F1 » 14 September 2003
Italian GP 2003 - Schumacher retakes initiative.
Michael Schumacher retook the initiative in the race for the 2003 Formula One world championship crowns today after an unchallenged performance atop the pile in front of the adoring tifosi at Monza.
After placing his Ferrari back on pole position on Saturday, and with his rival Michelin runners having had to contend with enforced tyre changes, Michael looked in command for the entire race, though it was by no means a walk in the park for the five time world champion.
At the start the Ferrari was under attack from all comers with Juan Pablo Montoya trying to set an early marker by attempting to go around the outside of the German. Ferrari's Ross Brawn will be happy, however, as both drivers showed class and rounded a number of corners along side each other without making contact, though the gap between the two front-running championship contenders was minimal. "We competed cleanly as neither of us could afford a DNF," explained Juan Pablo afterwards.
Renault's Jarno Trulli took advantage of Renault's superb launch control from his sixth place on the grid to be right with the action on these first corners, but Renault's avowed aim to take a risky approach to the rest of the season regarding strategy and technical upgrades meant that Trulli's race was over before the first tour was even complete with the Italian slowing and parking at the side of the track. "I was going through the second Lesmo when I felt that the power steering had failed," explained Trulli, "then the engine cut out. It's a real shame, because the car was good today."
Whilst Michael Schumacher was winning through in his battle at the front with Juan Pablo, the rear of the grid had been all action too. Justin Wilson had problems getting away from the line and former team-mate Jos Verstappen had to take avoiding action. Hungarian race winner Fernando Alonso got caught up in this and his front wing suffered. All three were to prove to be early visitors to the pits as a result.
Already having visited the pits after the formation lap was Giancarlo Fisichella, who experienced electrical problems. The Italian opted to take to the pits rather than risk a possible problem on the grid as the lights went off and in the same breath opted for a one stop strategy, meaning a heavy car for much of the race, but one, at least, that got to the end of the race.
Come the end of the first lap the field lined up Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Coulthard, Panis, Gene, Villeneuve, Button, Heidfeld and da Matta, but already space was opening up between the contenders; clearly this was to be no Hungary.
As the race settled it soon became clear that the two main front contenders would be Schumacher and Montoya as the pair traded fastest laps at the front of the field and made a gap between themselves and those behind. Schumacher worked on a gap from himself back to Montoya whilst the Colombian worked on keeping up with the German, but all the while left the pursuers, led by Rubens Barrichello, behind them.
Back in the pursuing group Cristiano da Matta found himself with his very own tyre issue, and one of a rather pressing nature, as he suffered a high-speed puncture as he came down towards the Parabolica. At this rather fast part of the circuit his rear left gave up in spectacular fashion and the 2002 CART champion was fortunate not to collect competitor or barrier as he spun his speed away to a halt; race over Cristiano.
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