Raikkonen declared winner of chaotic Brazilian GP

Raikkonen declared winner of chaotic Brazilian GP
Apr 8, 2003, 9:24 AM

In the wake of the Brazilian Grand Prix, anyone would be hard put to say Formula One is boring. It was unbelievably chaotic, with crashes, safety cars, overtaking and two huge shunts near the end that red flagged the race. After some confusion, ...

In the wake of the Brazilian Grand Prix, anyone would be hard put to say Formula One is boring. It was unbelievably chaotic, with crashes, safety cars, overtaking and two huge shunts near the end that red flagged the race. After some confusion, McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was declared the winner ahead of Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella and Renault's Fernando Alonso.

Kimi Raikkonen.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
The rain had slacked off earlier but half an hour before the start it began again and the race was delayed by fifteen minutes. Track conditions were treacherous: "There's standing water on the back straight," said Jaguar's Mark Webber on the grid. "But the problem is the spray. The tyres aren't designed for so much water so aquaplaning will be a problem too."

It proved a prophetic comment: Turn 3 became notorious, no less than six cars crashing into the barrier after spinning off on a small river running across the track. The race started behind the safety car while Antonio Pizzonia, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jos Verstappen all started from the pit lane.

"When Jos went out of the garage to go to the grid, a big puff of smoke came from his car," said Minardi boss Paul Stoddart. "We've swapped him to the T-car."

The Jordan of Ralph Firman was pushed off the grid and back to the pits to join the others while Rubens Barrichello swapped helmets. Confusion reigned before the race even started.

The spray was very bad on the formation lap and the safety car stayed out for eight laps, some drivers taking the opportunity to sneak into the pits for a fuel top up. Pole man Barrichello backed the pack up ready for the start but it backfired on him when David Coulthard took the lead at the first corner.

First laps behind the safety car.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
Raikkonen and Webber were in the fight and the first casualty was the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, which pulled off track only one lap in. There was a vast amount of action: Raikkonen took both Webber and Barrichello, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya overtaking the Brazilian, Barrichello having a very shaky first few laps. Raikkonen went on to take Coulthard for the lead, Montoya also taking the Scot shortly afterwards. Some great moves from Raikkonen and Montoya.

Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli had a bit of bother, Ralf spinning off but managing to regain the track. When things settled down a bit, race order at the front was Raikkonen, Montoya, Coulthard and Webber still hanging in there.

Coulthard began fighting back, with Webber hot on his tail and Michael Schumacher belting up behind them. Coulthard got his revenge and overtook Montoya, the Colombian saying on his radio that he was losing the grip in his rear tyres. Michael disposed of Webber and homed in on the Williams, taking Montoya round the outside.

Justin Wilson was the first victim of Turn 3, spinning off, then Firman's Jordan appeared to suffer front suspension failure. A front wheel flew off down the pit straight and he careered into the unfortunate Olivier Panis. Both went off, Firman minus the front of his car, Panis' Toyota minus the rear wing.

The safety car came out while the debris was cleared and many drivers dived into the pits. Montoya nearly hit Trulli in the pit lane and Fernando Alonso got the wrong tyres in his stop, having to pit again to swap. Raikkonen made a great re-start when the safety car went in, followed by Coulthard, Michael, Cristiano da Matta in the remaining Toyota up to fourth.

Fifth placed Barrichello was fighting back, taking da Matta, while the track was drying out except for the swimming pool at Turn 3. Montoya was the next one to skid off there, very rapidly followed by Pizzonia who compounded Montoya's misery by bouncing off the tyre wall and into the Williams.

On the next lap Michael Schumacher splashed through the same turn: off he went! The Ferrari piled up alongside the Williams and the Jaguar, narrowly missing the crane that was in the process of removing them. Madness! Safety car back out again.

"There's river running across the circuit," explained Justin Wilson about Turn 3. "It's coming down off the banking and it's changing every lap."

Next up was Wilson's Minardi team mate Verstappen -- Turn 3, off! Unbelievable. Meanwhile, at the front, Barrichello was up behind leader Coulthard, followed by Ralf, Webber and Jenson Button. However, next lap and it was Button who came to grief at….. does it need explained? Turn 3.

Fernando Alonso.
Photo by Renault F1.
Thirteen runners were left by then and the safety car made its fourth appearance as Button's crash was quite a hard one. By the time it went in and order was somewhat restored, the race was down to 11 cars. Raikkonen took Alonso down the pit straight then barreled up behind Ralf, dealing with the Williams just as efficiently in a great display of overtaking.

The track was getting faster as it dried, Alonso homing in on Ralf and dispatching him with just as much efficiency as Raikkonen did, the young guns certainly showing their worth. Unfortunately Alonso got a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags and dropped back to ninth.

The amazing Mark Webber, who was still with the front runners, wasn't going to let Turn 3 get the better of him. Spinning off in the wet, the Jaguar driver fought it and kept going, the only one to escape the clutches of the nefarious corner.

Barrichello got past Coulthard when the McLaren went wide, into the lead and the crowd went bonkers. The Brazilian thundered off, open track in front if him -- only to have the Ferrari unbelievably and tragically die on him. He slowed and pulled off track, his ninth consecutive retirement from his home race.

At the front it was now Coulthard, Raikkonen, Ralf and Fisichella. Ralf dived into the pits and Fisichella homed in on Raikkonen. The Bridgestone tyres on the Jordan were working well. Behind the front runners, more fights were going on. Frentzen took Trulli for fifth, Jacques Villeneuve, who'd been quiet until then, right behind them.

Coulthard pitted, wobbling all over the place down the pit lane, followed by Trulli. At the front, Raikkonen had a bit of a moment and Fisichella shot into the lead! Brilliant for the Jordan team.

Sadly, after that it all went a bit wrong. Webber slammed into the barrier at the start of the pit straight, the Jaguar pulverized and debris all over the track, wheels, bits of bodywork. He seemed ok and Fisichella managed to pick his way through the wreckage but Alonso came round way too fast. The Renault smashed into one of the Jaguar's wheels, impacting with the tyre wall very heavily, then spinning across the track into the opposite wall.

Eddie Jordan and Giancarlo Fisichella who finds out he has finished second and not won his first race.
Photo by Jordan Grand Prix.
The race was promptly red flagged, the track was a mess and Alonso was in trouble. He managed to extract himself from the car but was limping, then sank down to sit at the side of the track. The medics rushed over, Alonso was obviously very badly shaken although thankfully it later turned out he was uninjured save for a sore knee. He was stretchered away to an ambulance but managed to give the thumbs up to the crowds.

It was a shocking, nasty end to what was an excellent race. Further confusion ensued as to who the winner actually was. Jordan were convinced that Fisichella had it, McLaren boss Ron Dennis saying he wasn't sure that was the case. After a pause, it was declared Raikkonen was the winner, Fisichella second, Alonso third -- FIA rules state that in a red flag situation, the order counts from when the leading car last crossed the line before the red flag came out.

Fisichella's Jordan had the last word, bursting into flames on parc ferm?. Jordan's Gary Anderson commented ruefully: "It's disappointing but if someone had said at the start that we'd finish second, I would have been happy."

A thrilling race until the ugliness at the end. The conditions and some great performances made for compulsive viewing. Raikkonen was not an undeserving winner, he drove a great race and produced some amazing overtaking. A shame for Barrichello, Ferrari unsure of what happened and sad for poor Alonso who was in no fit state to climb to the podium to receive his trophy. Jordan may have missed the win but it was a fine drive from Fisichella.

Brazil was the first race in nearly 5 years that Ferrari had a double DNF, when Michael and Eddie Irvine both spun off at Belgium in 1998. In only three races this year, Ferrari has matched its total of DNFs from last year. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen; Fisichella; Alonso; Coutlhard; Frentzen; Villeneuve; Webber; Trulli, Ralf Schumacher and Cristiano da Matta the final two finishers.

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