The British Grand Prix: Round 11 of 16 in the 2003 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher led the Driver’s Championship by 64 points ahead of McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Raikkonen in second place with 56 points and ahead of Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher in third place with 53 points.
In Qualifying, Rubens Barrichello claimed Pole Position for the 2003 British Grand Prix ahead of Renault driver Jarno Trulli in second place and McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Raikkonen in third place. Barrichello’s Pole Position was additionally bizarre as he was the second car to run on Saturday, having dropped the ball in a most unfortunate fashion on Friday, which left him with no time registered.
It is rare indeed in the sport that a time set in the opening minutes of qualifying survives being quickest all the way through the session. But the winds of Northampton were blowing when Rubens was out but as the session went on they blew more and changed direction minute by minute making it impossible for the teams to predict what was going to happen.
Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher qualified in fourth place ahead of his brother Michael Schumacher in fifth place, Cristiano Da Matta in sixth place, Juan-Pablo Montoya in seventh place, Fernando Alonso in eighth place, Jacques Villeneuve in ninth place and Antonio Pizzonia who rounded off the top ten finishers.
On Race Day on Sunday, the race began with Barrichello starting from Pole Position ahead of Trulli and Raikkonen. But Barrichello made a poor start which allowed both Trulli and Räikkönen past on an incident-free first lap as Ralf and Michael Schumacher retained their starting positions of fourth and fifth.
On the sixth lap, the headrest of David Coulthard dislodged while traversing the first corner (Copse), forcing him to the pits for a replacement under safety regulations, and causing a Safety Car period to allow marshals to clear the track. Upon the resumption of green flag racing, Barrichello closed the gap to Räikkönen before passing him on lap 11.
On the following lap, Neil Horan invaded the circuit and another safety car period was necessitated. As it was close to the period when the drivers would be making their scheduled pit stops, the vast majority of cars decided to pit under the safety car. The second placed cars from the respective teams were forced to queue up in the pit lane waiting for service, causing them to drop many places. Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo were all outside of the top ten.
Of the leading contenders, Trulli was in fourth place while both Räikkönen and Ralf Schumacher had jumped Barrichello when in the pits. But the Toyotas of Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis opted not to pit and was leading the race ahead of Coulthard in third place having not required a pit stop after his earlier unscheduled headrest replacement.
Räikkönen passed Trulli immediately after the restart before clearing team-mate Coulthard on the same lap. Barrichello then passed a slowing Ralf Schumacher on Lap 17 while Räikkönen also passed Panis before chasing down the leading da Matta.
Ralf Schumacher was forced to pit after encountering difficulties, while at the same time Michael Schumacher was unable to pass Alonso. By Lap 26, Barrichello was still trying to pass Trulli, and the two leaders continued to extend their lead. Barrichello and Montoya eventually passed Trulli by the end of Lap 27, before Panis fell victim to both on Lap 29.
Da Matta eventually ceded the lead after pitting on Lap 30 to Räikkönen. Barrichello then set the fastest lap after being cleared of traffic, taking the lead after Räikkönen pitted for the second time. Barrichello continued to cut the advantage, but Räikkönen regained the lead with a reduced margin following the Brazilian’s second stop.
After closing in, Barrichello passed Räikkönen after pressuring him into a mistake. Michael Schumacher eventually passed Trulli on Lap 46, but an unforced error by Räikkönen allowed Montoya to seize second position. In the closing phase of the race, Coulthard passed both da Matta and Trulli to earn fifth place.
But it was Rubens Barrichello who won the 2003 British Grand Prix ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya in second place and Kimi Raikkonen in third place. Michael Schumacher finished the race in fourth place ahead of David Coulthard in fifth place, Jarno Trulli in sixth place, Cristiano da Matta in seventh place, Jenson Button in eighth place, Ralf Schumacher in ninth place and Jacques Villeneuve rounding off the top ten finishers.
The 2003 British Grand Prix will always be remembered as the race that Neil Horan invaded the Silverstone circuit on Lap 11 on the Hangar straight after clearing the fence wearing a kilt, waving banners with statements “Read the bible” and “The Bible is always right” and ran towards the sequence of cars, forcing several cars to swerve to avoid him.
Horan eventually returned to the grass runoff area at the side of the track after the cars had passed for the lap, and was stopped by a track marshal. He was later charged with aggravated trespass and pleaded guilty in a Northampton court stating that he took the open gate as a sign from God although the prosecution contended that his act was premeditated as he had already prepared the banners prior to attending the Grand Prix. He was later jailed for two months.
It will be also remembered by fans that it was a great race overall with regards to action on the track which was going on throughout the field and you couldn’t take your eyes off it. And I still couldn’t when I re-watched the race from start to finish to write this review!
But let us not forget that this was Antonio Pizzonia’s last race of the season. He was dropped due to a string of poor results, and replaced by Minardi’s Justin Wilson who was then replaced by Danish driver Nicolas Kiesa at Minardi.
And as the 2003 World Championship continued at the Hockenheim circuit in Germany, Schumacher still lead the Driver’s Championship with 69 points ahead of Raikkonen with 62 points and Montoya in third place with 55 points.