20 years ago today: Brazilian GP victory awarded to Fisichella as race result is overturned

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On this day in 2003, Giancarlo Fisichella was finally declared the winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix — five days after the race had taken place. It was the first victory of his career.

The win was Jordan’s fourth and their first since the Italian Grand Prix in 1999 — it would turn out to be their last.

The race in Interlagos was a true classic and will go down as one of the greatest races to have taken place in the 21st century.

Home hero Rubens Barrichello started from pole position with David Coulthard joining him on the front row. Race day saw torrential rain and they would start behind the Safety Car.

Coulthard immediately took the lead from Barrichello when they got green flag racing, with Räikkönen quickly making it a McLaren 1-2. The Finn then made a lovely move down the inside on his British teammate into turn 1 to move to the front. It was very much advantage to the Michelin runners in the heavy rain.

Carnage ensued in the first half of the race. Juan Pablo Montoya, Antonio Pizzonia, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button all crashed at turn 3 during the race as a river of water in that area caught so many drivers out that day.

At the halfway point of the race — pretty much unnoticed — Giancarlo Fisichella ran in P6. Jordan topped him up with fuel behind the Safety Car on lap 7 before the race finally got going. Four Safety Car periods allowed them to save fuel and it would bring them into play later.

Teammate Ralph Firman was on the same strategy but had a suspension failure into turn 1 and hit the Toyota of Olivier Panis — he narrowly missed Fisichella in the process.

Coulthard led Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher, Alonso, Räikkönen and Fisichella at the halfway point when the fourth Safety Car period ended.

On lap 45, Barrichello took advantage of Coulthard going deep at turn 1 to take P1 at his home race. Would this finally be his year to win in front of his adoring home crowd? The answer was no. He had to pull off the circuit a couple of laps later as his Ferrari ran out of fuel. Yet more heartbreak for Barrichello and his tens of thousands of fans.

Coulthard regained top spot but pitted for fuel on lap 52 to hand the lead to teammate Räikkönen. However, the Bridgestone wet tyre was now clearly quicker as the track got drier and Fisichella had that on his Jordan.

Räikkönen understeered wide at turn 11 and gifted the lead to the Italian on lap 53. A first victory was on the cards for Fisichella — but the story was far from over.

Huge crashes for Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso saw the race red-flagged. Jordan and Fisichella thought they had won. However, a mistake on the day saw Kimi Raikkonen declared the winner. The Jordan squad were left gutted and deflated below the podium.

Such was the chaotic nature of the race, Alonso — who finished P3 — failed to appear on the podium as he was taken to hospital for checks after his nasty accident. Fisichella’s car also caught fire in the pit lane to top it all off.

Nonetheless, Jordan did not give up on it. A meeting took place at FIA headquarters in Paris on Friday the 11th following the race in Brazil.

‘Human error’ according to Max Mosley and a timing discrepancy meant Fisichella was incorrectly judged not to have started lap 56. Rules in F1 state that in the case of a red flag that ends the race, the result is declared on the order of two laps previously.

On the Sunday in Brazil, Räikkönen was awarded the victory as they went back to lap 53, thinking Fisichella was still on lap 55.

The mistake was corrected on that Friday in Paris and the race result was changed. Giancarlo Fisichella had his first victory — it would be the fourth and final one for Jordan.

How close was it to a Räikkönen victory? According to an ITV F1 feature at Imola on what happened, the red flags were thrown 4.2 seconds after the Italian had commenced lap 56.

Fisichella was given the winner’s trophy at Imola by the Finn as a small ceremony took place on the start-finish straight.

Although Räikkönen lost the victory, he extended his lead in the standings to nine points from Coulthard. Fisichella vaulted up to P4 with his win.

The Roman was understandably gutted that he did not get to celebrate his maiden win on the podium on the day when he spoke about it at the time.

“I am happy for the win, I am happy that the FIA admitted their mistake.

“But the damage remains. I would have been the first Italian to win in 11 years and I was not able to stand on the top step of the podium. But it’s still a win that will go down in formula one history.

“And I got there in difficult conditions, in a car that is not a winning one.”

It would be a memorable final win for Jordan as well. The Irish-owned team run by Eddie Jordan would be sold two years later as they could no longer financially compete with the big guns in Formula One.

“I am delighted for Giancarlo, the team, Ford and all our sponsors,” Jordan said at the time.

“Sunday’s race was absolutely thrilling and I am very grateful to the FIA for examining the results in such detail and acknowledging that the victory is Giancarlo’s.”

Picture credit: twitter.com/F1