The junior is certain: “This car belongs on the racetrack”

Connoisseurs of Formula 1 history will remember: Michael Schumacher already had the two world championship titles in his pocket in 1994 and 1995 when he switched from Benetton to Ferrari for the 1996 racing season. The sports car manufacturer with the prancing horse in its coat of arms had been involved in the Formula 1 World Championship since 1950 and had won the driver’s title nine times up to that point, the last time with Jody Scheckter. However, that was 17 years ago when the German signed his contract in Maranello.

But four more years were to pass before Schumacher was able to finish the season as world champion with a Ferrari for the first time. After that, of course, things went fast. Titles four, five, six and seven followed in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, all with Ferrari.

The 2003 Formula 1 season was extremely tight for Schumacher. In the end, he was just two points ahead of second-placed Kimi Raikkonen. At the start, the German sat behind the wheel of the updated F2002 from last year’s car for the first four races, but only climbed to the top of the podium after the fourth race at the San Marino/Imola Grand Prix. He had previously finished fourth in Australia and sixth in Malaysia. At the following wet race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he crashed into a tire wall.

At the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on May 4, 2003, Schumacher drove the new F2003-GA for the first time, which bore the two initials in the name in memory of Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, who died in January 2003. The new racer was longer than its predecessor, which not only gave it better aerodynamics but also allowed more space for a longer variant of the 3-liter V-10 engine, an exceptional 845 hp (622 kW) powerplant, capable of sustaining 19,000 rpm.

Schumacher contested nine races with this model and took first place five times in the 2003 racing season, namely in Barcelona/Spain, Spielberg/Austria, Montreal/Canada, Monza/Italy and Indianapolis/USA. He also finished third in Monte Carlo/Monaco and in Magny-Cours/France, where brother Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW) was at the top of the podium.

The bottom line is that the F2003-GA turned out to be the most successful Formula 1 racer ever designed by Ferrari. With him, Michael Schumacher won his sixth and penultimate Drivers’ World Championship, with which he was able to surpass the previous record set by Juan Manuel Fangio. In addition, the car entered the 13th Constructors’ World Championship for Ferrari.

Exactly this single-seater came under the hammer on November 9 at the auction house Sotheby’s in Geneva. Freshly overhauled and with an engine that had only been driven a little over 140 miles, it would still cut a fine figure on any Formula 1 circuit today. Schumacher’s son Mick was also convinced of this when he was recently allowed to drive the car at racing speed on Ferrari’s own Pista di Fiorano circuit near Maranello. Afterwards he explained: “This car belongs on the racetrack, not in a museum, it wants and needs to be driven. The aerodynamics are still top notch.”

The auction house Sotheby’s had estimated the value of the legendary car at at least 7.7 million euros. A financially strong bidder held out until the last blow of the auctioneer’s hammer. His bid was 14,360,000 Swiss francs, the equivalent of 14,922,600 euros, almost double that. Whether he will use Schumacher’s winning car in classic car races or let it disappear into a private museum remains his and Sotheby’s secret. (Hans-Robert Richarz/cen)

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