RUBENS’ RAC­ING RE­NAIS­SANCE

F1 Racing - - NOW THAT WAS A RACE -

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-dening 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 qualied 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-shufed. 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

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