Where are they now? The 24 drivers who raced in F1 2003

Michael Schumacher at Monaco. Monaco, May 2003. Credit: Alamy
Michael Schumacher at Monaco. Monaco, May 2003. Credit: Alamy

The F1 2003 season was one of the closest in the sport’s history with Michael Schumacher winning the title by just two points, but where are all 24 drivers now?

20 years ago, Schumacher picked up his sixth World Championship as he narrowly pipped a fresh faced Kimi Raikkonen to the title and the Finn was one of three drivers on the 2003 grid who would go on to become a champion.

There was also a shake-up in the rules with points-paying positions stretching out to the top eight places rather than the previous six.

So, as the 2023 season draws nearer, let’s have a look back at some of the drivers from yesteryear and what they are up to these days.

Michael Schumacher

The legendary German driver would win another World Championship in 2004, setting a new record for the number of titles a single driver has and one which he holds to this day alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Schumacher would leave Ferrari in 2009 having last raced for them in 2006, but would be tempted back to the sport by the offer to fulfil a lifelong dream of driving for Mercedes. He would spend three seasons at the team before retiring for the second and final time.

Since then, little is known about Schumacher’s life after he suffered a tragic accident whilst skiing with his son Mick in the French Alps. December 2022 marked nine years since his accident while the beloved driver has not made a public appearance since that day.

Kimi Raikkonen

Although Raikkonen missed out on the 2003 title by the barest of margins, he would eventually be crowned champion when he topped the pile in 2007, becoming the ninth and most recent Ferrari driver to do so.

The Iceman retired in 2021 after a 20-year career and did so as the driver who had completed the most laps in Formula 1 at that time.

Since then, the Finn has been enjoying some well-earned time with his family but has dabbled in other series, most recently NASCAR with Trackhouse Racing Team.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Of all the drivers on the 2003 grid, it is perhaps Montoya who has the most varied CV. After leaving F1 in 2006, he would compete in the next nine seasons of NASCAR before a move to IndyCar in 2014.

He came oh so close to adding an IndyCar title to his name when he tied Scott Dixon on 556 points in 2015, but missed out due to Dixon having won more races.

Montoya left full-time IndyCar in 2016 but returned in the 2017, 2021 and 2022 season for the Indy 500. The Colombian also drives in various International Motor Sports Association competitions.

Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello followed up being team-mates with Schumacher by joining forces with Jenson Button at Honda. While the team would change names, the two would be involved in one of the biggest underdog stories in Formula 1 history as Brawn GP won both world titles in its only year of competing.

Following Brawn’s takeover by Mercedes, Barrichello moved to Williams where he ended his F1 career in 2011.

Since then, the Brazilian has also tried his hand at IndyCar as well as a number of series in his native Brazil. He has been racing stock cars in the country since 2012, winning the 2014 and 2022 titles.

When he’s not in the car, Barrichello spends his time commentating and has been a part of the Brazilian channel TV Globo’s coverage of F1 since 2013.

Ralf Schumacher

The younger Schumacher brother would leave Formula 1 in 2007 after a troubling spell with Toyota but despite attempts at a comeback, Ralf never found his way back onto the grid.

Instead, he raced in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters until he announced his retirement from driving in March 2013 and became involved with Mucke Motorsport.

Schumacher is perhaps nowadays most famous for his work as a pundit for Sky Sports Germany where he has not been shy about defending his nephew Mick.

Fernando Alonso

The sole survivor of the 2003 grid to still be racing in F1 in 2023. Alonso may have been at the start of his career in 2003 but he has since demonstrated himself to be one of the finest drivers ever to take part in F1.

He would pick up back-to-back title wins at Renault and while his career moves have been somewhat suspect since then, few had doubted his talent or his longevity.

Alonso surpassed Raikkonen to have driven the most laps in Formula 1 history and having signed a two-year deal with Aston Martin that will see him race until he is 43, there are plenty of laps left in his remarkable career.

David Coulthard

Coulthard’s 2003 season in the McLaren represented his worst performance since the 1996 campaign but from that point on, DC would slip further and further down the standings.

He stayed with McLaren for the 2004 season before making the switch to the newly established Red Bull team. While his results were nothing to write home about, he was instrumental to this fledgling team’s early life and it was through him that Christian Horner managed to convince Adrian Newey to come on board.

Since retiring from F1, Coulthard has kept his toe in the water, appearing for Red Bull at promotional events as well as punditry for the British broadcaster Channel 4.

Jarno Trulli

Trulli etched his name in motorsport history the year after the 2003 season as he picked up his one and only Formula 1 win at Monaco.

Despite this, he was given the sack with three races to go and would move to Toyota where he stayed for five seasons.

After that, he raced for Lotus before leaving the series shortly before the 2012 season. This meant that for the first time since 1969, there would be no Italian on the grid.

Following his F1 exploits, Trulli took part in the FIA Formula E Championship for his own team Trulli GP but would end bottom in the standings and fail to pass scrutineering for the next season.

He has also recently been linked as a possible team principal for Audi’s F1 entry.

Jenson Button

2003 was the first year of a winding road that would eventually lead to Button becoming World Champion. He raced for BAR before they were taken over by Honda who were themselves bought by Brawn, the team with which the Brit won his world title.

He moved to McLaren in 2010 and would stay until 2017 before hanging up his F1 racing boots and later moving into roles upstairs. In 2021, he joined Williams as an advisor and also does punditry for Sky Sports in the UK. He made his British GT debut in 2020 and also has an Extreme E team alongside many other ventures.

Mark Webber

Despite perhaps being unfairly known as the team-mate to Sebastian Vettel during the German’s title-winning years, Webber would become an accomplished racer himself, earning nine wins which makes him the third most successful Australian driver in F1 history.

Following his time with Red Bull, he left Formula 1 to return to endurance racing with Porsche which he did for three seasons before retiring in 2017.

Since then, he has set-up his own management company with his wife and lists the likes of Oscar Piastri amongst his clients. Webber was instrumental in getting his Australian compatriot a place on the 2023 grid.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen

The 2003 season was the last of Frentzen’s nine-year F1 career after which, he returned to his native Germany to take part in Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft.

He also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin where he finished 16th and moved to the Speedcar Series in 2008.

His final racing appearance came in the ADAC GT Masters in 2014.

Giancarlo Fisichella

While his F1 days are behind him, Fisichella is still racing to this day. In 2022, he drove in five open wheel series including the 24 Hours of Le Mans which he also won in the GTE Pro division in June 2012.

His last taste of Formula 1 came in 2010 when he featured as a reserve driver for Ferrari, having replaced the injured Felipe Massa for the final five races of the 2009 campaign.

Cristiano da Matta

Having come from the CART series, Da Matta returned following a two-year spell in Formula 1 for Toyota. While he did achieve three P6s, the Brazilian did not help himself by openly criticising the Toyota’s performance.

As a result, Da Matta lost his seat to Ricardo Zonta after the German Grand Prix.

In 2006, he hit a deer while testing and was knocked unconscious. The doctors kept him in an induced coma before he was discharged a little over a month after his accident.

Two years later and he was back racing with his most recent outing being the 2011 American Le Mans Series.

Nick Heidfeld

‘Quick Nick’ struggled to get a plentiful haul of points in his final year at Sauber in 2003, taking just six before he departed for Jordan the following year.

He was still touted as a possible top-end contender in Formula 1 as the German youngster moved for pastures new, a return to the rebranded BMW Sauber providing an almost title-contending car.

He continued in the sport until 2011 before moving on to Formula E – taking 13 podiums, unfortunately none of which being on the top step.

He tried his hand at several different series after leaving F1, including the World Endurance Championship, V8 Supercars in Australia, even having a start in the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the end of 2022.

Olivier Panis

Panis had a rough time of things with reliability at BAR the season beforehand, and his move to Toyota didn’t improve things much for him either – retiring from nine of the 16 races in 2003.

A creditable P5 finish in Germany was as good as things got that year for the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner, with 2003 eventually turning out to be his penultimate season in Formula 1 before retiring a year later.

His racing career continued with a smattering of appearances at Le Mans from 2008 to 2011, before some runs in GT racing back in France later on. He has kept a relatively low profile overall since retiring from Formula 1, but has done some commentary work in the years since.

Jacques Villeneuve

Having left Williams to join BAR in 1999, the 1997 World Champion was finding life a little tougher with his new side and by the time of the 2003 season, he was facing the exit door.

Following his P16 in the Championship, BAR agreed to the Canadian’s request to be released and he took some time away before returning with Renault and eventually retiring in 2006 with BMW Sauber.

After Formula 1, Villeneuve tried his hand in a great number of driving series, most recently the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022, but he has plenty of interests away from the track.

In 2007, he released an acoustic rock album called Private Paradise which charted at number 49 on the Quebec pop charts.

Villeneuve, though, is best known these days as a Formula 1 pundit…and a very opinionated one, too!

Marc Gene

2003 marked a return to the track for Gene having first raced for Minardi in 1999 and 2000, but his appearance was fleeting with a solitary outing at the Italian Grand Prix.

The following year he doubled that tally to two but those would be his final F1 races.

After that, the Spaniard competed in eight editions of Le Mans including a victory in 2009 and a P2 in 2008 and 2014.

Gene is still involved in Formula 1 to this very day, being a test driver for Ferrari. Talk about a dream job!

Takuma Sato

Sato drove for a single race in 2003 as a replacement for the wantaway Villeneuve, but his P6 did enough to earn him the full-time seat alongside Button in 2006.

His eighth-place finish in the 2004 Drivers’ Standings remains the best result ever for a Japanese driver.

After Formula 1, he moved to IndyCar and became a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner in 2017 and 2020. He most recently drove in IndyCar for Dale Coyne Racing in 2022.

Ralph Firman

The Irishman secured a seat in 2003 with Jordan but would last just one season having collected a solitary point following 16 races.

He would retire six times, just two times fewer than the number of times he finished, meaning Jordan did not have much interest in retaining his services.

He then competed in Japan in the Super GT series before retiring in 2013 to run a British engineering company.

Justin Wilson

Wilson would race in Formula 1 for a single season before moving to the US to begin an open-wheel racing career including stints in the Champ Car World Series and IndyCar.

His life was tragically cut short during an incident at the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania when race leader Sage Karam lost control and crashed into the wall.

His nose cone flew across the track and as Wilson swerved to avoid the debris, he hit the nose cone head on and sadly passed away the following day from his injuries.

Antônio Pizzonia

The 2003 season was Pizzonia’s rookie year in F1 having impressed with a British Formula 3 Championship title in 2000.

Williams opted to hire him as a test driver for 2002 but he was signed by Jaguar to partner Mark Webber for the 2003 season.

It was a difficult start to his career though as he retired in three of the opening five races. Following his sixth DNF at Silverstone, he was dropped by the team and would not race for another year.

He returned to the track in great form, picking up three P7s in his four races with Williams having been brought in to replace the injured Ralf Schumacher.

Pizzonia was again brought in late on in 2006 but ended his Formula 1 career with a P13 in China.

Post-F1, he competed in a variety of series including the FIA World Endurance Championship, Stock Car Brasil and the Porsche Endurance Series in 2021.

Jos Verstappen

Verstappen may never have gone on to reach the very top of Formula 1 but he has certainly played his part in crafting arguably one of the sport’s finest ever drivers.

As father, mentor and mechanic for Max Verstappen, Jos gave him the perfect, if a little extreme, childhood to mould the Dutchman into an elite driver.

Jos has watched on as his son has picked up two World Championships and has even found the time to go racing himself, making his World Rally Championship debut in August 2022.

Nicolas Kiesa

If ever there was a quiz question to name the most obscure F1 driver, Kiesa may take the crown. The Dane competed in just five races for Minardi with a career-best finish of P11 in Indianapolis before moving back to being a test driver for Jordan in the 2004 season.

After his Formula 1 career, Kiesa tried his hand at DTM and Le Mans.

Zsolt Baumgartner

Baumgartner may have only scored a single point in his two-season career in F1 but it was enough to make him a Hungarian legend as he remains the only driver from the country to have competed in and recorded a point in Formula 1.

The Hungarian would leave Minardi and the sport in 2004.

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