Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, July 12, 1999

Schumacher Injured In High-Speed Crash

Brake Failure Causes Control Loss; Coulthard Wins British Grand Prix

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
SILVERSTONE, England - Michael Schumacher, the 1994 and 1995 world champion who is considered by many to be the greatest racer driving today, broke his right leg in a stunning high-speed accident on the first lap of the British Grand Prix on Sunday. The race was won by David Coulthard in a McLaren.

Coulthard, a Scot, covered the 60 laps of the 5.140 kilometer (3.194-mile) track in 1 hour 32 minutes and 30.144 seconds at an average speed of 199.970 kilometers per hour. Eddie Irvine, Schumacher's teammate in the other Ferrari, came in second, 1.8 seconds behind, followed by Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother, in a Williams.

''It's a great feeling to win the British Grand Prix,'' said Coulthard, adding that he hoped Schumacher was not too seriously injured.

Michael Schumacher, 30, is in second place in the Formula One world championship, tied with Irvine on 32 points each. But the injury, a double fracture to the right leg, will likely knock him out of the running this season for his third drivers' title.

Schumacher started the race in second place, behind the championship leader, Mika Hakkinen of Finland. The German driver was immediately overtaken by Coulthard and Irvine. He tailed Irvine through the first six corners before Irvine pulled aside to let him pass at the seventh corner.

Images from the television camera on Schumacher's car showed that while he turned the steering wheel to the right and his brakes locked up, the wheels appeared to fail to turn to the right. A brake failure was blamed. The car went straight off the track through the gravel trap and rammed into a protection wall of tires at nearly 200 kilometers per hour.

Schumacher first tried to extract himself from the car, then dropped back into the cockpit. Track medical officials hurried to the scene and spent several minutes removing him from the destroyed car.

The mishap was reminiscent of the accident that killed the three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in 1994 at Imola during the San Marino Grand Prix, when the driver shot straight off a corner into a concrete wall at over 300 kilometers per hour.

It was also similar to an accident at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1997 in which Olivier Panis, the French driver, broke both legs after he ran into the tire barrier. Panis did not race again for several months.

Schumacher's accident actually occurred after the race had already been stopped by a red flag, when the cars of Rubens Barrichello and Jacques Villeneuve stalled on the starting grid. Irvine said he was not informed the race was stopped, and Coulthard said that he did not see the red flag and doubted Schumacher would have either.

''It's not so nice after your brother has an accident to get back in the car,'' said Ralf Schumacher, who was informed of his brother's condition before the restart. ''But the team was relying on me and I had to do my job.'' He said they kept him informed of his brother's situation during the race by radio.

In his career in Formula One, which started with the Jordan team in 1991, Michael Schumacher has won 35 races, the third highest total behind Alain Prost with 51 and Senna with 41. This year he led the season until the Canadian race a month ago, when he lost the lead to Hakkinen, the current world champion.

Schumacher was the Ferrari team's greatest hope to win its first drivers' title since 1979. The accident was a double blow to the team as their lead in the constructor's title is now reduced to only two points, 64 to 62, ahead of world champions McLaren. Ferrari has not won a constructor's title since 1983.

Forty minutes after the accident, while Schumacher was being evacuated from the track to a hospital in Northampton, the race was restarted. Another stalled car on the grid, an Arrows driven by Pedro de la Rosa, caused the safety car to be brought out and the race was effectively suspended for another lap. When the race was restarted, Hakkinen held onto the lead ahead of Irvine and Coulthard.

The leaders maintained these positions for the first third of the race until a first series of pit stops. Hakkinen's stop after lap 25 left him with a problem on his rear left tire and he had to return to the pits. Irvine took over the lead for a lap but then stopped after lap 26. He returned to the track just behind Coulthard, now in the lead. Ralf Schumacher was by then in third.

On lap 30, halfway through the race, Hakkinen's tire fell off and nearly hit several other cars as it rolled across the track. He returned to the pits and put on a new wheel.

After the same lap Villeneuve stopped his British American Racing car in the straight with an engine problem, and the safety car was brought out again. The race started again one lap later with all the cars grouped together again but Hakkinen a lap behind. He finally quit the race after lap 36.

A second series of pit stops began 20 laps before the end when Coulthard, Irvine, Schumacher, and Frentzen and Hill in the Jordans in fourth and fifth, all stopped within six laps. But the race order was never to change.

It was Coulthard's fifth career victory, his first in his home Grand Prix and his first since the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola last year. It was his fourth victory for McLaren. Coulthard, 28, now has 22 points in the drivers' standings, and moves to fifth place overall.

The next race is the Austrian Grand Prix on 25 July in Spielberg.

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