Ross Brawn's 2003 Diary, Part 1

Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari had a few difficult moments in 2003, but they made it in the end after wins in Italy and the USA set up that dramatic finale in Suzuka. For technical director Ross Brawn it was a much tougher season than he had experienced for a while, and he was under pressure all the way to the final lap of the last race. He gave Autosport.com's Adam Cooper his exclusive race-by-race account of the team's memorable year

Ross Brawn's 2003 Diary, Part 1

MS 4th, RB retired

"We made some poor decisions on tyres in that race. We have a very, very good tyre, and we undoubtedly have a huge advantage in the wet. But when the track is just a little bit damp and we have to run on a dry tyre, Michelin enjoy an advantage. That's been the case for a couple of years. So our natural tendency is to try and get on the wets whenever we can. And I think in that case we were a little bit over ambitious and it caught us out. Michael hit a kerb in the race, and that damaged the car."

MS 6th, RB 2nd

"Malaysia was a bad race the year before. It wasn't that bad for us this time, but Michael had his accident. I get very upset when people like Patrick Head talk about championship-deciding decisions by the stewards being unfair on Montoya and all that sort of cobblers. What's the difference with Malaysia? Michael hit Trulli and we had to serve a penalty - we put our hands up and we took our punishment and got on with it. That was a championship-deciding situation as much as Indianapolis was, so people ought to take a more balanced view."

MS retired; RB retired

"We managed to DNF with both cars, and it's the first time in a very long time that we'd had that. Our season was in poor shape at that stage. Even though we were running the old car we'd been in strong positions in all the races. In Brazil either of the cars could have come through and won the race, especially the way things worked out. There was a bit of redress from the previous year! When we came back from Brazil we were feeling a bit down. It didn't last for long, luckily."

MS 1st, RB 3rd

"Sticking with the old car was an easy decision, because we had a batch problem with the new engine which didn't enable us to race it. I'm sure there was some disappointment, but it wasn't a difficult decision to make, because we knew we had to finish and score points. So we had to take the old car, and luckily everything was working well there, and everything proved to be adequate. It was a big relief, no doubt about it. Imola was a really big race for us. It just gave everyone a confidence boost - you haven't forgotten how to do it. If you just get all the little detail right, then it will come together. It's the same group of people and the same drivers, so there's no reason why it would have changed."

MS 1st, RB 3rd

"It certainly lifted our spirits to win with the new car in Barcelona, because there had been a little bit of a long gestation, and there had been one or two problems in testing before we wanted to race it. The car was very strong, very good there. It was nothing like the advantage that we'd had the year before, because Michelin had got their act together in fast corners. Alonso was very strong there, so it wasn't a walkover, for sure. That was the first real sign of what the new Renault was like. But we ran the race as quickly as we needed to."

MS 1st, RB 3rd

"You look back on it and Michael was very composed. It was a bit more ragged for the rest of us! When we started to have the problem I wanted him to get the car out [of the pit] because I felt it wasn't a big fire, and at worst it would blow itself out if we got the car going. But the guys did a very good job in putting the fire out. I guess the drivers have got all their kit on and they know they have a fair bit of protection and Michael's a pretty cool character. He could see it wasn't an inferno - it was a flash. It was a good measure of the modern day Ferrari that that sort of thing doesn't flummox them. The season was on a roll by then, and we were thinking, 'Maybe we can get this back in line.' It started to come together."

MS 3rd, RB 8th

"It was a curious weekend in that on the Thursday we were very quick and the tyres were working very well. By Saturday and Sunday the tyres were not working well. What happens at Monaco is the track conditions on Thursday are pretty different to what they are later on. We just happened to have a perfect tyre for Thursday's conditions, and Michelin didn't, and then by Saturday with the track getting rubbered in and oil going down, we started to struggle a little bit and their tyre came alive. On the Thursday their tyre was graining far too much.

"Normally you pick up time as the track improves at Monaco, but in fact we couldn't. We understand that situation much more now and when we go back to Monaco next year we'll have a better understanding. It was a period when we were just starting to come to terms with strategy. I think we would have been comfortable with the amount of fuel we were running if we'd been second or third on the grid, but down in fifth, it hurt us too much. We got stuck behind Trulli while the lead group disappeared. Even though we were relatively competitive, our race was destroyed then. We had enough fuel to get us past Trulli, and it got us up the field a little bit, but we were never really competing that day. So it was a bit of a disappointment."

MS 1st, RB 5th

"I think we stole Canada, because Ralf [Schumacher's Williams] was the quicker car on the day. Our strategy worked out very well, and we managed to get in front of him. Michael drove a great race, because there were a couple of little windows around the pit stops where he had to really go for it, and he produced some wonderful lap times. We had a brake problem - it had been wet at various stages of the weekend so we hadn't really got a good picture of the brakes. So when the race started to our horror we saw that the brakes were disappearing. We have quite a good system for measuring the wear, and the guys were predicting at one stage that we'd use all the brakes up by half way through the race.

"So we very quickly had to control the race, but at the same time we wanted to win it. It was a terrific drive by Michael. Not only did he win the race, but he did it with quite a serious problem in terms of wear. He was driving in a certain way that probably gave Ralf a clue, but the interesting story I heard afterwards is that Williams had no brakes left either, and if we hadn't slowed them down they wouldn't have finished either.

"We saw in parc ferme afterwards that their brakes were worse than ours. So they needed to thank us, actually! We had good straightline speed and Michael was on the brakes properly where he needed to be, and was not using the brakes where he didn't need to use them. I don't think Ralf had an opportunity, It was unfair to criticise Ralf for that. If you look at the contrary, which was Ralf in Japan, I know which one I'd prefer! Japan went the other way..."

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