If it’s going to do one thing in Brazil, it’s going to rain. Many races at Interlagos have had a dash of wet weather to help spice things up, but for the 2003 race, it pretty much made the race a chaotic event.
A series of storm fronts brought wind and rain right from the very start, the grid mixed by a damp Saturday session. Thanks to cost cutting measures introduced that season, Bridgestone only brought the intermediate compound, which meant the race started under the safety car for everyone’s safety. After 7 laps of procession, the safety car peeled off.
As the race unfolded, we had a variety of leaders – poleman Rubens Barrichello lost the lead into the first corner to David Coulthard, who was then caught and passed by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi then had to fend off Juan Pablo Montoya, but the Columbian then fell back into the clutches of Coulthard and the other Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.
A front suspension failure for Jordan’s Ralph Firman (remember him?) brought the safety car out after 20 laps, then again a few laps later as cars started to aquaplane at Turn 3. Montoya, Jaguar’s Antonio Pizzonia, BAR’s Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher all fell victim to the standing water. Barrichello then repassed Coulthard for the lead, to the joy of the home crowd, only for his Ferrari to break down three laps later.
Coulthard stopped for new tyres, handing the lead to Raikkonen again. The Finn was then passed by Giancarlo Fisichella’s Jordan, who had taken on maximum fuel during the safety car start and had been slowly making his way through the field as everyone else stopped. The rain was still coming though, and would have the last word in who would win the race.
Mark Webber lost his Jaguar at the start of the pit straight and the debris from the wreckage caught out a fast charging Fernando Alonso, who drove into a loose wheel and crashed heavily. The red flag came out immediately, and that’s when the confusion of who was race winner started.
Fisichella was in the lead when the red flag came out, but with the rules counting back two laps, Raikkonen was declared the winner, much to the dismay of the Jordan team (who were celebrating their 200th race start). The chaos was epitomised by Fisichella’s car catching fire in park ferme. With Alonso on the way to the hospital, only Kimi and Giancarlo took to the podium.
In a strange twist, the race would be re-decided 5 days later in Paris. Judging that Fisichella had started his 56th lap, and not his 55th, the countback put him in the lead at the red flag. Giancarlo would win his first race after all, and Jordan their 200th, and the trophy would be handed over at a special ceremony at the next race at Imola, meaning it was the first podium in F1 history where no-one stood in the right place!