F1 » 14 September 2003
Italian GP 2003 - Schumacher retakes initiative.
Over at Minardi it wasn't the best of days. Jos Verstappen had been poised for a good showing after a fine qualifying performance and was declaring himself as happy with the car as he'd ever been but his reliability and collision woes put pay to that, whilst Nicolas Kiesa drove solidly in his third race for the team to come home in twelfth place, ahead of Heinz Harald Frentzen who had problems in the closing laps to drop from seventh place. Sauber Team-mate Nick Heidfeld also saw points taken away from his and Fernando Alonso took eighth from him in the final lap.
Mark Webber upheld Jaguar pride by coming home in the points in seventh place, despite the Australian making an uncharacteristic mistake and starting the race by forgetting to turn on his traction control system – something he soon realised when tackling the first corner! Wilson's retirement meanwhile marks his third with the team and makes you wonder why Jaguar bothered drafting in the Brit, anyone could sit in the car if all it's going to do is fail to finish through no fault of the driver...
Tyres were always going to be an issue in this race. In the Saturday press conference WilliamsF1's Patrick Head argued that the late rule change where tread wide will be measured after the race as opposed to before the race as previously hadn't provided much of a setback, whilst McLaren's Ron Dennis argued that the change had cost the Michelin runners vital set-up time at the Monza test.
On the evidence of today's results it looks like Bridgestone has benefited. Not only has Ferrari taken the win and third place but the other Bridgestone runners managed better performances than of late. Jacques Villeneuve came home in sixth place, Heidfeld took ninth, whilst the Michelin runners weren't quite where you'd have thought they should be.
Rubens Barrichello came home in third, and the Brazilian summed up his performance nicely when he said "I am quite happy to be third. It is better than being in the wall, like the last race!" Mid-race it had looked like third championship contender Kimi Raikkonen might be able to do something about the Brazilian as he closed in on him for a time but post-race Kimi confessed "I was close to Rubens but not enough to really have a go." Now seven points down from Michael Schumacher, Kimi has everything to do, but can still take the title.
Michael Schumacher was understandably happy after his win, though the German's reckoning that "I think this is the greatest day in my career," probably doesn't bare the greatest scrutiny. That said the finishing margins were close. After One and a quarter hours Michael Schumacher came home a mere five seconds from Juan Pablo Montoya, with Rubens Barrichello just six seconds behind the Colombian. F1 returnee Marc Gene finished his first race in many years just 27 seconds down on the race winner.
This now leaves the championship very open for the final two races; Ferrari has its car very much back on form after the humiliation of Hungary so Ferrari, Williams and McLaren head to Indianapolis all with chances to have their drivers take the crown.
Michael Schumacher's main rival Juan Pablo Montoya was pretty happy with his race, and he now has the added bonus that team-mate Ralf Schumacher is truly out of the title race after his withdrawal from race activity this weekend. "Unfortunately in the third part of the race I was caught in traffic and I made the decision to pace myself," Montoya explained about the end of his race. "We were expecting Ferrari to be strong here, so to only lose two points to Michael and be only three points behind with two races to go is okay."
So what Monza means is Michael Schumacher extends his championship lead, but with Juan Pablo Montoya fight behind him and relishing the fight. "Ferrari had a good top speed compared to us at this low downforce circuit, quite unlike the next two tracks, where I think we will figure strongly," concluded the Columbian. The title race is all set for a thrilling conclusion...
1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 53 laps 1hr 14.19.838secs
2. Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW +5.294secs
3. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +11.835secs
4. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +12.834secs
5. Marc Gene Germany Williams-BMW +27.891secs
6. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +1 lap
7. Mark Webber Australia Jaguar-Cosworth +1 lap
8. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +1 lap
9. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas +1 lap
10. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Ford +1 lap
11. Zsolt Baumgartner Hungary Jordan-Ford +2 laps
12. Nicolas Kiesa Denmark Minardi-Cosworth +2 laps
13. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Sauber-Petronas +3 laps
Rtd. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +8 laps
Rtd. Olivier Panis France Toyota-Toyota +18 laps
Rtd. Jos Verstappen Holland Minardi-Cosworth +26 laps
Rtd. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda +29 laps
Rtd. Cristiano da Matta Brazil Toyota-Toyota +50 laps
Rtd Justin Wilson Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +51 laps
Rtd. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +53 laps
Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 21.832secs lap 14
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