Kimi Raikkonen won what is widely regarded to be the best grand prix of the modern era. The Japanese Grand Prix took place on the legendary Suzuka circuit and saw a back-to-front grid after a wet qualifying session caused havoc for the front runners. As a result Raikkonen started from 17th, sandwiched between team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya and the newly-crowned champion Fernando Alonso. By the end of the first lap Raikkonen was 12th, and he continued to cut his way through the field after an early safety car period bunched up the pack. Alonso couldn't match his pace - but it wasn't through lack of trying. At the 180mph 130R corner he passed Michael Schumacher on the outside, one of the boldest overtaking moves of all time, and went on to finish third. Meanwhile Raikkonen was lining up Giancarlo Fisichella at the front and closed down a five-second lead in five laps. On the final lap he moved into the Renault's slip stream on the pit straight, and as Fisichella blocked the inside of turn one, Raikkonen launched his car around the outside to take the lead. His performance cracked Ron Dennis's usual stoicism, and brought the McLaren team boss to tears. Even monosyllabic Finn was keen to dwell on his achievement: "I think that was one of my best races ever with a lot of hard work and I really enjoyed myself. Considering all the problems we have had here to come away with a win is just fantastic."
Jody Scheckter won the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport but the whole event was somewhat overshadowed by internal politics at Ferrari. Having won the world championship for the second time, Niki Lauda walked out on the Italian squad with two races left due to a bitter dispute with Enzo Ferrari. The war of words had its roots in Lauda's decision to retire from the Japanese Grand Prix - and therefore hand the title to James Hunt - a year earlier, after he considered the torrential conditions too dangerous to race in. Ferrari was critical and some in Italy called him a coward, leading to a frosty relationship throughout 1977 but a title victory nonetheless. However, by the Canadian Grand Prix he had enough and bringing Gilles Villeneuve into the team as a third driver was the final straw. The race itself saw a McLaren strategy backfire as James Hunt (McLaren) attempted to pass race-leader Mario Andretti (Lotus) as they lapped Jochen Mass (McLaren). However, Hunt managed to pass Andretti as he was baulked by Mass but then collided with his team-mate and the two McLarens spun off. Andretti led until lap 78 and an engine failure. Jody Scheckter picked his way through the blunders to take a home victory for the Canadian Wolf team.
Jacques Villeneuve stormed out of the BAR F1 team, just one day before the start of the Japanese Grand Prix. He asked to be released from his contract in the wake of team principal David Richards' announcement that Takuma Sato would replace Villeneuve in 2004. Sato was drafted into replace Villeneuve for the rest of the 2003 season as well, and the 1997 champion didn't race again until the end of 2004 when he replaced Jarno Trulli at Renault. Villeneuve had been at BAR since it was founded in 1999 but his relationship with the team deteriorated rapidly when his manager Craig Pollock was replaced as team principal by Richards.
FIA president Max Mosley put forward the idea of drivers swapping cars race by race in order to improve the show. "There are a large number of very radical proposals which have been sent to the teams for discussion," Mosley told the Daily Telegraph. "Some are very speculative ideas and we have to talk to the teams about them - but we mustn't just sit here and not talk about things. There is an argument to be had for each driver driving each car once. This has an advantage because then we would see who are the best drivers and teams and if there are means to make it more interesting for the public then we should at least talk about it." The idea never got off the ground.
F1 driver, sports car ace and possible Stig, Julian Bailey was born in London. He was one of the rising stars in Formula Ford and Formula 3000 in the 1980s but never drove a competitive car in F1. His first stint was with Tyrrell in 1988 but the team was past its best and he failed to qualify on ten occasions. After a brief spell driving for Nissan at Le Mans he returned to F1 with Lotus but, despite scoring a point at San Marino, was dropped after failing to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix.He then turned to British touring cars and sports car racing, in which he won the FIA GT championship in 2000. In recent years he has been rumoured to be one of the drivers acting as the Stig on the popular BBC TV programme Top Gear.