The 2003 Japanese Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XXIX Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix, (XXIX フジテレビ日本グランプリ in Japanese) was the sixteenth and final round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, Japan, on 12 October 2003. The race would see Michael Schumacher secure a record sixth World Championship title, as major rival Kimi Räikkönen failed to get the result he needed to overcome the German ace on the final day.
Indeed, with a nine point advantage arriving in Japan it was Schumacher's title to lose, and when Räikkönen could only grab eighth in qualifying the German ace was all the more certain to win the crown. Yet, Schumacher himself would only manage to claim fourteenth, as teammate Rubens Barrichello beat Juan Pablo Montoya to pole position.
Suzuka's first corner had a reputation for deciding World Championships, although that was not the case in 2003, as a clean start throughout the field saw no major issues. Indeed, Barrichello and Montoya would jostle for the lead, the Brazilian emerging ahead, while Fernando Alonso got away superbly to claim third for Renault.
Behind, Räikkönen would pick up two spots as Olivier Panis was barged down the order by Alonso, although attention quickly swapping back to the two leaders. Indeed, Montoya lunged at Barrichello at the hairpin and failed, only for an error from the Brazilian exiting the hairpin allowing the Colombian ace to edge ahead into the Spoon Curve.
The second lap saw Ralf Schumacher spin out of the lead group, while Michael Schumacher had his front win removed when he launched an optimistic lunge at home hero Takuma Sato in the #16 BAR-Honda. Out front, meanwhile, Montoya maintained Williams' hopes of securing the Constructors title, until a hydraulic failure on lap ten left him on the sidelines.
Barrichello inherited the lead, although with Alonso swarming all over his tail until the Renault's electronics failed. Coulthard hence emerged in second but was already fifteen seconds down, and duly failed to challenge the Brazilian through to the first and second round of stops.
In terms of the Championship battle, meanwhile, Räikkönen would jump ahead of teammate Coulthard using a two-stop strategy, while Schumacher was recovering after an early collision. That recovery was not aided by his brother Ralf, with the Schumacher's coming together when battling with Cristiano da Matta of Toyota, costing Ralf his front wing.
Michael, meanwhile, would use that incident to break into the top eight and hence gain the point he needed to deny Räikkönen the crown. However, he had trashed his tyres when avoiding da Matta, and hence would spend the remaining laps with a bad vibration on his car.
Out front, Barrichello was able to keep Räikkönen at arm's length, and duly crossed the line to claim victory and the Constructors Championship for Ferrari. Räikkönen and Coulthard completed the podium, which was not enough for Räikkönen to claim the crown, meaning eighth was enough for Schumacher.
Schumacher hence claimed his record sixth World Championship by two points, and was the first time that he had won the title without finishing on the podium in the same race. Furthermore, Ferrari secured their fifth Constructors Championship in a row, and their thirteenth overall.
Michael Schumacher would leave the US Grand Prix of 2003 with one hand on his sixth World Championship crown after claiming victory, with 92 points to his name. That left Kimi Räikkönen as the only man who could deny the German ace, although with a nine point deficit to overcome in Japan, the Finn faced an near impossible climb, needing to win with Schumacher failing to score. Juan Pablo Montoya, meanwhile, was out of the fight in third, with the Colombian ace only able to match Schumacher's tally at best, but would lose the title on countback.
In the Constructors Championship it would be Ferrari who held an advantage into the final day in Japan, leaving Indianapolis with 147 points. That left them three ahead of Williams-BMW in second, setting up an intriguing duel for the crown at the season finale. Indeed, McLaren-Mercedes were now too far back to overhaul the Scuderia, but could claim the runner-up spot if they had a perfect weekend in Suzuka.
The full entry list for the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix is outlined below:
The full qualifying results for the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||3||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW||1:31.201||1:32.412||+0.699s|
|3||21||Cristiano da Matta||Toyota||1:32.256||1:32.419||+0.706s|
|6||14||Mark Webber||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:31.305||1:33.106||+1.393s|
|10||15||Justin Wilson||Jaguar-Ford Cosworth||1:32.291||1:33.558||+1.845s|
|15||12||Ralph Firman||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:33.057||1:34.771||+3.058s|
|16||11||Giancarlo Fisichella||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:33.313||1:34.912||+3.199s|
|17||19||Jos Verstappen||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:34.836||1:34.975||+3.262s|
|18||18||Nicolas Kiesa||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||1:36.181||1:37.226||+5.513s|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
|______________||Juan Pablo Montoya|
|Cristiano da Matta||4|
- * Verstappen started the race from the pitlane.
The full results for the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- Michael Schumacher declared as the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship Champion.
- Schumacher secured a record sixth World Championship crown.
- Ferrari claimed the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship for Constructors title.
- This was the Scuderia's thirteenth Constructors title and fifth in a row.
- Heinz-Harald Frentzen made his 156th and final Grand Prix start.
- 50th Grand Prix start for Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen.
- Seventh career victory for Rubens Barrichello.
- Ferrari claimed their 167th win as a constructor and engine supplier.
- David Coulthard claimed his 60th podium finish.
Michael Schumacher would end the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship as the Champion, overhauling Juan Manuel Fangio by claiming his sixth Championship crown. Kimi Räikkönen, meanwhile, would fall two points shy of his maiden crown, despite only having one win to the German ace's six across the campaign. Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top three ahead of Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher, with twenty drivers having scored across the campaign.
In the Constructors Championship it was Ferrari who had ended the season as the Champions, their fifth title in a row and thirteenth in total. Williams-BMW claimed second by just two points, with McLaren-Mercedes having just fallen shy of the runner-up spot on the final day. Behind, Renault were in fourth ahead of BAR-Honda, with every team bar Minardi-Ford Cosworth having scored points in 2003.
Only point scoring drivers are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'Japanese GP, 2003', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), https://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr713.html, (Accessed 15/12/2019)
- 'Japan 2003: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2003/japon/engages.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '2003 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix - QUALIFYING 1', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2003/races/752/japan/qualifying-1.html, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '2003 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix - QUALIFYING 2', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Ltd., 2019), https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2003/races/752/japan/qualifying-2.html, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- 'Japan 2003: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2003/japon/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- 'Japan 2003: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2003/japon/classement.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
- '16. Japan 2003', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/2003/japon.aspx, (Accessed 16/12/2019)
|V T E||Japanese Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Fuji (1976–1977, 2007–2008), Suzuka (1987–2006, 2009–present)|
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|See also||Pacific Grand Prix|
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