As the green flag waved, the excitement was all a bit too much for Webber’s Jaguar, the rear suspension collapsing to bring out another safety car.
With more stops following, pit-lane starter Räikkönen now found himself leading from Schumacher, team-mate David Coulthard and BAR’s Jacques Villeneuve.
After running a promising fourth and fifth, Villeneuve then took an executive decision to implode his own team’s race. In a move of typical charity, the French-Canadian stopped a lap later than planned, leaving team-mate Jenson Button to queue behind him in the pits, thus stymieing any threat from the Brit.
Ferrari decided this was the moment to pit Schumacher again and Räikkönen shortly followed suit, leaving Montoya in the lead for a second time.
Räikkönen’s robust defence against Schumacher
The Scuderia driver found himself behind the Finn, but soon closed in looking to effect a pass.
Things came to a head as the two squared up at Turn One, Räikkönen shoving Schumacher onto the grass.
Despite his efforts on the behalf of all non-Ferrari fans, the McLaren driver was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane.
Montoya then pitted to leave Schumacher first once again, but not for long.
The effects of exploring the scenery at Albert Park had taken their toll and one of the German’s bargeboards emancipated itself from the Ferrari; the world champion was obliged to stop and have his car checked.
Trailing bargeboard forced Schumacher to pit from the lead
Montoya was back in the lead, the Columbian driver now having a (theoretically) clear run at securing his second ever grand prix win.
However, Juan-Pablo – never one for predictability – surprised everyone by performing his victory donut eight laps early, reversing his Williams into the barriers with a rare deftness of touch that left his car undamaged.
The result was that, for the first time in the race, McLaren’s David Coulthard now led.
Things went from bad to worse for Montoya as a resurgent Räikkönen began to put him under pressure for second. Not far behind was Schumacher who now, having shed various bits of his car, seemed to be going even faster.
Montoya’s spin from a comfortable lead
In a race so far lacking in any consistency, the order stayed the same for the remaining few laps.
Coulthard trundled home to take his 13th (and final) F1 win whilst Montoya came home second, ahead of Räikkönen and Schumacher.
The 2003 Australian Grand Prix had witnessed a race of seven lead changes across four drivers, a fair few prangs and five different cars in the top six.
F1 hadn’t had this much fun since the 90s. The season went on to provide even more entertainment, with eight different winners and a title battle which down to the wire.
Some things never change though. Schumacher, after being pushed all the way by Räikkönen, went on to be crowned F1 champ again, winning by just two points.