April 6, 2003 – one of craziest races in the recent memory. Few 2007 GPs came close (Canada, Europe, Japan) but not close enough.
All started in October 2002 when the all team bosses came up with a “wise” cost cutting idea and voted to change the rules to limit the use of wet tyres to just one spec per event. Looks like Max Mosley has not always enjoyed monopoly on creating stupid rules. So fast forward to April 6, 2003 Interlagos circuit. Torrential rain turned the track into free flowing river at some parts but all that the teams had for their disposal that weekend were intermediate tyres. They for sure saved on the tyres, but the high speed Turn 3 became one of the most expensive car wreck centres – by the time the race finished (will come to that), there were Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari, Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams, Jenson Button’s BAR, Antonio Pizzonia’s Jaguar and both Minardis piled up behind the tyre wall. (videos inside the article)
The rain made some teams to expect some safety car periods and several of them actually gambled on it with their race strategy. Several cars were filled up to the brim hoping to go non stop till the finish. This could only work with extended fuel saving safety car periods or if race was to be stopped early. Fisichella was one of those taking the gamble.
They got their wish. There were 4 safety car periods following various accidents. As it happens in these cases the order was changing all the time with some cars benefiting, the others loosing out, some getting lost altogether. Rubens Barrichello took the lead on lap 45 and was on course for his first home win. Two laps later however his car stopped after a fuel hose problem. In next few laps the picture got confusing with the different tyre and fuel strategies and resulting pit stops. Then came lap 54. Mark Webber, who narrowly avoided hitting the wall earlier in the race, smashed his Jaguar into the tyre wall, sending the debris flying all over the place. Not much was left from his car. But the debris left enough moving targets on the track and Fernando Alonso managed to hit some of it, crashing heavyly himself. The race was red flagged. Giancarlo Fisichella in Jordan crossed the line in first, followed by Kimi Raikkonen. The race result was declared as on lap 53, handing the race win to Kimi, ahead of Fisichella and Alonso (in the ambulance at that time). Only 10 cars officially finished the race, but out of those Webber and Alonso actually crashed out and Fisichella’s Jordan caught fire right after the car stopped after the race…
But that was not the end of the story. Fisichella led the race at the time it was red flagged after overtaking Raikkonen. However, Kimi Raikkonen was declared the race winner under the countback rule – the race result is taken from the running order two laps prior to the race being stopped. This decision was overturned several days later in the FIA Court of Appeal in Paris. It became clear Fisichella had crossed the finish line in the lead for a second time before Alonso’s accident, and therefore was declared the winner. Kimi had to hand back the trophy and 2 points. The trophy was then handed to Fisichella at a ceremony during the following San Marino Grand Prix.
Here are 2 video compilations of 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix.
1) Longer one
2) Shorter one
And for the record, the race result:
1. Giancarlo Fisichella – Jordan-Ford – 1:31:17.748
2. Kimi Räikkönen – McLaren-Mercedes +0.945
3. Fernando Alonso – Renault +6.348
4. David Coulthard – McLaren-Mercedes +8.096
5. Heinz-Harald Frentzen – Sauber-Petronas +8.642
6. Jacques Villeneuve – BAR-Honda +16.054
7. Ralf Schumacher – Williams-BMW +38.526
8. Jarno Trulli – Renault +45.927
Ret Mark Webber – Jaguar-Cosworth – Accident
10. Cristiano da Matta – Toyota +1 Lap
Rubens Barrichello – Ferrari – 47 – Fuel system
Jenson Button – BAR-Honda – 33 – Accident
Jos Verstappen – Minardi-Cosworth – 31 – Spin
Michael Schumacher – Ferrari – 27 – Accident
Juan Pablo Montoya – Williams-BMW – 25 – Accident
Antonio Pizzonia – Jaguar-Cosworth – 25 – Accident
Olivier Panis – Toyota – 18 – Collision
Ralph Firman – Jordan-Ford – 18 – Suspension
Justin Wilson – Minardi-Cosworth – 16 – Spin
Nick Heidfeld – Sauber-Petronas – 8 – Engine