RUBENS’ RACING RENAISSANCE
Silverstone 2003. During the Friday prelim, Rubens Barrichello lost the back end of his Ferrari on the approach to Priory, the 90� after the mega-quick Bridge right-hander. He was trying something new with the diff and slid slowly into the sandtrap, nishing the session dead last – which meant he would be rst out on track for the grid-dening qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
Race tracks invariably pick up pace as the rubber goes down. The last to run has the best shot at the pole. And yet…
The F2003-GA (named for Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, who died that year) was suited to the fast corners of Silverstone. Monaco and Magny-Cours, where the Michelin-shod Williams-BMWs had been unbeatable, fell into context. At Silverstone, on the new, stiffer Bridgestone rubber, on corners like Becketts, Copse, Stowe and Bridge, Ferrari could reassert.
Rubens, braking with either his left or right foot depending on the corner, drove the perfect qualifying lap: he had little to lose and, at Priory at least, he knew what not to do. It was a good run; he nailed it through Copse and Becketts. It would be good, he hoped, for P5 or maybe even P4.
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS The ags in the crowds and paddock began to utter. Colombian tricolours (in support of Juan Pablo Montoya, victor at Monaco), German ags for Michael Schumacher, a hero whom even the British were now beginning to cherish.
And the track began to change. The tailwind into Becketts and Stowe was growing strong and more noticeable – as was the cross-wind on the run down to Club. The Renault, McLaren and Williams drivers all lost chassis balance; Rubens’ time remained on top.
Only Michael, out last, could possibly beat him. Through Copse and Becketts Michael was stunning. Out of Stowe, though, he bobbled as the wind caught the Ferrari’s rear wing. And out of Abbey, a left-right chicane, Michael ran wide onto the dirt. He qualied just fth.
The Bridgestones’ weak spot was their warmup. Rubens was eager to sustain temperatures on the formation lap; Renault’s Jarno Trulli, on Michelins in P2, was no fool. He hung back, obliging Rubens to sit for too long on the grid. As the lights went out, Rubens sank to third. Trulli led until lap 11, when soon-to-be defrocked priest Neil Horan ran out onto the track, inducing a Safety Car. The race order re-shufed. Now it was Rubens against McLaren’s Kimi Räikkönen – and it was Rubens who won the day, nding more grip and balance on the Bridgestones as one lap followed another. Kimi’s Michelins, by contrast, lost rear grip dramatically as the race wore on. Rubens pulled alongside him out of Abbey, then dived ahead, down the inside, towards victory, as they headed at-out into Bridge.
It was a classic win, born of a quick qualifying lap, the tyre war and a track invader who re-cast the eld. “It was my second-best win,” said Rubens. “My best was my rst.” Ah yes. Hockenheim 2000 – when another track invader caused a four-lap Safety Car.
These were the days of one-lap qualifying – and of a running order defined on Friday. And, as Peter Windsor recalls, at the 2003 British GP Silverstone worked its magic once again…
Barrichello powers home to his sixth victory, after an eventful – and gusty – British Grand Prix