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Brazil  2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
Race details
Race 3 of 16 in the 2003 Formula One season
Autódromo José Carlos Pace (AKA Interlagos) track map.svg
Date April 6, 2003
Official name XXXII Grande Prêmio do Brasil
Location Autódromo José Carlos Pace
São Paulo, Brazil
Course Permanent Racing Facility
4.309 km (2.667 mi)
Distance 54 laps, 232.686 km (144.558 mi)
Scheduled Distance 71 laps, 305.939 km (189.357 mi)
Weather Rainy
Pole position
Driver Brazil Rubens Barrichello Ferrari
Time 1:13.807
Fastest lap
Driver Brazil Rubens Barrichello Ferrari
Time 1:22.032 on lap 46
Podium
First Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Ford
Second Finland Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes
Third Spain Fernando Alonso Renault*

NOTE (*):The actual podium ceremony featured Räikkönen in place 1, Fisichella in place 2, and place 3 empty, as Alonso was receiving medical attention at the time. The FIA later reversed the 1st and 2nd place result.

The 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on April 6, 2003 at Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos). This was the 700th World Championship event.

The Grand Prix was a controversial race decided by a court case, and when the final result was announced, it emerged that none of the drivers were standing on the correct steps of the podium, as the 1st and 2nd place drivers were in each other's position, while 3rd place Fernando Alonso was receiving medical attention at the time of the ceremony. The race was eventually won by Giancarlo Fisichella of Jordan, demoting McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen, the initial winner, to second place. This race also had a significant outcome in the drivers championship. Without these ten points gained Fisichella would have almost certainly finished the season in a lowly 18th below Takuma Sato, and Räikkönen would have been level on points with Michael Schumacher at the end of the season with Schumacher winning the championship on race wins.

Contents

Race summary

Due to a 2003 regulation change aimed at cutting costs, teams were only allowed to bring one wet-weather tyre compound to the race. All the teams on Bridgestone tyres had only brought an intermediate tyre, and this was deemed unsuitable for the torrential conditions. The race was started under the safety car and due to several accidents caused by the wet weather, the safety car deployed several times throughout the race.

Originally scheduled for 71 laps, the race saw several storm fronts make their way across the circuit, leaving the track with very little grip. Numerous drivers, including defending world champion Michael Schumacher, spun off the track, the reigning World Champion making an uncharacteristic error while under pressure from newcomer Cristiano da Matta; there were also several accidents, as drivers fought the weather as well as each other. Even when the rest of the track was relatively dry, the third corner remained extremely wet, and it was here that many drivers, including Schumacher, lost control and crashed. Mark Webber (Jaguar) was the only driver to spin out at this corner and recover to continue racing - Webber's later crash contributed to the race being stopped early.

Several teams adopted a pit strategy whereby they filled their cars with fuel early in the race, attempting to save enough fuel under the safety car to avoid having to stop again. This was successful for Giancarlo Fisichella, whose Jordan went from last in the field after an early pit stop to an eventual first place after the race was prematurely stopped. Fisichella admitted after the race he would have been unlikely to complete the race on that fuel load had the race continued to its full distance. "Honestly, it was on the limit", he later said after being asked about his strategy. Fisichella nearly had an accident when team-mate Ralph Firman suffered a suspension failure while running immediately behind him; Firman's car missed Fisichella and crashed into Olivier Panis.

Rubens Barrichello secured pole position, but lost the lead following the start. Barrichello put in a consistent performance to re-pass Coulthard during the race. Barrichello then set several fastest laps and lead the race by twenty seconds. On lap 47 Barrichello's Ferrari slowed and stopped, due to a fuel system fault. After Barrichellos car stopped, he watched the remainder of the race from a marshal's post.

After race leader David Coulthard was called for a pit-stop, his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen lead the race after 53 laps, but a mistake allowed Giancarlo Fisichella to assume the lead on lap 54. Near the end of his 54th lap, Mark Webber crashed while exiting the final corner, bringing out the safety car. Fernando Alonso failed to slow for the waved yellow flags, and hit one of Webber's tyres at full speed on the 55th lap; his Renault crashed into a tyre wall protecting a guardrail, the impact damaging the barrier and sending car tyres across the circuit, effectively blocking the track and making continuation of the race, even behind the safety car, impossible. The race was subsequently red flagged, ending the race immediately for safety concerns.

At the lap of the red flag being shown, there was confusion over whether the result should be taken from the order on lap 53 or lap 54. Ordinarily, this would be relatively academic, but with Fisichella taking the lead on lap 54, the decision was critical, and needed to be decided in order for the podium ceremony to take place. The circumstances of the race conclusion meant he would not necessarily win the race according to FIA rules. The circumstances also meant the post-race ceremonies were marked by considerable confusion on the part of the race stewards, organisers, the teams and drivers. Fisichella believed that he had won; he and his team boss, Eddie Jordan were shown initially celebrating victory before being informed that Räikkönen and McLaren were being awarded the win. Amidst all this, Fisichella's car caught fire in the pit lane, adding to the confusion. Under Formula One regulations in place at the time, article 154 stated that, if 75% of the race distance had been completed - in this case 54 completed laps, 76% of race distance - it was "deemed to have finished when the leading car crossed the line at the end of the lap two laps prior to that lap during which the signal to stop was given". The stewards, believing that Fisichella was on his 55th lap and had completed the 54 laps required for a full result, awarded the victory to the race leader at the end of the 53rd lap, namely Räikkönen. Fisichella was awarded second place and Alonso third.

Post race

Several days later, after the Grand Prix, the official scoring evidence showed that Fisichella had just started his 56th lap before the red flag signal was given; this meant that the race results should have been determined as of the end of the 54th lap, not the end of the 53rd lap. Fisichella was leading after 54 laps and was named the race winner in an April 11 FIA court decision handed down in Paris.

After hearing oral arguments and timing evidence, McLaren declined to file a protest; Räikkönen's points tally was reduced by 2 (to 8, from 10). An unofficial ceremony was held at the next grand prix at Imola during the San Marino Grand Prix where Räikkönen and Ron Dennis handed over the winning driver's and constructor's trophies to Fisichella and Eddie Jordan. With Alonso unable to take his place on the podium due to injury, it emerged that the ceremony had taken place with no driver standing in the correct position.

Qualifying

Pos No Driver Constructor Q1 Time Q2 Time
1 2 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1:23.249 1:13.807
2 5 United Kingdom David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.655 1:13.818
3 14 Australia Mark Webber Jaguar-Cosworth 1:23.111 1:13.851
4 6 Finland Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.607 1:13.866
5 7 Italy Jarno Trulli Renault 1:26.557 1:13.953
6 4 Germany Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW 1:26.709 1:14.124
7 1 Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:25.585 1:14.130
8 11 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Ford 1:26.726 1:14.191
9 3 Colombia Juan-Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW 1:27.961 1:14.223
10 8 Spain Fernando Alonso Renault 1:26.203 1:14.384
11 17 United Kingdom Jenson Button BAR-Honda no time 1:14.504
12 9 Germany Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Petronas 1:27.111 1:14.631
13 16 Canada Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 1:25.672 1:14.668
14 10 Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber-Petronas 1:26.375 1:14.839
15 20 France Olivier Panis Toyota F1 1:25.614 1:14.839
16 12 United Kingdom Ralph Firman Jordan-Ford 1:28.083 1:15.240
17 15 Brazil Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar-Cosworth 1:25.764 1:15.317
18 21 Brazil Cristiano da Matta Toyota F1 1:26.554 1:15.641
19 19 Netherlands Jos Verstappen Minardi-Cosworth 1:26.886 1:16.542
20 18 United Kingdom Justin Wilson Minardi-Cosworth 1:28.317 1:16.586

Classification

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 11 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Ford 54 1:31:18.2 8 10
2 6 Finland Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes 54 +0.945 4 8
3 8 Spain Fernando Alonso Renault 54 +6.348/Accident 10 6
4 5 United Kingdom David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 54 +8.096 2 5
5 10 Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber-Petronas 54 +8.642 14 4
6 16 Canada Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 54 +16.054 13 3
7 4 Germany Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW 54 +38.526 6 2
8 7 Italy Jarno Trulli Renault 54 +45.927 5 1
9 14 Australia Mark Webber Jaguar-Cosworth 53 +1 Lap/Accident 3  
10 21 Brazil Cristiano da Matta Toyota 53 +1 Lap 18  
Ret 2 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 47 Fuel system 1  
Ret 17 United Kingdom Jenson Button BAR-Honda 33 Accident 11  
Ret 19 Netherlands Jos Verstappen Minardi-Cosworth 31 Spin 19  
Ret 1 Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari 27 Accident 7  
Ret 3 Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya Williams-BMW 25 Accident 9  
Ret 15 Brazil Antônio Pizzonia Jaguar-Cosworth 25 Accident 17  
Ret 20 France Olivier Panis Toyota 18 Collision 15  
Ret 12 Republic of Ireland Ralph Firman Jordan-Ford 18 Suspension 16  
Ret 18 United Kingdom Justin Wilson Minardi-Cosworth 16 Spin 20  
Ret 9 Germany Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Petronas 8 Engine 12  

Notes

  • Last win for Jordan Grand Prix and Ford-Cosworth engine.
  • Had the original result stood, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen would have finished the year level on 93 points, with Schumacher winning the championship on race wins.
  • 2003 was the last Brazilian Grand Prix to be held at the beginning of the season.
  • This was Michael Schumacher's first retirement since the 2001 German Grand Prix
  • Heinz-Harald Frenzten was the only driver to complete the race without pitting.
Previous race:
2003 Malaysian Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
2003 season
Next race:
2003 San Marino Grand Prix
Previous race:
2002 Brazilian Grand Prix
Brazilian Grand Prix Next race:
2004 Brazilian Grand Prix
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