69 – 2003 British GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

Two God-fearing men, one in a saffron skirt and the other in a Day-glo Ferrari, grabbed the headlines at Silverstone. The first, a former priest, scared the Bejaysus out of the drivers he ran towards on the Hangar Straight. Cornelius ‘Neil’ Horan was clearly unhinged, the end of his world not for him quite nigh enough. Yet many found Rubens Barrichello’s reasoning difficult to fathom, too. 

The Brazilian had chosen to swim against the tide when he entered the temple of the Scuderia’s ‘Chosen One’ in 2000. Criticised for passivity, he was under extra pressure at Silverstone because of a lacklustre first half of the season. He had, however, kept faith in his ability – and was swearing by a new, harder Bridgestone of a construction different to that selected by team-mate Michael Schumacher.

Barrichello was terse rather than his usual accommodating, cheery self. He’d had enough of the sniping. Beaten from pole by the Renault of Jarno Trulli and Kimi Räikkönen’s McLaren, on lap 11 he secured second place with an inventive and muscular pass of the latter.

Enter Mr Horan to trigger the second bizarre Safety Car period in quick succession; the first had been caused by the self-ejecting head restraint of David Coulthard’s McLaren. The pack was shuffled by stacking in the pits and Räikkönen moved back ahead of Barrichello when the latter was boxed in his box by gamesmanship on Williams’ part; Rubens dropped to eighth as a result.

He was not to be denied, though. Once past Trulli and the lagging Toyota of Olivier Panis, he uncorked a Schuey-like sequence to reduce Räikkönen’s advantage from 9.4sec to under a second inside four laps. The McLaren still led when Barrichello emerged from his late second stop, but the Ferrari man ‘simply’ sat it out side-by-side through the daunting Bridge to take the lead on lap 42.

On a day when overtaking was the new religion – Praise be! Everybody was at it – Barrichello had revealed his devil within. PF

The 2003 British Grand Prix on the Database

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

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