Michael Schumacher became the first driver to win two grands prix in 2003 after giving the brand-new Ferrari
F2003-GA a debut victory in the Spanish Grand Prix
at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The German led from lights to flag, only losing the lead when he pitted for fuel and tyres, but the real star of the show was local hero Fernando Alonso, who managed to come from the second row to split the two Ferrari
drivers on the podium.
Indeed, the Spanish youngster, buoyed by hundreds of blue and gold flags on the terraces as a large proportion of his Oviedo townsfolk made the journey to the Catalan capital to cheer him on, almost split the two Ferraris into the first corner. Such was the performance of Renault's fabled launch control that Alonso powered past Rubens Barrichello
on the run to the corner, only losing out as he tucked in behind Schumacher and watched as Rubens took to the grippier outside line.
The Brazilian's impetus then almost gave Alonso a second bite at the cherry, for the #2 Ferrari
came mighty close to touch its sister as Schumacher cut across for the left-hander exit. Barrichello took to the dirt, bouncing over the kerb, but still managed to tuck in behind the world champion's rear wing.
That was not the only scrape at the start, however. As the supporting F3000 race had shown on Saturday, the opening corner complex was tight enough with 18 cars trying to funnel through, and Jarno Trulli
found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as David Coulthard
attempted to come around the outside of the queue and nudged the second Renault
into the tyre wall and retirement.
''It is always a racing accident,'' Trulli lamented, ''but I think David was being a bit optimistic as I was in a queue and he came around the outside.''
Remarkably, however, this was not the first incident of the race - and only 18 cars had to try and find a way through turns one and two in the F1 race as well. Starting from the back of the grid, current points leader Kimi Raikkonen
knew that he had much to do if he was to limit the damage caused by his off in Saturday's qualifying, but his move towards the front last all of ten yards as, with the rest of the field moving left, he opted to go right as the lights went out. He then found out why the two Minardis ahead of him on the grid had chosen to go the way they did, for Antonio Pizzonia's Jaguar was stationary on the grid, its launch control having failed for the second race running.
There was to be no reprieve for either man, with Raikkonen's car left stranded in the middle of the track with its right front corner askew, and the luckless Pizzonia scrambling over the pit-wall after his R4 had been pushed off the road. If this is the last we see of the troubled Brazilian in F1, it will have been a sorry exit, for the organisers decided against throwing the red flag, and opted to bring out the safety car, despite the position of Raikkonen's car. As it happened, there was room for the field to filter through on the left of the McLaren, although some decided the time was right to top off with fuel.
For Coulthard, the time was also right for a new set of tyres, as the collision with Trulli has sliced a neat hole in one of his rears. His punishment for playing a part in the incident was to be dropped to the back of the field as the McLaren
pit crew checked the rest of his car over, leaving a tough ask if he was to help his team-mate's cause by splitting the Ferraris up front.