make a comeback over Kimi Räikkönen, while Michael Schumacher moves up to eighth, struggling to fend off attacks from the two BAR-Honda drivers, Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve. Kimi Räikkönen refuels for the last time on lap 36. Rubens Barrichello, despite being significantly faster than his rival, fails to fully recover the ten-second gap from the Finn, returning to the track behind him after in turn making his second pit stop on lap 39. The Brazilian driver catches up with the McLaren driver a lap later, immediately beginning to attack him: forced to make a mistake by a particularly decisive manoeuvre by the Brazilian, Kimi Räikkönen is forced to cede the lead to the Ferrari driver, who quickly gains a decent advantage over his rival.
Rubens Barrichello thus went on to lead the race, followed by Kimi Räikkönen, Cristiano Da Matta, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Coulthard, Jarno Trulli, Olivier Panis and Michael Schumacher. The two Toyota drivers stopped in the pits, to refuel for the last time, on lap 44 and lap 45. On lap 48, Kimi Räikkönen makes a mistake, running off the track and giving way to Juan Pablo Montoya. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher gets the better of Jarno Trulli after a long duel and, taking advantage of David Coulthard's refuelling, climbs up to fourth position, too far behind Kimi Räikkönen to challenge him. In the final laps Rubens Barrichello easily controlled Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen, and won the British Grand Prix, preceding the Colombian driver and the Finn at the finish line. Michael Schumacher finishes in fourth position, followed by David Coulthard, who in the final laps manages to get ahead of Jarno Trulli and Cristiano Da Matta, sixth and seventh respectively. Jenson Button, author of a comeback from the back of the grid, closes in eighth. Only ninth was Ralf Schumacher, slowed by a debris that, puncturing a radiator of his Williams, forced him to make an additional stop. One lesson in driving (Rubens Barrichello), one in reasoning (Michael Schumacher), one in efficiency and cool heads (the Scuderia Ferrari). The Maranello team managed to turn a possible disaster into a triumph and bad luck into a show of strength. The German champion lost a point on his direct pursuer, but these are details in a day of many twists and turns. Silverstone saw the most beautiful Formula 1 race of the past three years and as many overtakes as are usually counted in a season. Rubens Barrichello won, then shouted a song into the on-board radio microphone, on stage he cried. A tear barely with which he eliminates the frustrations of recent times. At the end he will count five overtaking on the limit: Kimi Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Olivier Panis and Kimi Raikkonen again.
His teammate recovers a fourth place worth five points, another step toward a fourth, long-suffering consecutive title, the sixth of a stellar career. Yet it had gotten ugly. Rubens Barrichello brings to their feet the 70.000 spectators at Silverstone, who derive little satisfaction from the home drivers this year (David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Ralph Firman and Justin Wilson, 45 points total, combined would be sixth in the World Championship standings). He attacks, feints on the inside, passes on the outside, drives Juan Pablo Montoya crazy and induces Kimi Raikkonen to make a mistake. He has nothing to lose and does everything perfectly. Another race that of his partner, who for once plays the part of the number two, more likely, he is good at being an accountant, with the collaboration of Ross Brawn: the leading trio is unreachable, the various Jacques Villeneuve, Ralph Firman, Cristiano Da Matta and Jarno Trulli are. The champion overtakes them with painstaking patience, taking care not to scratch the bodywork. The important thing on such a day is to get to the finish line and win points, which in the end will be five, one less than Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn surrenders second place to Juan Pablo Montoya by finishing in the meadows. Ferrari tomes home stronger in the Constructors' World Championship and in roughly the same condition in the Drivers', but there are now only five Grands Prix to go. Above all, Maranello's cars have proven to be stronger. The gap with the rivals has been recovered thanks to the work done in Barcelona, Mugello and Fiorano. The tires improved, the car showed great balance and Rubens Barrichello was reborn. His first win of the season, sixth in his career (Ferrari's number 164, number 13 at Silverstone) is a hat trick, because it coincides with pole position and the fastest lap. Try criticising the Brazilian driver now. Rubens Barrichello ran the race of a lifetime, although he still prefers the one in 2000, when he won the first Grand Prix of his career at Hockenheim. There, too, a madman entered the track, the difference being that the safety car made up 20 seconds for him. At Silverstone he left us six positions. Rubens Barrichello is like that: he exults in the strangest circumstances.
"I was only thinking about going fast".
And to chase away criticism and ghosts, such as the fear that for him the contract expiring at the end of 2004 will not be renewed.
"In the last two weeks I've been told a lot about that spin on the second lap at Magny-Cours. Rubens this way, Rubens that way. I hope they shut up now".
To Ferrari he swears deep love.
"I like being in this team, where they work to perfection. In six days of testing we have managed to improve the car and Bridgestone has been exceptional".
Peace made even with the tires, then.
"Only in the cold I had some grip problems. Maybe that's why I lost two positions at the start. On the first lap I suffered and struggled to hold the position, but as soon as the tires came up to temperature I could start attacking Raikkonen. On the straight we were both going fast, it was a tough duel".
On the Finn made his first overtake.
"Then I did many others, the most beautiful and the most important was the last one, again on Kimi. I don't remember how many it was, though".
Five, to be exact. With a grit and courage that the Brazilian seemed to have lost. To pass Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher's first opponent in the world race, is already quite a feat; to succeed twice is a masterpiece. And let's add Juan Pablo Montoya, who is a quintessential tough guy, Jarno Trulli, who does not give an inch, as well as Olivier Panis who is more competitive than usual. Always at the Abbey corner.
"I had nothing to lose. With the car the team had made available to me, I couldn't do otherwise. When there was to be aggressive it responded wonderfully, the traction proved exceptional".
During the award ceremony, a tear sprang to the notes of the Brazilian anthem. The last time he managed to play it was Sunday, September 29, 2002, in the United States, at the Indianapolis circuit. Six career victories, all with Ferrari, at age 31, the age of maturity for a driver. Now toma in the running for the World Championship.
"I know what you want me to say: that I aim to beat Michael. No, I only think about going fast. There are so many of us fighting for the title. I dedicate this victory to God for the calm and serenity he has given me, and every night I thank him for the life he has given me. Calm and serenity lead to results, you have to have them at the right time. In a race like this, similar to a go-kart race, it's a moment to lose your nose in contact".
Michael Schumacher hugged him, congratulated him, thanked him for helping him.
"I could have been knocked out, I got away with a black eye".
Hot on his heels, Michael Schumacher admits he did not quite understand the sequence of events. One thing he remembers well: the queue in the pits behind his teammate, waiting to change tires and refuel.
"I lost about ten seconds, partly because the mechanics had to wait until the pit lane was clear before giving Rubens the go-ahead. If I had stayed on the track behind the safety car, though, I would have been even further behind".
Ferrari engineers explain the reason: in such cases, those who postpone their stop by one lap proceed slowly behind the safety car, losing more than half a minute, and after the pit stop find themselves in last place. That was all there was to it.
"Rubens had a perfect race, with some outstanding overtaking, he deserved the win and I am happy for him. As for me, fourth place is not bad considering what happened: after the pit stop I was 15th, in the end I lost only one point to Raikkonen".
Besides all, Ralf Schumacher did not gain any points, and in third place went up Juan Pablo Montoya, 14 points behind. Are Ferrari's difficulties over?
"We have improved and we expected this after the last tests. Be careful, though: each race is a separate matter".
In two weeks we race in Hockenheim, then Budapest before concluding the European phase in Monza. The last two events will be in the United States (Indianapolis) and Japan (Suzuka). The concluding words are from Jean Todt, who speaks of a resounding race and throws a dig at all the detractors of Rubens Barrichello:
"As you have seen, the useless has become useful".
Everyone expected a reaction from Ferrari, and it came punctually in the enemy's lair, that is, on the track where the British racing teams do most of their testing. A really strong Ferrari, so much so that Rubens Barrichello scored his hat-trick, pole position, fastest lap in the race and victory. It could even have been a one-two if Michael Schumacher had not stumbled into a really difficult pit stop, which caused him to lose not only 10 precious seconds but also a number of positions. The German was forced to chase and there was nothing for him to do even though he was the protagonist of a remarkable comeback, from 15th to fourth place. But above all the figures count: the Brazilian, in his very fast lap, posted a time of 1'22"236 at an average of 225.054 km/h, distancing by almost 0.5 seconds the fastest of his opponents, the Scotsman David Coulthard, and by a little more Jarno Trulli and then all the others, until distancing by about 0.7 seconds Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. A superlative performance his, repeated several times. Opponents appear a bit bewildered. McLaren, which also finished third with Kimi Raikkonen and fifth with David Coulthard, appears to be struggling. The Finnish driver also entered the arena, taking part in the festival of overtaking and twists and turns, and fighting as long as he could. Kimi made mistakes, but gained a point on the championship leader. Still, from his expression (albeit glacial) and words (always few) one can infer more disappointment than satisfaction. Excellent start and some overtaking, serious the mistake in the final that made him lose the second position to Juan Pablo Montoya.
This championship will be decided by a few points, the Finn left two that he would have done well to hold on to. His best moment came after the track invader was stopped. The safety car returned to the garage and he within two laps passed Jarno Trulli, David Coulthard and Olivier Panis.
"Yes, I had a very good restart. Overall, the Grand Prix didn't go very well. I had very little grip on the rear tires. Barrichello was too fast for me to keep up with him. In the finale, the Michelin were working again, however, I don't know why, maybe because of an oil slick, I braked and lost the rear at Stowe corner. I was lucky to get back on track and score more points than Schumacher".
That is precisely the difference between the two frontrunners: Michael Schumacher is 34 years old, classy, experienced, and able to capitalise on anything in his favour. Seeing him struggle to overtake Ralph Firman's Jordan-Cosworth and Jacques Villeneuve's BAR-Honda for fear of being touched and ending up off the track seems like over-cautiousness; instead, it is a tactic that pays off under the new scoring system that rewards consistent placings over sporadic victories. The young Finn, who has been in Formula 1 for three years and has very little background behind him, is still paying for inexperience and impetuosity. But he is not giving up:
"There are five races to go and the fight for the title is still wide open. You never know what can happen in a race. We will fight to the last".
The suspension of testing penalises McLaren in particular: the MP4/17D, derived from last year's single-seater, seems to have reached the limit of its development, while the new version is struggling and will not debut before Monza. In fact, the British team is grappling with the development of the MP4/18, which turns out to be a mysterious object to be fine-tuned and may not even run, going straight into a museum, the museum of horrors. In the days leading up to the Grand Prix, it failed the crash-test required for safety reasons by the FIA. And it is the third time. At the same time, the Anglo-German team is already working on the new car, for next year, the MP4/19, which should hit the track before winter and perhaps even before the start of the end of the World Championship. In short, a real puzzle for Ron Dennis. Williams-Bmw is not from better; after improving so much since the beginning of the season, it still did something for the British Grand Prix by putting a fin on the hood, but it was not enough. The Anglo-British team comes out of the British Grand Prix downsized. Not so much for Juan Pablo Montoya, who was happy to have overtaken teammate Ralf Schumacher and made up for it by recovering three points from Michael Schumacher:
"Exciting race, I had fun. I kept Rubens' pace. I have to say he helped me: he was leading the way and I was tucking in behind him".
It is Ralf Schumacher himself who ends the British weekend with zero points, and now his brother is 16 points behind.
"I was forced into an unscheduled stop because some debris was clogging the radiators. Unfortunate day, I just have to forget it. In two weeks we are racing in Hockenheim, which is my home race. I will redeem myself".
They are superstitious people, the people of Formula 1.
"When I saw that madman on the track, I said to myself, holy cow, one more time".
Jarno Trulli was immediately reminded of the only precedent he remembers: the 2000 German Grand Prix. That time he was in the podium area when the race was neutralised by the safety car. He did not win a single point. At Silverstone he was even in the lead. And he had the right hunch: from that moment things started to go wrong. Like three years ago. The start of the Italian driver was excellent. The Renault's starting system, developed by a Japanese Nissan technician, allowed him to take the lead immediately.
"At the beginning the car was perfect and I was able to increase the lead over Raikkonen, but the double entry of the safety car damaged me. After the first stop the behaviour of the car changed and I lost grip. I pushed hard for the rest of the race and had to fight to defend the position".
Still, sixth place is worth three points and removes some of the halo of bad luck surrounding Jarno Trulli.
"I don't know whether to be disappointed or satisfied. I had to give in to much faster opponents, however, the car proved to be reliable and competitive. In Hockenheim it will be tough, however, I am optimistic".
Second place on the grid and 12 laps led still ennoble his English weekend. He was the only one among the Michelin drivers had chosen the softer tires, which did not help him in the long run. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, fared worse: after driving for a long time with the traction control not working, he stopped with an electrical fault. Another Sunday to forget for the other Italian. One of the day's three retirements was that of Giancarlo Fisichella. Driving a Jordan is not a rewarding experience, but in this case it was also dangerous: the Roman driver went off the track after 45 laps due to a broken suspension. It was Sunday, April 6, 2003, when he won the first Grand Prix of his career in Brazil. Since that day came only disappointments, retirements, lack of performance. But the comment remains calm:
"The race was not going badly. I was able to fight, keep a decent pace, the balance was good and the grip of the tires had improved (Jordan, like Ferrari, also benefited from the improvements made by Bridgestone, ed.). Unfortunately, I retired because of a mechanical failure. I think it was the right rear suspension. I am disappointed with yet another retirement due to reliability".
The person who went on the track is named Neal Horam, is a 56-year-old Irish Protestant pastor from County Kerry and is apparently a resident of London. Months ago he had also written to the Pope calling for world peace. He is the lone invader, evidently a deranged man, who was in danger of being mangled by a single-seater as he drove along, meeting cars, the Silverstone track. Only a miracle saved him from that suicidal slalom, which he reportedly explained to British police was intended to draw attention to societal problems. They arrested him and took him to the Northampton barracks for questioning on charges of illegally trespassing over the circuit's fences, putting his and the drivers' lives in grave danger. The public defender has already requested a psychiatric report. Religious motives drove him to the absurd invasion. So clearly imply the two signs displayed as he ran for a hundred meters (the show lasted half a minute, a huge time in the world of exaggerated speed) in the middle of the runway, down the Hangar straight. Horam was in the full path of the single-seaters, seven of them brushed past him, some drivers had to change direction to dodge him. The invader was wearing a Scottish skirt, kilt, and also had a raincoat in his hand, when he was tackled by a brave track marshal, was dragged across the grass and then forced over a low wall. Many drivers witnessed, despite themselves, the spectacle. Not the winner. Says Rubens Barrichello:
"This time I didn't notice. I didn't see that man, obviously at that moment I was covered by something. And this time, unlike in Germany, it didn't give me any advantage, in fact the safety car slowed me down, like the pit stop".
Says, on the other hand, Michael Schumacher:
"I saw him because I had to avoid him as well. I got scared, because he was really close, I was right behind my brother Ralf, I was out of slipstream to try to overtake, I was looking for space to pass him. A situation where you don't expect someone to cross your path. It wasn't actually that dangerous, though. The man just wanted to put on a show, to be seen running by cars. I immediately remembered Hochkenheim and knew the safety car was coming in. I don't understand what moves these people, but they obviously exist".
The track invader is an exceptional occurrence in Formula 1. If in soccer or tennis the only risk is going to jail, in motor sports you definitely risk more: you can die run over. So crazies pay more attention to it and surveillance is (or should be) more careful. Nonetheless, as at Silverstone, in 2000 at Hockenheim a 45-year-old worker fired by Mercedes staged his own protest at the edge of the track, also with a series of signs also hanging from the edges of the fence. It was, that, another roaring race, in many ways similar to the English one. In his first year at Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello was in a depressive crisis from lack of victories, while Michael Schumacher already occupied the lead. In practice, a technical problem relegated him to eighteenth place, but in the race good fortune decided to help him. Immediately out of Michael Schumacher due to an accident, the Brazilian began a comeback of unscrupulous overtaking. The mad invader forced the safety car to start, thus nullifying II advantage of the McLaren-Mercedes cars of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. In the finale, however, there was the masterpiece of the Brazilian who, in alternating rain and sunshine, decided to keep the dry tires (as opposed to his rivals) and managed to win. Even then he cried on the podium (but the tears were many more), even then Jarno Trulli at the time of the track invasion was close from getting a place on the podium. On Monday, July 21, 2003, the Silverstone triumphant, the hero of the British Grand Prix, loses his plane to a strike like any tourist, his newly won trophy is broken, and he has less space in the newspapers than the person who invaded the track. In short, Rubens Barrichelo gave a demonstration of bravura and was protagonist of one of the most beautiful pages of Formula 1 but the bad luck, that one does not take it off.
"Anyway, I won the cup, that's the important thing".
Rubens Barrichello is in a hurry to join his family in Sao Paulo. A few days of vacation await him because all Formula 1 testing is suspended: he will return to Europe for the German Grand Prix, which is run at Hockenheim, where in 2000 he won a race that was a photocopy of Sunday's, circuit invader included.
"That success was incredible, I always think it tastes unbeatable. Besides all, it was the first of my career. But I must admit that the Silverstone race will hold an indelible place in my heart".
Brazilian newspapers finally cheered him on: he won like Ayrton Senna, the legend, and he thought of him after crossing the finish line. Then he responded to the criticism.
"I no longer let myself be influenced by the comments of those who talk in circles. It is true, in the first part of the championship I did not have very good races. But performance also depends on the cars one has at one's disposal. The one at Silverstone was perfect. Now I hope someone will keep quiet".
Rubens Barrichello is the seventh Grand Prix winner this year. Such a hard-fought Formula 1 has not been seen since 1985: Alain Prost (World Champion), Ayrton Senna, Elio De Angelis, Michele Alboreto, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, and Nigel Mansell marked that season. And Michael Schumacher said:
"The reversals are not over yet".
For the moment, Ferrari has turned the tide. Jean Todt recalls:
"From Canada on, the situation was not really in our favour, and one team, Williams-Bmw-Michelin, became particularly dangerous. Silverstone was a test not to be failed. Rubens and Michael were extraordinary and the car went very, very well: tires, chassis and engine did very well on a circuit that moreover suited our specifications. All those overtakes meant we were superior".
Five races to go.
"The next two circuits, Hockenheim and Budapest, are not ideal for us. The tires will play a decisive role. I am confident, but I never allow myself to draw any firm conclusions. We know that things can change from one day to the next. The track invader? Since it's good luck, we'll always bring one".
Why did Rubens Barrichello lose two positions at the start?
"He explained it. He lacked grip because the tires had cooled down".
The Brazilian blames Jarno Trulli:
"He was going slow on the formation lap, I was stopped too long on the grid".
"No, it's his fault, he didn't notice that the rest of the group was far away. That's why I slowed down".
For another Brazilian, the British Grand Prix threatens to be the end of his Formula 1 adventure. Antonio Pizzonia, 22, known as Jungle Boy (he was born in Manaus, Amazonia), is the first driver to be kicked out. Jaguar will not forgive him for his results and the difference in performance with teammate Mark Webber. In his place will come Justin Wilson, who is leaving Minardi. The Anglo-Faentine single-seater will be entrusted to 25-year-old Dane Nicolas Kiesa, now involved in Formula 3000. The transfer of Justin Wilson, who turned 25 on Sunday, raises the value of the shares bought by those who decided to bet on his potential. Wilson, in fact, introduced an innovative mechanism in Formula 1: selling shares of his earnings. At Minardi he had landed by buying his seat; at Jaguar he will start earning a salary.