There were years when the Formula 1 World Championship was often decided on Suzuka. Waiting to return to this historic track as soon as possible, and that the Coronavirus pandemic can finally be defeated, it may be useful to retrace one of the historic Grand Prix that took place in Japan. For example the 2003 edition, which he gives to Michael Schumacher the sixth title in Formula 1, with which he surpasses Juan Manuel Fangio, and the fifth consecutive constructors’ championship for Ferrari.
#OnThisDay in 2003, history was made 🗓
The mighty Michael Schumacher became the first # F1 driver to achieve SIX world championships 🤯
– Formula 1 (@ F1) October 12, 2021
It is October 12, 2003, exactly 18 years ago. Schumacher has practically the title in his pocket, nine points clear of Kimi Räikkönen with a race to go, but in Formula 1 you can never be safe from surprises. And indeed in qualifying the unthinkable happens. It is the period when each driver has only one lap to get the time. In Suzuka there are threatening clouds, and those who take to the track hope to be spared from the water. The weather is kind to Rubens Barrichello, which gets the pole position in 1: 31.713, but slowly the disturbance arrives on Suzuka and wet the track. Räikkönen – on a wet track – is ranked eighth, Schumacher (as well as Ralf and Trulli) finds the wet and does not go beyond the 14th time. Schumi and Kimi must therefore get back on top. The most difficult task has the Finn, who has to overcome more competitive cars, but the Suzuka weekend just does not seem to smile at the Kaiser. Starting with extreme caution, Schumacher climbs up to 11th position but on the sixth lap he touches with Takuma’s Bar Sato in the chicane that precedes the finish line, and damages the front wing. The pit stop was immediate, but the German had to start from the back of the group.
At this point, Schumacher knows well that he has to hope for Barrichello: As long as he is in the lead, the Kaiser can run serenely. And so it happens: except on lap 12 – when Rubens returns to the pits and Kimi is ‘virtual champion’ for two laps – the Brazilian maintains the top, trimming a second per lap to the McLarens of David Coulthard and Räikkönen, climbing in second and third location for engine failure of Fernando’s Renault Alonso. Schumi, climbed back to 12th position behind his brother Ralf, relives the nightmare Sato and this time – to avoid trouble –undercut on Japanese. The two, after turning around the stops, find themselves behind Cristiano by Matta, seventh. Always at the finish line chicane, Michael nails to smoking wheels and swerves to the left, his brother (behind him) cannot avoid him and touches him damaging the front wing. Ralf spun, Michael continued without damage and, believing that his weekend was already quite eventful, he didn’t risk and keeps the eighth place that gives him the absolute certainty of the title. A title with a different flavor, arrived with the collaboration of the squire Rubens, also precious in terms of constructors as Ferrari also obtained the fifth consecutive World Team Championship that day. In second position Räikkönen, passed by Coulthard: the Finn will come within two points of Schumacher in the drivers’ standings. He will have his chance four years later.