#713 2003 Japanese Grand Prix

2023-01-09 00:00

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#2003, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Maria Vitiello,

#713 2003 Japanese Grand Prix

Ferrari in the dust? Here is the answer. Two days after the Indianapolis victory that mortgages the world title, Luca Montezemolo shows the pride of g


Ferrari in the dust? Here is the answer. Two days after the Indianapolis victory that mortgages the world title, Luca Montezemolo shows the pride of great opportunities:


"I was sorry that many gave us and Schumacher now finished a month ago. The reaction was beautiful, extraordinary. Schumacher proved once again, if there was any need, that he was the best driver in the world, but Ferrari showed that never gives up. Continuing to be in the lead after five years demonstrates the strength and the capacity of our people that is extraordinary. Now feet on the ground. We want to do everything to take both titles home, even in the face of very strong competitors".


For the Maranello team, the rich North American market is very important. As well as the sporting triumph, the red flags in the Indy oval represented an extraordinary  success of image. In Japan, the curtain will fall on the 2003 season. Schumacher needs a point (that is, an eighth place) to take home the sixth world championship. Only Kimi Raikkonen, winning, still has a chance to take it away from him. On Tuesday, September 30, 2003, Ferrari returns to work on the Mugello circuit. Luca Badoer (74 laps, best in 1'22"689) and Felipe Massa (18 laps, 1'23"600) test tires and set up ahead of the Suzuka Grand Prix. Also on the track is Takuma Sato's BAR-Honda, the protagonist of an accident at the first corner. The Japanese test driver is escorted to the hospital for an ankle x-ray that excludes fractures. It's not all right, though, in the Schumacher family. If Michael laughs, Ralf is very angry. From his website, the Williams-Bmw German accuses the team for the behaviour during the US Grand Prix:


"For two laps I tried to figure out what they were telling me on the radio, what the weather forecast was, whether or not I should stop to change tires. Instead, I have not received any information. I just heard that they were all talking together, a great confusion".


The answer of Mario Theissen, director of Bmw-Motorsport, is rather annoyed:


"We could safely address the same criticisms to him, because the opposite of what he says happened in Indianapolis. It was us in the pits waiting for an answer from him that never came. That's why he had to do one too many lap and got off the track".


The following day, Wednesday, October 1, 2003, with an official note released in Paris, Renault denies the possibility that the Spanish driver, 22 years old, a great promise of Formula 1, will move to Ferrari in the next two seasons.


"Fernando Alonso is under contract with us up to and including 2005".


In the aftermath of the United States Grand Prix, it was the Spanish press that spread the news, also denied by the Maranello team:


"This is nonsense".


And even the pilot's manager, Adrian Campos, had denied:


"I don't know anything about an agreement that provides for a move to Ferrari for ten million euros, it's all speculation. However, in 2005 anything is possible".


The hypothesis made in particular by the sports newspaper Marca was that Michael Schumacher would retire after the eventual conquest of the sixth title, from which he is separated by one point only, one race from the end. However, Willi Weber says:


"Michael has a contract with Ferrari until 2006 and will respect it. We have repeated this on several occasions".


Schumacher himself had reiterated in Indianapolis that not even yet another triumph in the World Championship would lead him to anticipate his retirement. And it seems that the desire to race does not decrease even at the end of a season as exciting as it is difficult and painful: in fact, on Thursday and Friday he will be on the track in the Mugello racetrack to carry out the last tests of the season, which Luca Badoer commit on Friday. Ferrari tests set ups, tires and some technical innovations for the Suzuka circuit. No revolution, though: a point is missing, no risk will be taken. Thursday, October 2, 2003, 8:00 a.m.: Michael Schumacher enters the Mugello racecourse on a Maserati Gt, parks, reaches the Ferrari motorhome and changes. At 8:15 a.m., wearing the red suit, he crosses the threshold of the pits and begins an ordinary, gruelling day of work interspersed with some physiological breaks. Technical Director Ross Brawn and his engineer Chris Dyer are waiting for him for the first meeting. 9:05 a.m.: Schumacher puts on his helmet and gloves and slips into the cockpit of the F2003-JHA, mechanics insert the steering wheel, fix the six attachment points of the seat belts and start the engine. At 9:10 a.m. the German pilot leaves for an installation lap, which serves to ensure the smooth operation of all the systems of a modern F1. Upon re-entry, routine checks. The pilot stays on board and after a few minutes a long series of laps starts again. Every now and then he goes through the pits to evaluate the times, change tires and aerodynamic adjustments, assemble new electronic and mechanical components that will be introduced on Sunday, October 12, 2003, in Suzuka, in the last, decisive test of the World Championship. In the standings he has 9 points ahead of Raikkonen: he is missing one to win the sixth World Championship of his career and enter the legend. Yet he works like an possessed man, meticulous, precise, fussy like a German knows how to be.


"I want to make sure I've done everything I could to fine tune the car".


Michael Schumacher tells during the long break, between 1:10 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., while eating a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce and a salad. Ross Brawn and Chris Dyer are waiting for him for a second briefing. In the meantime, Luca Badoer, who by profession is not the World Champion but the test driver, descends on the track. At 4:18 p.m. it's Michael Schumacher's turn again. Helmet, gloves, belts, start-up and off you go. Three sets of 12 laps. During the stops he goes to the wall in front of the pits where the monitors and devices that collect telemetry data are placed. At each step, the F2003-GA downloads millions of information that technicians read to understand what works and what needs to be checked, where the car or driver is doing well and where they have difficulties. Schumacher inquires about everything, wants to know, suggests and accepts advice.


"Two very important titles are up for grabs, Ferrari's fifth in a row and my fourth in a row: that's why we push really hard".


At 6:15 p.m. a mechanic displays the sign that says: last lap. Last of 129, a total of 676 kilometres, that is over two Grand Prix. There is no more light to continue, otherwise who knows. Luca Badoer stops at 81 and on Sunday he will continue with the other test driver, Felipe Massa. Completed in one day the program at the beginning scheduled for two, Schumacher can return to Switzerland to his family. Sunday evening or Monday morning at the latest he will leave for Japan where two appointments with the sponsors await him. On Thursday he will face the first press conference, on Friday the pre-qualifications.


"I like the Suzuka circuit, but the important thing is that the car likes it. And the tires".


The Bridgestone brings twenty different specifications to Mugello. Hisao Suganuma, technical manager of the Japanese company, explains the choice of the Tuscan circuit to carry out the latest tests.


"The asphalt is similar to what we will find in Japan, and the track alternates slow and fast corners just like in Suzuka".


Woe to talk about easy victory. For superstition Michael Schumacher bans the production of the world champion hats.


"That's the problem. Everyone thinks it's a formality, but I don't. Raikkonen is my fixed thought these days. In life, if you feel too sure it ends up happening the opposite of what you want. We will maintain the maximum concentration until the last kilometre".


Schumacher carries out the general tests of everything from tires to strategies, from the starting electronic system to aerodynamic setups.


"The guy always has a lot of energy".


His press officer says smiling, Sabine Kehm. The men on the Maranello team got used to these rhythms. The opponents not yet. On Wednesday, October 8, 2003, Ferrari's Japanese mission begins in Tokyo, at Bridgestone. Jean Todt leads the troop, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello spread smiles that are no longer of circumstance. The feeling with the tires has been found and so have the victories (Monza and Indianapolis): Schumacher is missing a point for the sixth world title, the one that serves to surpass Juan Manuel Fangio, while Ferrari has three lengths of advantage over Williams-Bmw in the classification of the Constructors' World Championship (another record in the crosshairs: the five consecutive triumph) Everything will be decided in Suzuka. In the meantime, Jean Todt admonishes:


"It's been a very tough season and it's not over yet. Fortunately, Ferrari shows up in the lead on the eve of the final race. We are eager to face the last hurdle".


No pre-tactic. The stated goal is the double, a first and second place that re-establish distances from historical opponents.


"Although the feat is difficult because the level of competition is high and there are many variables, I don't see any reason why the Suzuka circuit doesn't bring us a good result. As in the past".


Michael Schumacher's scoreboard is impressive: five victories (1995 with Benetton, 1997 and the last three editions at the wheel of Ferrari) and three second places (1994, 1996 and 1999). From 37 races the German driver does not withdraw due to a mechanical failure, which can be considered a guarantee or induce the fans to a superstitious gesture.


"I like this track, it's not a mystery. It is suitable for my characteristics. In addition, some changes have been made that have made the circuit safer and increased the chances of overtaking. This will gain the show and the enthusiasm of the fans".




"No, because there is too much balance".


Are seventy victories and the eventual sixth world title worth early retirement?


"As long as I'm competitive and continue to have fun as it's happening now, I see no reason to retire. What drives me is the love for the sport and the pleasure of working in an exceptional environment like that of Ferrari and our Bridgestone partners. The motivations are fundamental and here we all have them, from Jean Todt to the last employee".


Returning to more concrete issues, the point separating Michael Schumacher from the triumph could also be superfluous. To bypass it, Kimi Raikkonen must win the Japanese Grand Prix, a feat within his reach as well as at least three to four other drivers: the Williams duo (Ralf Schumacher and especially Juan Pablo Montoya, who are looking for a ransom after the Indianapolis fool, in addition to points for the constructors' ranking), Rubens Barrichello, at least one between Fernando, Alonso and Jarno Trulli (Renault never makes to place both cars). For now remains excluded, David Coulthard, the Finn's teammate and certainly inclined to give him a hand. If it then rains, as Japanese meteorologists prospect, any driver with the Bridgestones would be able to win the race. But you don't have to rely too much on the long-term weather forecast: two weeks earlier in the United States, until the eve of the race, the odds of a disruption were thirty percent. Ferrari is rather betting on its second driver. Rubens Barrichello comes from a season that he himself defines as difficult, ruined at the beginning by a retirement due to lack of gasoline in São Paulo in front of the home audience.


"In the first part of the season I also had other troubles, but I always kept calm and cold and success came to Silverstone. In Suzuka we will give it our all. It's a circuit that we feel like our second home: we won't miss our goals".


Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph dedicates a long service to Luca Montezemolo and his skills as a manager.


"He has achieved so many successes that he should think seriously about politics. He fits tight on the role of president of the most famous car manufacturer in the world, from his observatory he controls the heartbeat of a nation: also because when Ferrari loses, the pain involves everyone and when it wins it is a party. He has achieved great success in Formula 1 and in road car sales. In addition, like a modern Lazarus, he resurrected the Maserati making it again a prestigious brand".


After listing its many activities, the Daily Telegraph questions Montezemolo about his future, asking him if he is aiming to replace Bernie Ecclestone as racing emperor.


"I'm on the board of Fiat and I have to think about Ferrari and Maserati. That's enough. We renewed the range and won three consecutive titles, like no one had done before. Now I'm just thinking about the new World Championship".


On Wednesday, October 8, 2003, on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher counts friends and enemies. 


He pretends not to fear low blows, but the face is tense, pulled. He’s not the type to like racing in an eighth-place to win the point that separates it from the sixth title. What if he finds himself in the middle of the fray?


"I exclude that someone will come on me on purpose".


Young Kimi Raikkonen is a tough but fair driver. Sunday has only one result available, the first place. The Finnish piota claims to be at an advantage from a psychological point of view:


"If everything really goes well I become World Champion, otherwise I wouldn't care to finish second or third".


In Indianapolis he was the fastest in qualifying and leading for a third of the race. He will try to repeat himself in Suzuka, hoping that something will happen behind him. A faithful squire, Rubens Barrichello accompanied and helped Michael Schumacher in his three triumphs. Together they formed the most winning couple in the history of the Maranello team. Now on the Brazilian weighs the responsibility of the Constructors' World Championship. And, in the meantime, says Michael Schumacher:


"If I come eighth and Rubens wins, the title is Ferrari's. I hope to lead the race. If vice versa I will find myself pressed, I will drive with my head, trying to avoid trouble. I will always keep my eyes on the mirrors".


Replica Rubens Barrichello:


"I don't believe it, Michael is going to be as bad as usual. I would never start with the idea of getting just one point. We will race for first and second place. Williams and McLaren? We don't think about what other teams do. We're focused on our race, because the tension is the same, whether you're missing nine points or you're just missing one".


On the track, the two Schumachers treat each other as brothers roughly as Cain and Abel would. Michael more often plays the role of the charismatic and ruthless firstborn, but at the end of the race the affection triumphs. Ralf will not take revenge. In fact, he swears that their interest is common.


"Michael can rest assured: I win so I help Williams-Bmw win the constructors' title and he becomes World Champion. I really don't see how it could fail. Raikkonen should not give any problems, because the Suzuka track is not suitable for McLarens".


A success would also help Ralf Schumacher renew the contract on better terms. His teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, had fled Indianapolis so as not to comment on the incident with Rubens Barrichello which had cost him, in order, a penalty, the result of the Grand Prix and the sprint for the World Championship. Arriving in Japan, the Colombian driver first says that he is still angry and that the punishment was unfair.


"At home, the more I reviewed the video of the race, the more I was convinced that it was a normal collision between two that battled. And if the track had been dry, Barrichello wouldn't have gone out. You try to make Formula 1 more spectacular because the spectators are going down and then you punish a spectacular manoeuvre".


When he's nervous, Montoya on the track gives the worst of himself. But Kimi Raikkonen denies any collaboration.


"My goal is second place in the World Championship, I will do everything to stay ahead of him".


But when he sees red he loses his mind. David Coulthard, as mentioned, is out of the game and has nothing to lose. Everyone remembers the accident in the rain of Spa in 1998, when he slowed down suspiciously and was hit by a Michael Schumacher who was contending for the World Championship victory with Mika Hakkinen. And Michael Schumacher cites him, perhaps to exorcise the danger:


"I don't think Coulthard will come onto me to favour his teammate".


For the record, in Indianapolis the paint that was missing from the side of the Ferrari #1 had remained on a Scottish driver's wheel. Who will not compete, however, in the Japanese Grand Prix is Jacques Villeneuve: the BAR will deploy Elche Takuma Sato, 26 weapons, the Japanese who last year raced seventeen races with Jordan and was currently a test driver. The English team did not renew the contract for 2004 to the former World Champion. Villeneuve is silent; he merely asks to immediately dissolve the agreement that was supposed to be concluded on Sunday. Jacques' story started with so many doubts, it ended badly. World champion in 1997, thanks to the famous collision with Michael Schumacher in Jerez in the last race, he stayed a year at Williams, with no results. In 1999 he changed; matters of money and weight in the team.


"I beat Michael, I want the same money as him. Frank Williams and Patrick Head consider me just an employee".


He wanted a team of his own, finding with manager Craig Pollock a rich sponsor, British American Tobacco. So was born the BAR (British American Racing), with Villeneuve shareholder, along with Pollock: salary 20.000.000 dollars a year. Five opaque seasons, few points and a lot of criticism. Controversy with teammates. This year also against Jenson Button, the Englishman who joined him by passing him several times in the sixteen races disputed. Negative reviews on all: opponents, technicians, on the Honda supplying the engines. Not always with reason, but with the courage to say what he thinks. Now Villeneuve has only one more supporter: Bernie Ecclestone, who considers him a charismatic character anyway. But the teams fear he's unmotivated. There are many rumours about his future; there was talk of a return to Williams, if Juan Pablo Montoya switched to McLaren, but the Colombian's prosecutor, Jakobi, denies it. Toyota is looking for an experienced and already winning driver, but has just renewed the contracts to Olivier Panis and Cristiano Da Matta. Maybe the Canadian will no longer find a steering wheel in F1. Not right away. Think of the Formula Cart (in 1995 he won the title and the Indy 500). He also hinted Nascar (in the ovals with cars derived from the series). The latest indiscretion gives him no credit: he would have deserted Suzuka to pocket the $2.000.000 offered by Honda to him and Pollock to make way for Takuma Sato. At dawn on Sunday, October 12, 2003, a driver will go down in history. Michael Schumacher has been booking the sixth title for two weeks, one more than Juan Manuel Fangio, winner between 1951 and 1957. Kimi Raikkonen maintains a faint hope: if he is so good as to win the Japanese Grand Prix, the sixteenth and last try of the season, and so lucky (but really so lucky) that his rival will not even be able to place eighth, then he will become the youngest Formula 1 World Champion. Michael Schumacher better than Juan Manuel Fangio or Kimi Raikkonen earlier than Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian who celebrated in 1972 at only 25 years old. The Suzuka circuit is spectacular for its sudden changes of direction and the alternation of slow and fast corners. Drivers like it because it enhances their skills, although it has few escape routes and is one of the most dangerous tracks. 


On Friday 10 October 2003, the first round of qualifying is dominated by Jarno Trulli, as he had already done in Budapest and Indianapolis.


"I'm glad, but I don't do anything about my lion Fridays. He vows a victory. I'm even willing to forgive all the newspapers if they don't write a line about me on Monday and only talk about Ferrari".


Michael Schumacher, third, in Italian says:


"Lap good for me".


Kimi Raikkonen, fifth, is no longer talkative:


"The car went well from the start. I can drive a great race like in Indianapolis".


Kimi Raikkonen comes from the ice of Finland, from which he inherited the emotionality and nickname of iceman. Michael Schumacher was born in the heart of Germany and over the years he has learned to communicate. They are not two talkative pilots, but the German has accumulated experience: the 70 victories plus the 55 pole positions forced him to 125 appearances for the press conferences, to which must be added those for the second and third places in qualifying, the podiums, the Thursday conferences, about 500 mandatory attendance tokens in front of notebooks and cameras. Optional interviews follow, certainly thousands. He doesn't pierce the video, but he holds the scene. In comparison, the rival disappears: one win and two poles. Out of ten questions, five are evaded, the others dismiss them with one, maximum two sentences. Those who have followed him since his beginnings swear that he has improved a lot. He has a lot of time to grow, in a human and sporting sense, because he will be 24 years old on Friday, October 17, 2003 (Michael Schumacher is 34). He hopes to treat himself to the World Championship for his birthday, otherwise he will go on a quiet vacation and think about next season. His mentor was Peter Sauber, who in 2000, after courting Giancarlo Fisichella in vain, turned to Steve Robertson, manager of Jenson Button. The answer was:


"Button I have already promised Williams, but I have in my hands a Finn who is even stronger".


A test at Mugello and Sauber sensed the quality of the young man.


"In addition to being very fast, I was struck by his cunning: every ten minutes he stopped so as not to over exercising his neck muscles".


The five-year contract was signed in early 2001. The only obstacle was to convince the president of the Fia Max Mosley to grant the super license of driving in the absence of minimum experience requirements (24 races in Formula Renault, against the Formula 3, Formula 3000 or Formula Cart championships of the others Circus’ rookies). Michael Schumacher put a good word. The following year there was the transfer to McLaren-Mercedes in exchange for $20.000.000. With a background: Kimi sent a letter in English to Peter Sauber, explaining that at McLaren he  would have a chance to become the youngest World Champion. The writing was a bit childish, but the text contained no errors, although the young Finn did not have an Oxfordian culture, a sign that the text had been copied. Sauber phoned Hubbert, the big boss of Mercedes Motorsport, told him what happened and read him a list with the listing of the World Champions, from Michael Schumacher down. He stopped at $5.000.000 for every year of contract he had with Kimi Raikkonen, of course, that is, twenty in total. 


Money still well invested, which allows the Woking team to show up at the last date still fighting against the biggest opponent ever. On Saturday 11 October 2003, two drops of rain, a strange regulation, and a handicap qualification seem to be able to determine the fate of a Grand Prix that decides a year of work. It is no longer a matter of merits, skills, technologies, money. Two drops of rain are enough to upset the efficiency of Formula 1 along with its balance. Like their American colleagues, Japanese meteorologists have failed. They had predicted a sunny Saturday, a few clouds, a probability of rain equal to ten percent, a margin of uncertainty that also the meteorologists of the Sahara areas  probably hold out of caution, instead, towards the end of the session, the water dug a furrow between the platoon of the lucky ones who turned on a dry track and the top three of the Friday class. Rubens Barrichello laughing, Michael Schumacher struggling, Japanese fans who are exalted for the two Toyotas in the second row (or suffer from the difficulties of BAR-Honda, in Suzuka a derby is played between the two local giants of cars). In his London home, Max Mosley, president of the FIA and author of the January revolution that changed the face of F1, will be rubbing his hands. Less meritocracy, more unpredictability and uncertainty. If the title was awarded only to the sixteenth and last race, it is also because of him. Max Mosley wanted the single-seaters to face two qualifying sessions by taking to the track one at a time and for one lap launched only. So the sponsors of the smaller teams are happy, because they have equal visibility as Ferrari. If the weather is stable, everything is fine. But if it changes, the Minardi also have their moments of splendor (Verstappen's Friday at Magny-Cours) and Michael Schumacher can face a nightmare qualifying or poor Jarno Trulli can be at the bottom of the group without even having the chance to make a qualifying lap. Much has been said about this system. Until last year there was anarchy: one hour on Saturday all against all. In the first ten minutes nothing happened, in the last ten, with the track clean and made fast by the rubber residues remaining on the asphalt, the fight was unleashed and the public witnessed overtaking and twists. If the sky threatened rain the drivers were looking for the best performance at first, if it stopped raining there was a chance to make up for it in extremis. Now it's a matter of luck.


"When you have it, you have to grab it with two hands".


It is Barrichello's philosophy.


"This is the law and it's the same for everyone. Every now and then it's okay with you, other times it's not. No need to complain".


The scores also changed the trend of the World Championship. Michael Schumacher would celebrate in Indianapolis with the old system. The German finished six times first (and never second), Kimi Raikkonen six times second (with only one victory), yet they will only resolve the dispute on the last date. Not only that. Ferrari designed the current single-seater before the new regulation was discussed. The F2003-GA is an extreme and innovative car, complex to regulate. To express its full potential it would need continuous adjustments that from this season are allowed up to a minute before qualifying. Michael Schumacher had his own problems in finding the compromise that would make him go strong on the single lap and in the race, deciding in advance how much fuel to board. So many times the king of speed had to park his red car on Saturday afternoon in the closed park next to the other single-seaters. And so many times, turning back, he will have ruminated:


"Give me back my car".


And so, with qualifying heavily conditioned by a roar of rain that fell on the track in the final minutes of the session, it is Rubens Barrichello who takes pole position, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya by almost 0.7 seconds. In the second row there are the two Toyota drivers, Cristiano Da Matta and Olivier Panis, followed by Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, David Coulthard, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button and Justin Wilson. At the beginning of the session the two Toyotas of Da Matta and Panis were the fastest, after scoring the thirteenth and fourteenth time respectively in the session at unloaded tanks of Friday. Their times were then beaten in sequence by Montoya and Barrichello, but already by the moment the Brazilian makes his timed lap the rain begins to fall insistently. Räikkönen, fifth on Friday, is forced to remain still in the pits due to the advertising interruption planned every five timed laps, going down to the track when the track is now clearly wet. The Finnish driver can't do better than the seventh time, being beaten soon after by teammate David Coulthard, and thus slipping into eighth position. It's worse for Michael Schumacher, who only finishes fourteenth, while neither Ralf Schumacher nor Trulli, the quickest in Friday's session, manage to finish their timed performances. In the end of the tests, Flavio Briatore is a volcano, as usual. He is pleased with his achievements, first with Benetton and now with Renault. He prides himself on being a talent scout: at first he aimed at Michael Schumacher still semi-unknown, now his team includes Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber.


"My chicken coop".


He loves to say with irony. Hens with golden eggs that pay him a percentage of their earnings. Briatore is the right character to draw up the report cards of this year's drivers. He doesn't give votes, only judgments. Who are the best?


"Four phenomena, very high-end: Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, and Mark Webber. Then five or six of medium level. The others don't matter".


What about Montoya?


"We're there, he hasn't completely convinced me yet".


He forgot Trulli.


"No. When I got him he wasn't there. I had to work on it a lot. It was a major restoration operation. On the single lap he is very strong. There is no driver I would change him with for this ability".


He also had Fisichella last year.


"Giancarlo is a great one. So much so that I had hired him. But everyone is masters of their own destiny, they preferred another way".


How did you find Alonso out ?


"I evaluated his path before arriving in F1 and then with Minardi. Huge talent, he is serious and determined. He's also nice. He came, with the manager, to look for me in London. We arrived at an agreement. He has already set a record; the youngest driver of all time winner of a Grand Prix. In the past I had recovered Nelson Piquet against everyone's opinion and then focused on Schumacher, Similar story for Webber, will come out. It's the seasonal revelations".


Is Raikkonen not a positive news?


"No it's a first fruit. They paid him $20.000.000".


There are those who say that sooner or later Alonso will end up at Ferrari.


"Fernando has a contract that binds him to us well beyond 2005. Then, I don't know. I can add that Webber will stay at Jaguar. I don't think they will try to steal them. Drivers can no longer break contracts".


It hadn't happened with Schumacher.


"We didn't have the strength to hold him back and his deal with Benetton had expired. I used to be asked if Michael was the new Senna, now if Alonso is the new Schumacher. They have qualities in common, but I admit that the German had courage: he could choose the McLaren, that is, the Mercedes, or the Williams. He preferred Ferrari because he loves challenges. He knew that if he won with Ferrari, the one at the time, they would understand that he made a difference. I am convinced that there are at least a dozen of Schumacher around the world. The hard part is finding them and giving them a chance to emerge".


In F1, however, the important characters are missing. Now Villeneuve will also be left out.


"A driver is made up of motivation. Jacques chose the financial career. I don't know if it's recoverable. He is nice, sometimes, and there are few nice ones in F1. Apart from Briatore".


In a market-drivers blocked for top teams, the last voice talks about the Canadian at Jaguar instead of Justin Wilson. Otherwise there are Minardi or a place at Jordan next to Ralph Firman. As long as these teams survive. On Sunday, October 12, 2003, at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya maintain the top positions. The Colombian driver, however, attacks the rival already during the first lap, overtaken him at the Spoon Curve and immediately gaining a good advantage, which stabilises around 4 seconds. Behind the two is Fernando Alonso, skilled at exploiting the effective launch control of his Renault, while David Coulthard and Kimi Räikkönen manage to pass Olivier Panis. On lap 6 Michael Schumacher, who climbed back into P10, tries to overtake Takuma Sato, but collides with the Japanese driver's car and damages his own car. The German driver is thus forced to return to the pits to replace the nose, slipping into the last position. On lap 9 Juan Pablo Montoya is forced to retire for a mechanical problem, yielding the head of the race to Rubens Barrichello. During lap 10 Cristiano Da Matta returns to the pits to make the first refuelling, imitated two laps later by Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello. Kimi Räikkönen, to whom teammate David Coulthard had given him way during lap 3, then briefly passes the lead in the race and, with Michael Schumacher in P16, would be virtually World Champion at this moment. The Finnish driver refuels in turn during lap 13. At the end of the first series of stops Rubens Barrichello continues to lead the head to the race, ahead of Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Kimi Räikkönen, Cristiano Da Matta, Jenson Button, Olivier Panis and Mark Webber: the Spanish driver, who started with a two-stop strategy against the three of the Brazilian driver, seems to undermine him for the win, but he is forced to retire during lap 17 for an engine failure. Rubens Barrichello continues to increase his lead over McLaren drivers, with Kimi Räikkönen, slowed down by a set of tires with a suboptimal performance, also losing ground to his teammate. 


Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher laboriously comes back from the bottom of the group, finding himself stuck for a few laps together with his brother behind Takuma Sato. The two then anticipate the second stop, returning to the pits on lap 24. Two passes later also  Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard refuel: the Brazilian returns to the track in front of everyone, also ahead of Kimi Räikkönen who has not yet stopped. The Finn makes the second pit stop during lap 32, imitated a lap later by Jenson Button. Rubens Barrichello remains in the lead ahead of David Coulthard, Kimi Räikkönen, Cristiano Da Matta, Ralf and Michael Schumacher (upstarted in the standings thanks to the early stop). However, the last three drivers still have to make a pit stop, as do Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard. The latter make the last stop in the pits between lap 37 and lap 38, returning to the track, in the same order, between the seventh and ninth position. Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard retain the first two positions, with the Scottish slowing down to allow Kimi Räikkönen to get closer to him. Meanwhile, Cristiano Da Matta and the Schumacher brothers enter into an intense confrontation for the seventh position, which ends when Ralf Schumacher buffers his brother, damaging the front wing. The Ferrari driver continues the race remaining in eighth position, without having suffered any damage, while the Williams’ driver is forced to return to the pits to allow the mechanics to carry out the repairs. The eighth position is enough for Michael Schumacher to obtain the sixth world title and the German driver is therefore content to follow Cristiano Da Matta, while at the head of the race Rubens Barrichello controls the situation, remaining ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Takuma Sato. After lap 53, Rubens Barrichello wins the Japanese Grand Prix, ahead of the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato, Cristiano Da Matta and Michael Schumacher, who thus wins the sixth World Championship of his career. Thanks to Barrichello's victory and the lack of results on the part of the Williams-Bmw drivers, Scuderia Ferrari also wins the Constructors' World Championship for the fifth consecutive time, a winning emblem of the Italian industry. And it is an envied flagship for the Fiat group, engaged in a productive phase of relaunch with the success of the new models. A victory that has special implications: the world of racing, in fact, groups and compares all the main world manufacturers, the challenge of competitions is a global showcase. The president of Fiat, Umberto Agnelli, underlines the happy day of Ferrari by dedicating significant praise to the architects of the triumph. Agnelli talks  about a determined team, a legendary driver, an exceptional car. For the president of Fiat it was precisely these three elements that allowed Ferrari to hit this other memorable double, reaching in Formula 1 a goal that no one had ever been able to achieve. A magical series that began in 2000 and was never interrupted.


"Very good everyone. Suzuka's is an extraordinary victory, the culmination of a championship that we will remember as the most exciting of recent years. Winning is never easy, and even less easy is to keep winning, especially when the opponents are so strong".


But the Ferrari F2003 GA succeeded.


"Because it was able to count on a team that has always worked with passion and determination, on a driver of now legendary value and on an exceptional car that bears the initials of my brother Gianni, the first who would have rejoice for this success".


There is no lack of applause to the great architect of the climb of the Maranello team. The president is the first in Agnelli's thoughts:


"I think we all have to thank Luca Montezemolo, along with all the other Ferrari men, for having once again managed to bring the values of our country to victory. That's why today I feel proud, as a fan and as an Italian: this triumph is the demonstration that our technology knows how to be at the forefront and knows how to make winning cars".


Umberto Agnelli is the first to call Montezemolo to his home in Bologna, when the Japanese Grand Prix is still not over. Immediately after, more praise comes, from all over the world. Also the one, particularly welcome, by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The president of the Italian republic is a great sports enthusiast and in turn a Ferrari fan. The head of state follows the stages of the race on television. Then he calls Luca Montezemolo, begging him to extend to the whole team and to the two pilots his compliments and his heartfelt thanks for the undertaking, on behalf of the nation. Ciampi does not forget the mechanics and all those who work in the factory.


"This victory is a victory for the full team and places Ferrari to be the spearhead of Made in Italy. I hope that the victory bodes well for the entire Italian industry".


The head of state has always shown great interest in the cars of Maranello and the Ferrari-Maserati group. As a sign of gratitude, Montezemolo a few months ago invited him to the Fiorano track to give him a preview of the fantastic new fantastic sportive four-door saloon, which Ciampi wanted to drive personally. While in Italy it is 9:00 a.m. Michael Schumacher crosses the finish line in eighth position and is World Champion for the sixth time. A minute earlier, Rubens Barrichello had won the race and handed Ferrari the fifth consecutive constructors' title. No driver has ever won so much in Formula 1, no team has ever made such a series. After a year of suffering, tension, controversy and difficulty, and especially after an hour and a half of adrenaline that concentrated the emotions of eight months in the Japanese Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher became the greatest. He did this by getting involved in two incidents from which he could and should have kept away, but he did. He had the adverse fate on Saturday, when the rain ruined his qualifying round forcing him to start from P14, and in the race, when Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso stopped aboard the track, an otherwise impassable wall for Kimi Raikkonen. But he managed to catch up. Rubens Barrichello was his insurance on the triumph, then luck remembered that the great must be helped: the broken front wing in the clash with Takuma Sato on lap 6, stuck under the F2003-GA, could have caused great damage. And the outcome of the rear-end collision suffered by Ralf on lap 42 will remain a mystery of physics: wing (by Williams) against wheel (by Ferrari), that is, carbon against rubber. The tire is unscathed.


"It was my ugliest race, I'm used to celebrating a World Championship with victory".


He admits the World Champion, who has won six racing this year, more than Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello combined. Ferrari reinforces the myth: the victories in the 686 Grand Prix disputed rise to 167 (against McLaren's 137), the world titles (9 Williams) to 13,166 pole positions (123 Williams again). Another fact that the engineers of the Maranello team cite in a low voice, concerns reliability: the 10-cylinder produced in Maranello has never broken in the race this year. It is a record that few remember, but that should be added to those of speed (the 368.8 km/h reached by Schumacher in Monza) and the ability to stay at the top for such a long period. The German driver did not withdraw due to mechanical problems from 38 races and the only technical withdrawal of 2003 fell to Rubens Barrichello, who in Hungary broke the suspension (and in Brazil he was left without gasoline certainly not because of the F2003-GA). In addition to the car, the man won. From Michael Schumacher to Rubens Barrichello, from Jean Todt to Ross Brawn, from engineers to mechanics who disassemble and reassemble tires, suspension, winglets all day, up to Bridgestone technicians, who in the finale found the right tire. After the defeats of Magny-Cours, Hockenheim and Budapest, few would have believed in such an emotional victory. But Michael Schumacher repeated:


"I know them, I know how they work. We will win".


And now Rubens Barrichello hugs him, Jean Todt jumps at him, the mechanics suffocate him with compliments. And he, the 50.000.000 euro man, Michael Schumacher, struggles to figure out how you can become champions by finishing eighth.


"It's all great, wonderful. But it seems so strange to me".


From the podium it rains champagne and Michael Schumacher remains on the ground with mere mortals. The organisers admit him to the television conference reserved for the first three, where Rubens Barrichello turns into showmen, while Kimi Raikkonen is soporific and no one cares about David Coulthard. Space for the champion, then, who tells of a difficult season, a tough finale and the most exciting, confusing and swirling Grand Prix he has ever experienced. In the stands, thousands of Japanese fans watch until late at night so as not to miss the group photo of the Maranello team. In the boxes, beer and champagne flow in rivers. Alcohol dissolves some rough mechanism of Michael Schumacher's character:


"I've been tense for the last few days too, but I couldn't make you understand".


And in discreet Italian he adds:


"Today we had an extraordinary race. I'm in love with all the fans and this team".


At his side is his wife Corinna, the only one with the hat of victory on her head:


"Michael Schumacher - 6 World Championship".


He had forbidden to make them before the championship ended, she disobeyed. In the coming days they will be on sale to the public at prices of about 30 euros. Another wealth for the Schumacher industry, which is added to the gifts: in Suzuka, in fact, he’s given Jan Ullrich's bicycle. Then, the questions. In Suzuka, winning the World Championship seemed like a formality: how did he manage to complicate his life like this in the last race of the season?


"I've committed a nonsense. I was behind Sato, we were catching up and everything was fine. At a certain point he opened the door for me, that is, he left me the space to pass, I said to myself: thank you. And I slipped in. I didn't think it would close the trajectory all of a sudden. Other drivers noticed that I was faster, and very correctly they let me through".


What did you think at that moment?


"That I had to go back to the pits to replace the nose and that I had managed to make the race very interesting".


It meant about the World Championship. Did you fear losing it?


"Yes, of course. After the repairs I returned to the last position. I had to push to the maximum, luckily the car was exceptional. To be calm I had to go up to eighth place, because they had informed me via radio that Montoya had retired and the two McLarens were just behind Rubens. You never know what can happen in an F1 race".


Even with Ralf Schumacher he had some problems ...


"Another great fear. I didn't quite understand the reason of the impact, because I haven't reviewed the television images yet. I don't know if he was attacking me or if he was too close. I was trying to get past Da Matta, but I had to brake abruptly, so I flattened a tire. The vibrations were so strong that I had visibility issues on the straight. I was also afraid of a puncture and I was just trying to get to the finish line. Until the last lap I was in tension. What a crazy race. I said it wasn't going to be easy. When you start in P14, as happened to me because of the rain during qualifying, you can never know what happens in the front rows".


At the wheel, do the Schumacher brothers hate each other?


"At the wheel matters the teams we work for and not the family".


Did he realise that he had entered the legend?


"Definitely not. It's not my record that matters. The important thing is to have achieved together with Ferrari the two goals of the beginning of the year, namely the sixth World Cup of mine and the fifth consecutive of the manufacturers. We can say that the team and I together wrote the story. Rubens' victory made the day even more incredible".


What if he had to thank someone?


"At the cost of repeating myself, I go back to mentioning the guys on the team. On the eve they were tense like me, but did you see them when I came back with a broken front ? They were ready although the stop was not prepared, they changed the tires and put on gasoline. They won. On the other hand, the numbers speak for themselves".




"He had a fantastic race. A great-class victory".


After the Grand Prix of Hockenheim and Budapest, would you ever have imagined a day like this?


"In a season there are always more difficult times, it's part of this sport. I have maintained the utmost confidence in my team. I've been working with them for so many years, I know they're great".


The comparison between this title and the previous five?


"This is peculiar, completely different from the others. Today we have achieved an incredible feat. I can't even find the words to describe it".


Do you feel like the strongest pilot ever?


"Hon's what the media says. I believe in the union between a driver and his team".


Fangio against Schumacher: who wins?


"Don't compare me to him. I have a lot of respect for the driver and his victories, but I think the confrontation is impossible".


Raikkonen, Alonso, Montoya: what did you think of this generation of aspiring Schumacher?


"I don't want to think about it. There's a party waiting for me".


Now that you have reached the , maximum, don't you have the temptation to stop?


"Racing is the thing I like the most. As long as I'm competitive why should I give up on fun?"


Perhaps Rubens Barrichello is rejuvenated, finding himself a child. When, a fan of Ayrton Senna, he dreamed of imitating his idol and winning in Suzuka, in the circuit that the same Brazilian champion considered among his favourites and among the most challenging of the World Championship. The boy, born practically on the Interlagos track, scores his seventh victory in Japan along with the second seasonal. One more beautiful and important than the other. First at Silverstone at the home of the English teams, then at Suzuka, offering teammate Michael Schumacher a kind of assurance about winning the World Championship. In fact, even if the German had ever been forced to retire, Rubens' success would have guaranteed him the final triumph. After the emotions of the podium, the parties and before immediately returning to Brazil ("I have to see my son Eduardo, I can't help it, I miss him, I will return to Italy on Saturday for Ferrari Day on Sunday at Mugello"), Barrichello manages to make a lucid analysis of his day and also of a championship that saw him as a great protagonist. Did you also think about Schumacher's position during the race?


"I never do that. If a driver gets lost in these thoughts it's over. I just focused on the start, trying not to make mistakes. I didn't ask via the radio where Michael was, I only found out on the way back after cutting the finish line".


Then he had some chills when, immediately, in the first lap he was overtaken by Montoya...


"I couldn't resist him. In the first few kilometres the Williams tires have a superior grip. I was, among other things, on a wet area of the trajectory. I tried to speed up, to move, but I realised that I would risk getting off the road. So I suffered Juan Fabio's manoeuvre. A few laps later, though, I started to regain ground. I would certainly have achieved it, although I can't say that I would have even surpassed it".


After that, few problems.


"It was a very tough race. For the tension. I didn't have to and didn't want to be wrong. Only in the final when the advantage over Raikkonen had stabilised, I could slow down the pace. My Ferrari and tires were perfect, like the whole team, great. Instead, I had difficulty with the visor that was foggy due to the humidity. There was a car, probably Frentzen's, which left a long strip of oil. I found it in front of my eyes, I saw very little, I had to clean it with the glove. I was also afraid that it would start to rain. For this reason I tried to increase the advantage over the pursuers, to have a margin of safety. Because you know that when the asphalt is only wet we are in trouble. Everything went very well. I am the happiest person in the world".


For the result or in general?


"Because I am convinced that I have made progress. Although last year I had accumulated more points and placed better in the overall standings, I think I was more brilliant in 2003. The F2003 GA is a bit peculiar car, faster than the F2002, but sensitive and nervous. I learned to make the most of it. After all, this year I can only blame myself one real mistake, in Australia when I left the track on the sixth lap. For the rest it was a season that satisfied me a lot. I thank Ferrari and also the fans, especially the Brazilians who were up all night to watch the race. Of course I congratulate Michael, it's always him".


Now even the Brazilian media, often very critical of Rubens, will no longer call him pé de chinelo, that is, a slipper. Jean Todt has always been convinced that he had made the right choice when he decided to hire Rubens Barrichello. And the Japanese race comforts him. On the São Paulo driver, the general manager of Ferrari says:


"Barrichello was instrumental in winning the Constructors title and supporting Schumacher in his world championship challenge. We have always trusted him and it seems to me that he reciprocated it. We thank him as well as we thank President Montezemolo who allowed us to build this team and who in the most difficult moments has always tried to protect the group. We also dedicate these victories to all the guys who have worked day and night, to our technical partners and the commercial partners who guarantee us the means to challenge a very strong competition with the most important names in the world automotive industry. Especially a dedication to Bridgestone. This year they ate bitter bites, they heard all kinds of colours about them . Yet they continued to work with great humility, without ever a single statement over the top. We dedicate these results and the records that also came to the lawyer Gianni Agnelli who would have been proud of us and to Enzo Ferrari, founder of the company. He too would have been proud of our work. Getting on the track this year with a car that bears the name of both Ferrari and the Lawyer was a nice responsibility, because Ferrari was the myth. Agnelli the symbol of Italy in the world. But dedicating the car to him was the right choice to make".


Michael Schumacher's success is the most beautiful tribute Ferrari could make to Giovanni Agnelli. After naming the car after him, the F2003 GA, the Maranello team had to win. In fact, keep winning. It wasn't easy.


"It will be the best Ferrari ever".


Rory Byrne, father designer of the Maranello cars, had sworn in.


"It's the best ever".


Confirmed today as the champagne flows into Suzuka's pits. But even the rivals had redone their make-up after a 2002 of defeats and humiliations. Kimi Raikkonen held on until the last, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher scared the World Champion, since 1985 there were not so many winners, eight, in a single season. Honour to the opponents, honour to the GA who overcame them all. The last creature of Formula 1 from Maranello was officially born on Friday, February 7, 2003, took his first steps on the Fiorano track on Tuesday, February 11, 2003, made his debut in the World Championship on Sunday, May 4, 2003 in Barcelona, celebrated the title on Sunday, October 12, 2003. On the day of the presentation it was Schumacher and Barrichello who lifted the red veil that hid it and Jean Todt who announced its name.


"I had the privilege of meeting lawyer Agnelli often, and today I can reveal a little secret: it was he who reported my name to Montezemolo. I consider it a privilege to have known him".


The car appears to be the evolution, more than the revolution, of the F2002 winner of fourteen out of fifteen races in 2002: the design of the bellies changes above all, the radiators are shrunk, the rear is even more tapered thanks to an increasingly small and sophisticated engine and gearbox. The power steering is new, the suspension design as well, the electronics have a higher processing speed and improves engine control. The engine called 052 has been completely redesigned and the designers have revealed some details: 200 laps faster than the previous one at the start of the season (it is estimated that it has reached 19,000 in the last version), it is more powerful (until it arrives, evolution after evolution, at 900 horses), it weighs four kilos less (one ninety in total).For the debut the home circuit is chosen, Fiorano, as is tradition. And according to tradition it is Michael Schumacher who gets to christening the creature. The German driver rings 78 laps, one faster than the other, and the track record falls seventeen times: 57"046 the best time, against the 57"476 of F2002. Schumacher tries as long as there is light. When he removes his helmet, the first comment is:


"Lawyer Giovanni Agnelli would be proud of this car and this team".


Months later, the engineers will confess that not everything worked perfectly, that there were problems with overheating and that to dispose of the heat on the sides, grills called shark gills were then opened. Youth problems that force Ferrari to postpone the debut and to exploit until the last the competitiveness of the old F2002, which takes leave of the Italian public on Sunday 20 April 2003, in Imola, Easter day, with the triumph of Michael Schumacher and the third place of Rubens Barrichello. The GA collects the baton in Barcelona: another first and third place, in addition to the pole position. Same result two weeks later in Austria. This is followed by the trip to Monte Carlo and the first crunches, in parallel with the growth of Williams (above all) and McLaren. The feeling with the tires is missing, that perfect symbiosis that in recent years had been a lethal weapon. The Bridgestones end up under indictment. Sportingly, Ferrari admits that faults and merits are everyone's: you win and lose together, teams, drivers, technical partners. Then the tire war breaks out and it turns out that Michelin produces front treads that with use become wider than the regulatory 27 centimetres. The French company is forced to adapt, the F2003 GA takes to success and finds compliments (in addition to the apologies of its detractors). Forty-ninth single-seater built by Ferrari to participate in the Formula 1 World Championship, the F2003-GA continues a winning cycle that began in 1999 with the constructors' title. Despite having raced only twelve Grand Prix, it will be remembered because it allowed Michael Schumacher to become champion for the sixth time, the only driver in history. Juan Manuel Fangio also ends up in the archive, a myth unattainable in the first half-century of F1. The other primacy of GA is speed. In Monza it reached 368.8 km/h. It seems obvious that the strongest car is also the fastest. And of course it is absolutely on the lap, but it is not necessarily on the straight. 


The previous primacy, in fact, belonged to Jean Alesi's Jordan, which in 2001 touched 363.2 km/h. The secret of Ferrari? An aerodynamics that has done school because it requires less charged wings to stay attached to the asphalt along with a powerful and reliable engine. This is the F2003 GA. Michael Schumacher thought of the rest. Kimi Raikkonen believed it all the way. He clung to that thread of hope, to the only chance he had to snatch the title from Michael Schumacher in extremis. He wanted to win and surely when, during the race, they told him via radio that the rival had fallen back into the last positions for the accident with Takuma Sato and then again when he had been hit by his brother Ralf Schumacher, he pushed even harder on the accelerator. Given the circumstances of the race at McLaren they also decided to change strategy for the young Finn, going from three stops to the pits to two. But the car wasn't fast enough to grab Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari that preceded it.


"I'm sorry I didn't win the World Cup. It would have taken a little more luck, we didn't have it. We were close to reaching the goal but not enough. We fought until the last moment. This is important. I think I made a good start, but it wasn't easy to gain positions given the not perfect qualification. At first I was fast. However, there was something that didn't work with the two sets of tires I changed. I was hoping, because in Formula 1 anything can happen even at the last kilometre. Unfortunately, what I expected didn't happen".


Raikkonen has often supported the thesis that Michael Schumacher is not currently the best driver on the track. But Suzuka seems to change his mind:


"I was defeated by a strong rival. However, I believe that the German was accompanied by good luck. The Indianapolis rain, above all, gave him a great help. We have had problems over the course of the season. In any case, I'm ready to try again. Next year we will be stronger".


Kimi Raikkonen was also betrayed by the vain anticipation of the new McLaren, the Mp4-18 that never hit the track after testing. Among the people of McLaren only the head of Mercedes, Norbert Haug, officially presents the compliments to the six-time World Champion.


"He has to admit, however, that it wasn't easy for him. We gave him a hard time. And we're going to work hard to make him suffer even more in 2004".


Ron Dennis, the team manager and co-owner of the Anglo-German team does not say a sentence. Perhaps he is the person to whom the success of Ferrari and Schumacher hurts the most. Moving from one defeated to another, this time Juan Pablo Montoya does not get angry as it had happened in Indianapolis. The Colombian accepts the response of the runway serenely, blocked while still in the lead by a hydraulic system failure.


"This is Formula 1. It can happen. I had started quite well and I had managed to overtake Barrichello on the second assault. I saw him in trouble and tried. Then I tried to impose the right rhythm on myself to be in charge. But during lap 9 I started to lose a lot of my car controls and realised it was over. I was no longer fighting for the title, but I'm sorry because I could at least win the last race to get morale skyrocketing during the winter. Anyway if I look back, if I think about the season, I'm happy, I think I've done a good job. I've learned a lot compared to 2002 and I'm already ready for the next challenges".


On the success of Michael Schumacher, the Williams driver limits himself to a superficial comment:


"He was the favourite and he complied with the prediction. He has to recognise that he has a good car in his hand".


Ralf Schumacher, who has resoundingly buffered his brother, does not apologise officially, even if he then spends the evening drinking with the World Champion.


"It was simply an accident in which I had the most damage. Sixth title for Michael? It's normal, he's already won a lot. Rather I'm sorry for how it went, we had a chance to win the Constructors title. After a brilliant season, the last two races have penalised us too much".


Fourth strength of the World Championship, Renault took a fifth place with Jarno Trulli.


"If you want me to tell the truth, we could win in the US and Japan. Here the rain on Saturday stopped me with a ruined qualification. But I was among the fastest. Schumacher's title? This year he was better because Ferrari often didn't have the best tires. He, the car and even Barrichello made a difference. Michael has won six races and that's the right prize".


Less kind Fernando Alonso:


"They won but they were also lucky. They can thank the reliability which, I admit, is a dowry. However, we are growing. If 2003 was a year of suffering for the German and his team, 2004 will be even more so".


The party for the Scuderia Ferrari will last a week, from Suzuka's champagne to the Ferrari day of Mugello already set for Sunday, October 19, 2003, the F2003-GA's catwalk of honour that leaves the scenes. You change cars after just 11 Grand Prix, 5 pole positions, 7 wins, 2 world titles. It is changed because the new regulation will allow only one engine on the weekends of a Grand Prix, which will therefore have to travel a hundred more kilometres and be bigger and heavier to be as indestructible as the 052, abandoned after zero breaks in the races. Suzuka's night is long and cheerful. Turning tension into euphoria, Michael Schumacher vents. If once a year it is permissible to go crazy, he carefully chooses the day. At the party in the Italian restaurant Campanella, adjacent to the circuit, the German driver shows up with a fully open Toyota blouse, his personal tribute to Japan, and a watery eye for the previous toasts with the mechanics, as well as with Mercedes boss Norbert Haug and his brother Ralf Schumacher. In the club he meets poor Kimi Raikkonen, sits at his table, places his arm around his neck and puts the red hat with the inscription 6 times World Champion on his head. The icy Finn even laughs away. This is followed by abundant toasts between the two based on red wine (Michael) and beer (Kimi). This is the aperitif of the word champion party. The sequel is consumed in a salon kept suitably closed to strangers, from which come noises of broken glasses, screams, football slogans like who is not a black man (referred to McLaren), choirs we are the world champions on the notes of and he is a good guy. Rubens Barrichello leaves early to return to Brazil. On the Tuscan circuit, Ferrari will send the two holding drivers to the track together with the testers Luca Badoer and Felipe Massa for a show and the simulation of a mini Grand Prix. Then the engines will shut down until Tuesday, November 25, 2003. The work will all move to the plants in Maranello, where the 2004 single-seater is growing. Changes to the engine will impose changes on the aerodynamics that will be studied in the wind tunnel (at the studio there is a car with the wheelbase, that is, the distance between the rear and front axle, shorter by a few centimetres, and a shrunken tank). Ferrari doesn't like some rules introduced at the beginning of the year. The new distribution of points, for example, which favours those who place regularly over those who win some race. 


Even in the euphoria of the post-race, President Luca Montezemolo emphasises it: despite having won six Grands Prix, Schumacher risked being joined by Raikkonen, who won only one race. The qualifying mechanism on a single lap is also criticised by the Maranello team (and also by Bernie Ecclestone): too much boredom for the public, too many unnecessary complications for drivers and teams who have to look for compromises between qualifying and race instead of thinking about going strong as it is in the spirit of Formula 1. There will be a lot of talk about it in the coming months: the 2003 revolution, after all, was not announced until in January. Once the euphoria has been disposing, it's time for reports. Premises Jean Todt:


"In Formula 1 you don't win by chance. Success in a single race can be random, but when the title arrives it means that the car, team, drivers, technical partners represent excellence".


Something, though. didn't work out perfectly.


"The adversaries have grown, and perhaps on our part there was a drop in tension at the beginning. Our added value has been the passion of each of us for our own work".


The details of that drop in tension are revealed by Stefano Baldisserri, former machine engineer of Michael Schumacher and now in charge of coordination:


"In Australia, for example, the choice in tires was wrong. In Brazil, Rubens was left without gas and in Hungary Michael managed to get back to the pits for a hair. These are serious mistakes on the part of both the drivers and the team. But after mistakes you grow".


Did you expect more from the F2003-GA?


"No, it was very fast right away. Rubens was able to interpret it better and Ross Brawn imposed an exchange of information between the two drivers. At the decisive moments, though, Michael is always there".


It was a troubled championship and also, in some respects, spectacular. A first period under the aegis of McLaren, then the return of Ferrari, the attack of Williams and - finally - the triumph of the Maranello team. But the new rules have drugged Formula 1 artificially. The failure of the sports rules wanted by the FIA is demonstrated by the fact that it will change again in the coming year. But it's not certain that it will be better. The only decision that will have a disruptive effect is the one regarding engines. Only one engine per car available in a race weekend. From Friday to Sunday. So a  change of  page in a scenario never experienced by the motor circus. This novelty will force (indeed it has already forced) the designers to review all the cars. An engine must last about 600-700 kilometres instead of the approximately 350 expected so far, it must necessarily be different from those used so far. A little heavier and larger in size. Although F1's exasperated research on new materials will eventually bring the current measures back. All teams are already in the advanced preparation of single-seaters for 2004. But how will the teams that want to take revenge on the Ferrari move? McLaren already has the MP4/19 almost ready. A generational leap since the famous MP4/18 that was supposed to debut after three or four races in fact never hit the track. Adrian Newey, designer of the car that was to be entrusted to Raikkonen and Coulthard made a mistake twice. The first, resounding, in the structure of the car that did not pass the crash tests wanted by the Federation for Safety. 


The second is the fact that the new one, during the tests carried out, has never proven to be really faster and more reliable than the old one. Now McLaren in theory should be ahead of the competition, having realised that she had to start studying the car all over again for several months. However, it seems that there are many problems to be solved, also related to the latest generation Mercedes V10 engine that with the shapes designed by Newey would not be cooled enough, creating doubts about reliability. It is therefore not excluded that Ron Dennis' team does not have to start the championship again, the next time, with a hybrid car to have time to rework the whole project. Different situation at Williams who finished the season always growing (despite not having obtained the results they had hoped for in the last two races). The 2004 Bmw engine would have already run in the tests of the past few weeks and would have completed a trouble-free race simulation. For the technicians of the Anglo-German team it would be a matter of refining the single-seater used this year and already turned out to be very competitive on certain tracks. In the design, for the aerodynamic part, Antonia Terzi, the engineer who was at Ferrari and who preferred to try a new adventure abroad, plays a very important role. The 2003 revelation, i.e. Renault, will certainly still be in progress, because the team is working well. But it will have to deal with a completely new engine (after abandoning the 111° V10 that was conceived by Jean Jacques His, considered too advanced to be manageable) and above all with the escape of Mike Gascoine, the chief designer who, despite all the denials, left to switch to Toyota. In the forecasts also formulated by Flavio Briatore there will still have to be at least one year of reassessment to get to fight for the world title. And the others. Toyota should, indeed must, improve, the Jaguar was a disappointment and there are no great prospects. The Sauber could go up a few steps which will have the same engine as Ferrari, little hope of recovery for Jordan and Minardi, questions about the BAR. On Saturday 18 October 2003 the pouring rain and the freezing weather could have discouraged the influx of fans to Mugello for the Ferrari party. The passion, the presence of the F1 team and its drivers, a rich program of races and performances, instead fill the stands. Over 50.000 people to acclaim the winners and the two world titles. A crowd in red, as usual with the big heart unfolded on the track and a huge, long banner that simply reads:


"Ferrari World Champion 1999-2000-2001-2002-2003".


Few but significant figures, so much so as to attract the admired gaze of Giuseppe Morchio, CEO of the Fiat Group who does not miss the event, together with John and Lapo Elkann, the two grandchildren of lawyer Agnelli who play an important role in the company. The Maranello team is a symbol of made in Italy in the world and its triumphs are good for everyone. Before everyone jumps on the track, to thank the fans and for the fun performances, Michael Schumacher, almost moved, also expresses himself in Italian, then - as the practice dictates - in English and German.


"I feel an indescribable affection for the team and the people. We've been winning for five years, but there are always new and bigger emotions. I still remember clearly the faces of the people who were under the podium in Monza. They were celebrating with us and it's right to have here now,  together on a day that reflects the season and the final win".


To those who point out how Schumacher in Suzuka spoke little about his sixth title, the driver replies:


"I'm not the right person to think about records. I enjoy success and that's it. I saw the comparisons with Fangio. I don't think I beat his record. He has his, I have mine. We lived in different times that can't be compared".


In any case, only Schumacher can now surpass Schumacher.


"Of course we want to win together, work together. We suffer a lot, together, when we lose. We have only one purpose. Continue on the same path. I see no reason why we should stop".


Not even if the new rules, thought for 2004 could create further problems?


"I didn't think much about it. So I don't have a precise opinion on this. We'll see".


However, opponents are getting closer and closer and becoming dangerous.


"We'll figure something out about it after the winter tests. However, I believe that the trend in the next championship will not be much different from what we have just concluded. It's going to be difficult, there's no doubt about that".


You have been at Ferrari since 1996, how has it changed in recent years?


"It's easy to guess. In the first season we won three races. Since then there has been an extraordinary, extreme development. We count the world titles".


But is Schumacher tired or was it a bad impression that someone had had during the season?


"If I had been tired, could I have won the World Championship? Unfortunately for them some drivers (reference to Irvine and Villeneuve? Ed) had expressed their opinion to the media without verifying, asking, understanding the situation. All stories to make the news. Yes, in the end I'm also tired. But I'll rest, I'll charge the batteries on vacation with the family. I have no intention of retiring, I still have all the reasons to keep racing. Just these days I learned about the exploits of an exceptional person; Martina Navratilova, who is 47 years old, was called up for the Federation Cup, the Women's Davis Cup. If you still have the possibility and ability to play tennis at that level, it means that there are some people who last over time. Maybe I'm a guy like her".


A threat? Does Michael want to stay at Ferrari until 2016? Obviously this is just a joke. But it is clear that the German feels he has the strength to defend the title indefinitely. Intention that unites him with Barrichello, who denies having contact with Williams:


"No one has ever called me".


Explain the Brazilian. Perhaps Rubens also hopes to stay at Ferrari for at least another decade. Luca Montezemolo, hazelnut jacket and jeans, strictly red tie with Cavallino Rampante, joins the team at Mugello. Hugs and kisses with everyone. Still great emotions. A shout only to the crowd of  fans, very numerous and warm:


"Forza Ferrari, forever".


A few minutes earlier the president of Ferrari and Maserati had jokingly sat in Jean Todt's arms at a press conference. Sign of a cheerful and relaxed climate.


"I'm happy. I have to thank these three men. Michael was extraordinary as always, he made us live another dream year. Rubens went through some difficult times but was also the protagonist of two wonderful races, Silverstone and Suzuka. Since he's been there, we've always won the constructor’s title".


Speaking briefly about the future, Montezemolo adds:


"The team had a great reaction in the middle of the year. In the automotive world we are still very small. We also had to fight against difficult regulations. For this reason, the satisfaction is even greater. These men, the drivers, the people will give us great strength for 2004. They are our certainty and our hope".


On Sunday, October 19, 2003 Jean Todt will already be in his Fiorano office. For some time now the technicians led by Rory Byrne regarding the chassis and Paolo Martinelli for the engine have been working on the 2004 Ferrari. The French manager will follow the work in progress and draw up the short, medium and long-term programs, as is his custom, as he never leaves anything pending. The holidays? Maybe a few days in November. Now he must also think about the new regulations that will be applied next season, the staff of Sports Management, the suppliers and the other thousand problems that he often has to solve personally.


"We are all happy. Slowly we are realising what happened, the conclusion of a difficult season, with Ferrari writing yet another page of its history, a fantastic story, lived with a fantastic group. I will never get tired of repeating it. There are hard-to-beat records: five consecutive Constructors' titles, Schumacher champion for the fourth time with us and with six world championships in total. It's unique".


Words of admiration also for Barrichello:


"I think he's had his best season. Also thanks to his result in Japan, a beautiful victory, Schumacher had the security of winning the World Championship and so did Ferrari. It couldn't have created a better scenario".


Satisfaction also to have focused on the Mugello circuit for the party with the fans.


"On this track ours drivers, also with the help of Badoer and Massa, developed the car that won, the F2003 GA. It's nice to have all the staff of the Squadra Corse here with their family, customers, sponsors. Let's not forget that Ferrari was able to win even with Biagi and Bobbi, at the helm of the 550 Maranello the tourism championship. And in the next year again in the GT we will make the Maserati debut. In all likelihood the debut will take place in the middle of the season, and then face all the races in 2005. A global commitment that exalts us in some way. We have so much motivation to continue doing well and our secret is a fierce determination in wanting to achieve the goals we set ourselves".


Closing with Rubens Barrichello, still with the joy in his eyes shown to Suzuka:


"It was tough. In 2002 we had a super car and the others were behind. This year we struggled more, but so it's also more beautiful. I think I have given my best and I hope to be able to do the same next year. These hours, however, are all for our fans, a part of the merit for the successes of Ferrari is also them".


Jean Todt, who has been in charge of the racing team and all the sporting activities of the Maranello team for over ten years, has shown that he has great organisational skills. With suffering, because in motoring everything is always possible, and with great determination. The results came after a difficult break-in period during which it would also have been easy to give up for the victories missed at the last race. But with the full support of Luca Montezemolo, the French manager grew the team, reaching the - probably inimitable - record of nine world titles won in five years. Ferrari and the fans owe him a deep, sincere thank you. Jean Todt, how does it feel after Suzuka's creepy ending?


"It was a fantastic day, with huge pressures, ended in the best way. We hit the goals we had set for ourselves. We knew from the beginning that we would have to fight with all our might. Competition has grown, they have forced us into a continuous and stressful commitment. The new regulations have penalised us more than they did with our opponents. The demonstration is simple: with the old scoring system we would have won the championships earlier and with greater detachment. So there remains the satisfaction of having been able to overcome every difficulty".


A ritual question. Which are the best moments and which are the most difficult?


"I don't like to examine a season in detail, it's more fair to see it as a whole. However: we had arrived in Monza in a precarious condition, we could be beaten definitively, after what had happened in Budapest. Instead, at that very moment we were able to reverse the situation, to reverse a negative trend. The same in Indianapolis. Every race always has a different story. Still in Japan there was a chance on paper to lose everything we had built in the previous fifteen races. We had started with a disappointment in Australia, but the conscience was clear".


And at this point what does it feel like, on a day of celebration for Ferrari at Mugello?


"A great emotion, at all levels. Thanks to Ferrari, Michael, Rubens and each of the members of Sports Management. Here is the strength of the team: there is humility, respect for roles and people, the individual desire to push in the same direction. I am proud to know that there is this structure that has only one motivation. Personally, I will never tire of repeating it, I was lucky enough to have President Montezemolo, who by calling me to Maranello made a not easy choice, which let me work even at the worst of times. As in the day of Jerez 1997, a beating, or in the final of 1898 and 1999. Episodes that have made us stronger, that have accustomed us to fight all the way and all the way".


What did Jean Todt learn from Ferrari?


"I learned to resist. I am very proud to be at Ferrari. It's unique. And I'm glad I've taken the path I've taken in these ten years. After all, I am a foreigner. But I spend 220 days a year in Italy, 40 in France and the rest around the world". 


And adds:


"I think I'm integrated, and I think I'll still be there a lot. Without forgetting that Schumacher and I became ambassadors of San Marino. A small republic inserted in the Italian territory. I now run a vital part of the company and I am on the Board of Directors. I couldn't ask for more. Previously with Peugeot I had won everything from rallies to raids, to endurance races. Accepting the assignment was an arduous choice, even for life. It could also have been a mistake, instead it turned out to be the most appropriate and the most beautiful of my professional activity. With Ferrari there is passion and complicity. Just look at the emotions and joys brought to our fans to be happy".


Among other things, this year you had taken on a great responsibility by dedicating the F2003 to the lawyer Giovanni Agnelli.


"It was right to do it at a particularly sad time, in the name of a person who had always been very close to Ferrari. But, even without wanting to do unnecessary sentimentality, the dedication also applies to all the men who work in the workshops day and night. The world of Formula 1 is difficult. But now we have brought home these results and we can enjoy the success. I also think of the founder of Cavallino Rampante. I wrote a book in 1985 and Enzo Ferrari gave me a beautiful preface that I still have in my heart. Finally, I thank the shareholders who always help us and above all leave Ferrari free to do its job".


Part of the credit also to your sponsors and technical suppliers...


"Of course, without them - we always say it - it wouldn't even be possible to get on the track. On one hand, they give you the opportunity to economically support expensive activities, I'm talking about Philip Morris and Vodafone, on the other hand they guarantee us the best material. I'm talking about Shell, Amd, Magneti Marelli, Brembo, Skf and everyone who collaborates with us. A special talk about Bridgestone. The Japanese company that supplies us with the tires has suffered all colours this year, it has been criticised. But it won nine Grand Prix and gave us a decisive hand for winning the two titles".


At times the relationship between Ferrari and Bridgestone has suffered more than in recent years, but in Maranello they have always defended their supplier:


"When we won, we all did it together, driver, chassis, engine and tires. If we lose, let's all take responsibility together".


A constructive attitude made it possible to recover the disadvantage through very tough tests that sometimes engaged drivers and testers on three tracks at the same time. In the end, for the sixth consecutive season it won Bridgestone. There was also a legal parenthesis. Through a photograph, Ferrari signalled to the race commissioners at the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix that the tread of the opponents' front tires were wider than the regulatory 27 centimetres. In its defensive line, Michelin argued that the measurement should be done on new tires. Instead, the Federation agreed with Ferrari and threatened sanctions (i.e. disqualification) against those who continued to transgress. Hirohide Hamashima, technical director of Bridgestone Motorsport, explains:


"The new rules forced us to review our strategies, because this year almost all the teams made an extra pit stop. But our philosophy has remained the same: to build tires that guarantee consistent performance throughout their use".


The fuel in a Formula 1 must be 99% the same as that supplied by a regular gas station. The goal is to reduce fuel consumption (so as to decrease the weight of the car) without penalising the power of the engine. To analyse more than 200 components of its gasoline, Shell uses equipment identical to that used by the Federation, in order to continuously control the product and avoid the risk of disqualifications. Engine oil has two main functions: to protect the moving parts from friction and to cool. After use it is examined by X-rays to check the wear status of the gears. Depending on the metal particles it contains, technicians understand which parts of the thruster were most stressed, as if it were a blood test. Between tests and races, Ferrari uses 250.000 litres of gasoline and 40.000 litres of oil every year. In addition to going strong, a Formula 1 must also be able to stop in as little space as possible. Ferrari's braking system is built by Brembo, which won the thirteenth constructors' title in Formula 1 this year. Part of the electronics (including software) is made in-house. External suppliers are Amd that produces microprocessors (for example those that end up in the steering wheel), Acer for computers, Magneti Marelli for the various control units, Olympus for optical equipment, Vodafone for telephony. The ten pistons of each engine are made in Germany: Mahle builds them. From the Skf instead come ball bearings, Omr provides various components, seat and seat belts are made by Sabelt. The car bears the Fiat brand, the majority shareholder of Ferrari. This is a mainly technical collaboration: the Turin-based company provides its research center, which the designers of the Maranello team employ in numerous sectors. Fiat also elected Michael Schumacher its ambassador for communication. But now, what's in the future of Ferrari?


"A compact team. The same desire to win, the intention however to fight at the top, respecting the opponents who will be stronger and more hungry. But we haven't lost our appetite either".


An aerodynamic engineer who went from Ferrari to Toyota, another who after working for the two Formula 1 teams set up his own business, a company in the Modena area, a wind tunnel under construction, a third man, two almost identical single-seaters. And then ten floppy disks, thirty cd-roms and a computer seized, full of projects (copied? Originals? Stolen?) for the realisation of a racing car. From Maranello to Cologne, Tuesday, November 4, 2003 the spy story begins to unravel. There are the characters and the plot, the searches and the first two warranty notices with the suspicion of industrial espionage. The story begins at the end of 2001, when aerodynamic engineer Mauro lacconi leaves Ferrari and moves to Cologne, to the German plant where Toyota is preparing its entry into Formula 1. It is he who designs the models to be studied in the wind tunnel, lacconi decides after a year to return to Italy and to continue the activity on his own, while continuing a collaboration relationship with Toyota. He lives in Formigine and founds the Aerolab, based in Sant'Agata Bolognese and a wind tunnel under construction in nearby Nonantola. The Bologna computer police show up at his home on Thursday, October 30, 2003, gives him a warranty notice, searches the apartment and company, seizes projects and computers. At the same time, three other Italian agents accompanied by thirty Germans carry out a similar operation in Cologne. Another Italian engineer works at Toyota, Angelo Santini. From 1995 to February 28, 2002 he was present in the aerodynamics department of Ferrari. It is on him that the suspicions weigh. He is interrogated for three hours, then released. He receives a warranty notice and must hand over all suspicious computer equipment. In particular, the inventory contains ten computer disks and thirty cd-roms. One of them printed the Cavallino logo, a circumstance that in itself does not prove anything, as it could be an advertising product. It will be the deputy prosecutor of Modena, Fausto Casari, who will instruct an expert to find out the origin and date of the projects. The key to the spy story is in three questions: in the new Toyota have there been ideas that revolved in Maranello before the departure of lacconi and Santini or was Ferrari copied after the official presentation? Do the similarities limit themselves to the line or do they also affect hidden parts such as the engine? Is there an informant in Maranello? Interviewed in March 2003 by the Gazzetta di Modena, Santini told about his work in Germany.


"Toyota is allowed to design a car from an aerodynamic point of view. In Ferrari I would never have had such an opportunity".


His answer at the time on the similarity between single-seaters sounds strange:


"Some difference always exists. Different tires, for example, require a different aerodynamics".


Now he denies everything:


"I'm innocent, I didn't steal any trade secrets".


The similarity between the single-seater that struck the most at the beginning of the season was precisely the one between Toyota (red too) and Ferrari. The Japanese TF103 in its first version looked like the F2002 with which Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello started the season and, in its evolution, the new F2003-GA that debuted in Spain. The complaint started from Maranello (which does not confirm). The only comment is from Piero Ferrari:


"Thanks to new technologies and diskettes, stealing industrial secrets today is easier".


Toyota pulls itself out of the controversy:


"There is no accusation against us. It is a fact that concerns one of our employees, who after the interrogation resumed his work in the aerodynamics department".


Says spokesman Andrea Ficarelli. A search also concerned another former Ferrari coach, Antonio Tentorio, but he seems unrelated to the story. It's weird. In Formula 1 we have always tried to cover the technical secrets and not to let the rivals know about any moves in the organisation of the teams. Then it turns out that espionage is practiced more than in the books of Le Carré and that the rumours are ascertained news. There had long been talk of a move of Juan Fabio Montoya from Williams to McLaren in 2005. And on Monday, November 17, 2003, Ron Dennis' team linked to Mercedes engines announces that in two seasons the Colombian will complete the lineup with Kimi Raikkonen. But the most surprising fact is that the information came so far in advance. If it is true that the announcement puts an end to the number of rumours that had been circulating for some time, it is not clear why McLaren has now announced the engagement of the driver who this year ranked third in the World Championship. And it is also curious the choice of Montoya who put himself in an uncomfortable double position. First of all because a team, knowing that a pilot will leave at the end of the year, normally does not favour him. And also because in recent months Williams has proven to be more competitive than McLaren. Will it be a matter of money? Williams has always been relatively sparse with his employees. In a few years it has turned away newly nominated world champions, such as Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. Because they were asking for money. Perhaps there is also an environmental issue involved: Bmw, a partner of Williams, has shown that it has a natural preference for the German Ralf Schumacher. Without forgetting that at McLaren the brave Juan Fabio should find as a teammate a certain Kimi Raikkonen, not easy to tame. The conditional is mandatory because the Finn's contract will expire at the end of 2004. Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Montoya says:


"I'm excited to race for McLaren. The team is one of the most accredited to aim for the title. For me it's a great opportunity and I can't wait to be able to drive one of their cars for the first time. It's an important change and an experience that I think will fill me with joy. But now I still have to concentrate one hundred percent to win the 2004 World Cup".


The McLaren team also expresses satisfaction. Ron Dennis explains:


"We want to win races and World Championships and for that we have to plan for the future. The opportunity to hire a talent like Montoya was too greedy to let it slip. I believe his presence with us will unleash F1 fans all over the world".


The news raises many questions. Between the Woking team and Williams there has always been great rivalry, accentuated in recent years by the strong presence of Mercedes with the first and Bmw with the second. What will be said if the Colombian in 2004 were to stand behind Kimi Raikkonen in some race without trying to overcome him? And how will the sponsors behave? Unless it's a comedy. Early announcement, Williams immediately fires Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren pays David Coulthard to stay at home and Jacques Villeneuve, unemployed, gets into the car left free by the Colombian. Fanta-Formula 1? No. Anything is possible. This is not the first time that there have been sensational passages between the two English teams. Mansell played four races with Williams in 1994 and two with McLaren in 1995. Rosberg closed the business after the World Championship and four years with Williams, at the wheel of a McLaren in 1986. Senna lost his life in 1994 on a Williams after six triumphant seasons with the other team. Even David Coulthard raced and won with Williams before going to McLaren. By the way: the Scottish has a contract for 2004 but the signing of Juan Pablo Montoya marks his exclusion from the Woking team. And maybe the abandonment of the races. As if that were not enough, on Tuesday 25 November 2003 the McLaren-Mercedes again precedes everyone by deploying, at the official resumption of the tests, the single-seater that will race the next Formula 1 World Championship. After failing the 2003 single-seater project, the Woking team carries out the break-in of the MP4-19, to the development of which a former engineer taken away from Ferrari, the Greek Nicholas Tombazis, will contribute. David Coulthard comments:


"The car looks good. The potential is great, we have taken a significant step forward".


The Scottish driver begins to familiarise himself with the single-seater on the Valencia circuit, but scores only the ninth fastest time (and is also forced to stop at the rink-side). The first day of testing is all Williams-Bmw brand: best time of Juan Fabio Montoya, who runs in 1'10"081 (69 laps traveled), ahead of teammate Ralf Schumacher (1'10"718) and test driver Marc Gene (1'11”224). Fourth place for Alexander Wurz with the old McLaren (1'11“299), then Franck Montagny (Renault, 1'11"823), Mark Webber (Jaguar, 1'11"876), Jarno Trulli (Renault, 1'11"950), Christian Klien (Jaguar, 1'11”955), David Coulthard (1'12"035), Townsend Bell ( Ferrari tests on another Spanish circuit, that of Barcelona. At the wheel of the F2003-GA World Champion, the three testers are working on tires, electronics and engine: Felipe Massa, who in 2004 will give a hand to the Maranello team while driving as a starter for Sauber, Luca Badoer and Luciano Burti. The fastest is Badoer: 69 laps, the best in 1'17"799, then Massa (93 laps, 1'18"103) in front of Takuma Sato's BAR, who from this hill mounts Michelin tires, then Burti, who runs only 36 laps for a technical problem. The fifth time is set by Giancarlo Fisichella, making his debut with Sauber. On Tuesday, December 9, 2003, Rubens Barrichello returns to the track. The troop of Ferrari test drivers touches the first part of the work for 2004, and now the starting drivers take to the track. 


While Michael Schumacher enjoys the last days of his vacation waiting to challenge a plane (the Eurofighter fighter, appointment on Thursday, December 11, 2003 at the Grosseto military airport), the Brazilian will get behind the wheel on Tuesday in Jerez (Spain). He will be alongside the veteran of the Maranello test drivers, Luca Badoer, who in the last two weeks has been testing together with Felipe Massa and Luciano Burti.


"The 2004 World Cup was won by me. I race to win races and titles, now and always".


At 31 years old and after twelve seasons in Formula 1, the Brazilian driver wants to crown his career with the most important success.


"It's my big dream, something I owe to myself and to all those who have suffered with me and more than me for all these years: my wife, my father, my grandfather and even my son. They are my biggest reason to keep fighting to win".


Barrichello is the second Brazilian driver in number of Grand Prix disputed (178), behind only three-time World Champion Nelson Piquet.


"I still haven't reached the top of my abilities, and I know I can do better than I've done so far. The arm doesn't get better, but the head does".


On the future, Rubens Barrichello prefers not to get out of balance. His contract expires at the end of 2004, like that of another protagonist of the motor circus, Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother. His negotiations with Williams are not proceeding.


"If the conditions are not satisfactory, we will not sign".


Says his manager Willi Weber. The future, according to market rumours, could see him at Toyota in the two seasons. Who, on the other hand, must remain at the helm of Formula 1, now that an agreement has been reached between the manufacturers and the banks, is Bernie Ecclestone. This was supported by the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, in a statement reported by the Guardian on Wednesday, December 10, 2003. The new deal - writes the English newspaper - has thwarted the threat of manufacturers to abandon the Formula 1 boss to create, starting in 2008, a parallel championship.


"We need even more that Ecclestone continues to lead this sport, because everything is run by the banks. There are many important aspects to agree on, including television rights, ticket sales, advertising".


Thursday, December 11, 2003, at the time of the challenge between Michael Schumacher and Maurizio Cheli, the German driver admits:


"The plane is stronger, I would only have won if Ferrari flew".


And the Italian driver responds:


"Now I understand why you are World Champions".


The two park side by side on the Grosseto airport runway, the F2003-GA and the Eurofighter Typhoon, a 600-pound single-seater and a 23-ton fighter. The challenge is over: 2-1 in favour of the jet. Schumacher resisted, won over the distance of 600 meters, stood up to the opponent on the 900, but on the 1200 meters he reached the finish line, when the Typhoon was already aiming for the clouds. Between the two drivers, the Formula 1 World Champion and the astronaut who flew on the Shuttle Columbia, words of praise fly. Says Cheli, between the two the most excited:


"We complimented each other. He doesn't need mine, but I appreciated his".


Excited by the challenge?


"Technically I haven't done anything special. The traffic light at the start was the only difference from a normal take-off manoeuvre. I had to hold the brakes for a few seconds with the engines at 90 percent of the power. The emotion was another, it was to challenge Schumacher. It's not something that happens every day".


It's not even easy to beat him these days.


"It's true, I'll remember this day forever. I'd like to try an F1, assuming I'm able to drive it".


The challenge starts at 10:30 a.m.: the Typhoon is placed on the main track, the Ferrari on a parallel lane. The choreography is from Formula 1: red light, engines that go up in laps, start. After three seconds the F2003-GA is far away and seems impregnable, after nine seconds the plane flanks it with an impressive progression and detaches from the ground the moment it crosses the finish line at 600 meters. Result at the photofinish: Ferrari 1-Typhoon 0. Rematch on the 900 meters, the intermediate and most significant distance. Same ceremonial, identical shot of Schumacher, but this time the plane has time to recover and pass in the lead: 1-1. On the 1200 meters the beautiful is disputed, the Eurofighter gives a lesson in power and wins the comparison.


"It's easier to challenge Montoya and Raikkonen".


Admits Michael Schumacher, who accepts defeat with a smile but would have done anything to impose himself. As always.


"I had a great time, it was exciting. From my cockpit I saw the fighter take off almost vertically. Beautiful. It's always a great experience to compete in Italy with Ferrari".


The organisers have over 50.000 spectators, despite the cold, rain and working day. To which must be added a hundred protesters of the Tuscan group of protesters, which attempts an invasion of the track at the end of the event.


"It wasn't a competition: the purpose was to put together two worlds, so different but also so similar, Italy and the Italian technology that win today".


Says Piero Ferrari, vice president of Ferrari. The most famous car in the world and the new European fighter produced by Italy, France, Germany and Spain, to whose construction the Alenia Aeronautica and Avio have contributed and which in the coming weeks will officially take service.


"It wasn't a competition, but we gave it our all".


In fact, Cheli gets an idea of what a race strategy in Formula 1 is. The Ferrari, which he had faced on Wednesday in the tests, was much slower.


"But then in rehearsal it was all a joke".


These are the first words expressed by the former top gun to the men in red, always agonists, even when they point out that the wet track (therefore slower) has forced them to mount wet tires and change the aerodynamics. Ferrari's technicians explain:


"Contrary to what you might think, the GA had a Monte-Carlo-style trim, with very inclined ailerons to improve grip and traction in the wet at the cost of penalising the speed".


The reason?


"We wanted to reach 300 km/h quickly and win so on the 600 meters. It is useless to try to reach the top speeds that this car is capable of (368.8 km/h in the last Italian Grand Prix in Monza, ed): the plane would have passed us anyway".


Also concluded this challenge, on Tuesday, December 16, 2003, in Maranello, in front of a huge Christmas board, with a Ferrari F2003 GA in the centre, Luca Montezemolo examines the balance of the season. He talks about the past, the present and the future. Between the just launch of the Maserati foot-door and the imminent launch of the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti (in January in Detroit), the president of Ferrari always finds time for the business of the heart: Formula 1. From the championship ended with the conquest of two more world titles, to the next one that will begin on Sunday 7 March 2004 in Australia. A complete panorama, with some news and small surprises: Michael Schumacher who could stay beyond 2006, the opening to Giancarlo Fisichella, greater synergies with the Fiat Group, the presentation of the Maserati that will compete in the great tourism. President, in recent days the English newspaper Times has drawn from an interview the impression that you want to abandon Ferrari. Is it true?


"Interpretations that are the result of so many speeches. It's not true. In fact, I would also like to take a sabbatical year of rest. Then come back. It is not possible. My future is at Ferrari and Maserati. It's a choice of life, close to these people, immersed in this kind of work".


With a thousand sufferings, as far as the races are concerned.


"It's never easy. When we started our incredible positive series, no one would have thought of winning five consecutive Constructors’ championships and four drivers’ championships with Schumacher. 2003 was tough. The key? After Hungary, starting at the front in Monza, with Michael who repelled a rabid attack by Montoya,  gave us back the necessary momentum. Double satisfaction also because the 2003 GA car was dedicated to the lawyer Agnelli. January 24th will be a year we missed him. He would have been happy with us".


Even the team never gave up.


"This is our strength. The willingness to react, always. Compactness, commitment. And also the help of Barrichello, who lived his best year. The success of Silverstone, then that of Suzuka. In Japan, a point would have been enough for Schumacher, but he was in P14 on the grid. It wasn't easy".


And the adversaries grow.


"Of course, natural. We are no longer in the days of the English Garagists. Here we fight against the world's greatest powers in motoring: Bmw, Mercedes, Renault, Toyota, Ford, Honda, It’s not a joke".


Speaking of manufacturers: the deal with the banks, which hold 74% of F1 shares, and with Ecclestone, is on the finishing line.


"We hope to sign by the end of the year. In the interest of everyone. The teams will have more income, the management will remain in Bernie, we can be more proactive, we hope to help the organisers of the races as well. F1 doesn't have to be just a television sport, you also have to fill the circuits with fans. A fairer division of receipts will be good for each of the parties, including the shareholders".


The show, that is, the formula and the regulations, also need to be reviewed.


"We don't have to be too conservative. Something had to be changed. We cannot do anything now, but in 2005 we will try to change some more rules. I do not digest, for example, the current distribution of points. We risked seeing a driver like Raikkonen win the title with two first places, if he had done them, against Schumacher's six. It's not good".


Michael and Kimi, the old and the new recruits...


"The generational change is underway. But Schumacher remains the strongest. Just these days I've seen him in a wonderful shape. I would not be surprised if after the end of the contract in 2006 he asked us to continue. The others are good but they have to make their way. I still don't see any real anti-Schumacher".


You don't do like many teams that try different drivers.


“We are not a car rental company. Obviously we look around. With discretion. Barrichello has grown up again. With him, who has a contract until the end of next season, we will have time to talk, to evaluate new solutions".


A strong team, which does not change. But the rivals press.


"We expect a very, very, very difficult and hard-fought championship. In the past we were talking about transition, then we focused on confirmations. Now let's say that we will do everything to try to win again, against opponents who also have budgets higher than ours. And a lot of hunger".


David against Goliath?


"We are small but we are not alone. We have very strong partners and suppliers. I'm talking about Bridgestone, who works so hard for us, Shell who gave us a big hand even if sometimes this is not noticed, those who provide us with the economic means like Marlboro and Vodafone, of those who are part of our group. And we are also developing a technological pole with the Fiat Research Center and Magneti Marelli. Very interesting, for the races and the product".


There is a tyre problem, with five strong teams provided by Michelin competitor, while Ferrari is pretty much isolated with Bridgestone.


"We have confidence in the collaboration of the great Japanese House. Of course, I would like you to run with only one brand of tires: everything would be easier and you would understand the true values of cars and drivers. But let's stay by the rules. However, we are not alone at all: in case of need, Sauber will give us a hand. We have the good Badoer as a test driver, we took back Luciano Burli and we will also have the guys from Sauber itself, namely Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa. Todt knows that, taking advantage of the friendship that exists with the Swiss team, there will be no problems if we need their contribution in the tests, It will be a very hard year for us, however I do not think the competition will be able to go downhill. We'll see".


Speaking of rivals, Flavio Briatore, girls aside, works hard for the French team he directs. After a year of great growth, with fourth place in the World Constructors' Championship and a victory by Fernando Alonso, it will be hard to progress forward again.


"We'll give it our all. In the last championship we had made a right and courageous choice, that of carrying out fewer private tests to be able to try on Friday morning in the weekend of the races. This has brought us a certain advantage. If we had also had the reliability of the cars, we could have been much closer to the best, perhaps doing even better than McLaren".


Will the technical changes of 2004, with the obligation to use only one engine for the Grand Prix, create problems for you?


"I don't think so. This is not a radical change. Perhaps there will be concerns in the first three or four races, then everything will go back to the way it was before. In any case, possibly, this will not be a handicap just for Renault. However, I admit that at the moment it is difficult to know where we will be at the beginning of the season compared to our rivals. We didn't build a totally new engine, even as a concept".


In the winter tests the McLaren, already with the new car, went strong immediately.


"We with last season's single-seater weren't very far away, sometimes we were even faster. If that's the performance of the new McLaren, it doesn't bother us much".


In 2003 someone claimed that your engine was not the best in terms of power.


"There is a lot of talk about engine horses. In reality, a powertrain more powerful than the others is not enough on its own to win a World Championship. I want to remember that in 1994 with the Benetton and Schumacher we beat Honda, Renault and Ferrari, mounting the Ford V8s that had 80-90 horses less. And this year we imposed ourselves in a race even though we didn't have the strongest engine. You need to have something good at your disposal, of course, but what wins is the overall package of a team".


And you lost designer Mike Gascoyne, who switched to Toyota...


"For me it's a fascinating thing. When Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne arrived in F1, they were strangers. With us they became stars and went to Ferrari. I am happy to have created super talents who leave us because they are offered a lot of money. Too bad you don't take anything to us. Don't worry too much: the era where only one man, like John Barnard, could make a difference is over. Now it's the group that matters, it's important to work well in the wind tunnel. I understand the motivations that drove Mike to change".


But this way Toyota will also be able to be more competitive.


"I think it will still take at least two years to complete the operation. However, it is difficult to make predictions. We don't know where we will be, but we don't know where Ferrari, McLaren and Williams will be either. Ferrari's cycle was extraordinary and very long. But the cycles are destined to end".


But Renault will have to go up again.


"We are here for this. I have planned, as far as I am concerned, to stay in F1 for a maximum of two or three more years. I'll do something else, maybe I'll form a drivers management company. It's not good to do the same thing for too long".


It seems that Michael Schumacher thinks differently.


"Is he 37 years old? No, 35. He is still young. I don't know what he will do. As long as he likes to drive he will have no reason to leave the races. One thing is certain: he will have his hard work todo to stop the young people who hunt him".


The Formula 1 World Championship will begin on Sunday, March 7 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, and will end on Sunday, October 24, 2004, no longer in Japan but with the Brazilian Grand Prix in São Paulo. Many additions on the calendar: great curiosity especially for the debut of China (it will be held in Shanghai on Sunday 26 September 2004) and Bahrain (third race scheduled, Sunday 4 April 2004, then in Malaysia). Several date shifts compared to the past, a marathon comprising as many as eighteen races, of which you are only one week away from the previous one. The San Marino Grand Prix is the fourth stage of the World Championship (Sunday 25 April 2004), in Monza it will be held instead on Sunday 12 September 2004 (fourth last race). On the drivers' front, the excellent exclusion is that of Jacques Villeneuve, who has not found a team and probably will no longer find it: the only two places still available are in fact at Jordan. Also because Hungarian driver Zsolt Baumgartner will be the second official driver of the European Minardi Cosworth for the 2004 Formula 1 World Championship. The twenty-two-year-old driver born in Budapest, who will make his debut next season alongside Gianmaria Bruni, has already drove two Formula 1 races in 2003, the Hungarian Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix, when he was summoned by the Jordan team to replace the injured Ralph Firman. But next year he will make his official debut, enrolled full-time in the World Championship.


"For me, Christmas came ahead of schedule. After last year I was more determined than ever to want to stay in the Grand Prix world. I made my dream come true, although in reality it still doesn't seem all true to me. There are many people who have helped me get to this point in my racing chamber, but I would particularly like to thank Thomas Frank, for being incessantly by my side, and Paul Stoddart, patron of Minardi, for giving me the opportunity to demonstrate my skills in a difficult world like that of racing in Formula 1".


In fact, the young Hungarian talent has to thank above all the government of his country, which found the 4.000.000 dollars needed to get him on a car: it was the sponsorship requested by the team to have him race next year.


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