F1 - Schuey resists young guns

A look at the record book suggests that the 2003 Formula 1 season threw up the same old story: Michael Schumacher won the championship again, in the process tearing up the record book still further. But statistics don't tell the whole truth, as a trio of young guns challenged the Ferrari ace during one of the best seasons in years

F1 - Schuey resists young guns

Ferrari opted to start the year with its proven old car, the dominant F2002, but the strides made by McLaren and Williams ensured that the Scuderia had to fight hard in the opening rounds. Schumacher's first win didn't come until the fourth race in San Marino, by which time McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen had already established a sizeable points advantage.

New rules introduced by the FIA helped ensure that the action was closer than in previous years, with one-lap qualifying, refuelling banned prior to the race and a change in the points system all introduced. However, once Ferrari had adapted to the new rules, Schumacher rolled off a hat trick of victories. Things began to look ominous.

But then Williams began to hit their stride. Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher took two wins each during the heart of the season, with the Colombian closing in on Michael in the points table, while Raikkonen kept himself in touch with a series of strong points finishes. The trio were virtually even on points with two races to go.

Montoya was the first to blink. A penalty for a collision with Rubens Barrichello in the US Grand Prix put him out of the reckoning, leaving Raikkonen and Schumacher to fight for the title in Japan. Schumacher only needed one point, and achieved it - just - by finishing eighth after a messy race.

The third rising start to emerge from 2003 was Fernando Alonso. After a year on the sidelines, the Spaniard stepped into Renault with immediate success, and scared Schumacher by pushing him to the limit at Barcelona. Alonso took a breakthrough win in the Hungarian Grand Prix, and you wouldn't rule out a title challenge in 2004.

But despite the emergence of a wave of promising talent, it was still Schumacher who reigned supreme in 2003, taking a record sixth title. While he didn't dominate as in 2002, you sensed this championship was even sweeter for Schuey simply because he really had to work for it.

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