14 September 2003
Italian GP 2003 - Schumacher retakes initiative.
By lap eight Rubens Barrichello was into his rhythm sufficiently to set the then fastest lap in a race that certainly had everything in its favour to be one of the fastest of all time. The Brazilian had lost out and then been caught out by Trulli's initial fast pace and then retirement and although a race win would be unlikely for him if his team-mate was in the offing for the biggest bottle of champagne, the second Ferrari driver certainly relished the opportunity to take points from Michael's championship rivals on Ferrari's home turf.
Come lap twelve pitstops were already upon us and David Coulthard and then Olivier Panis led the way to the pits for those who had not made enforced early visits. Soon most of the field were flooding in for a stop with the nine second mark seeming to represent the average time spent stationary. Jordan duo Giancarlo Fisichella and Zsolt Baumgartner were the last stoppers, Fisichella with his revised strategy.
On his second set of tyres Juan Pablo certainly had the bit between his teeth as he went to set four consecutive fastest laps in his bit to close back in on Michael Schumacher, but though he closed it was never enough, Montoya pitting before he could do anything about the German.
Come second stops Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and many observers did think the Colombian had pulled out a blinder however as Schumacher exited the pit-lane to find himself behind a Williams-BMW, but it was that of the yet-to-pit Marc Gene that he was behind.
After the second stops it was a relatively easy run for the reigning champ to the chequered flag. Backmarkers proved to be little trouble for him whilst Juan Pablo was slightly hindered, to the tune of a second or so, by Heinz Harald Frentzen and after that the Colombian seemed to decide that a safe run to second was better that pushing to catch Schumacher then possibly risking throwing it all away either in his pursuit, or trying to catch the German.
Elsewhere troubles for Justin Wilson had meant the Jaguar driving Brit was the second retirement from the race, whilst former team-mate Jos Verstappen notched up 4 stops before his retirement at the half-way mark. BAR's Jenson Button had already retired at this time suffering from gear selection problems.
Olivier Panis rounded off a solid start at a circuit which should have suited the Toyota chassis with retirement with eighteen laps to go after his brake pedal decided to go to the floor without the appropriate speed retarding reaction, whilst David Coulthard's engine opted out with a mere eight laps to go in what hasn't been the best of seasons from any viewpoint for the Scot.
Fernando Alonso, hero in Hungary, managed what was almost as impressive a performance by working his way up to an eventual eighth place.
At Jordan, although Fisichella had his first lap visit to the pits, it wasn't all bad news for the Jordan driving Italian however, as he and team-mate Zsolt Baumgartner both made it to the chequered flag which certainly counts as a good showing for the Jordan equip these days.
Marc Gene, in his first F1 start for quite a number of years went back a number of places at the start, which after his fine qualifying performance was a shame for the Spaniard. Indeed, his early stint proved to be his most disappointing, although he was to more than put this to rights by settling down to a mighty impressive finale to an eventual fifth place come the chequered flag. "This is the best result in my Formula One career, and I am really happy," he said post-race before cannily adding "I think a good performance was to be expected, as I had one of the best cars on the grid."
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