Schumacher hurt in 100mph crash

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A SPECTACULAR first-lap accident overshadowed the emotional farewell appearance of Damon Hill before his home fans at Silverstone in yesterday's British Grand Prix.

Hill finished fifth but thequestions about the timing of his retirement took second place to the injuries suffered by Michael Schumacher, once Hill's bitterest rival, whose Ferrari hit a barrier at more than 100mph just after the start.

The race was won by David Coulthard in a McLaren - the Scottish driver's first victory in his home grand prix. Coulthard finished less than two seconds in front of Eddie Irvine, completing the first British one-two at a Silverstone grand prix in more than 30 years.

Schumacher, who won the world championship in 1994 and 1995 at Hill's expense and was challenging for this year's title, broke the tibia and fibula of his right leg in the impact. The race was stopped as he was lifted from the wreckage and taken by ambulance to the circuit's medical centre. Within half an hour, however, he was speaking on the telephone to his wife, Corinna. Surgery was performed on him last night at Northampton General Hospital, and he is expected to be out of action for six weeks.

As yet, no one knows whether Hill will ever be in action as a racing driver again. Two weeks ago the 1996 world champion announced his intention to retire at the end of the season, only to suggest a few days later, in the wake of a dismal performance in the French Grand Prix, that he was quitting immediately.

Public dismay resulted in his appearance at Silverstone and there were suggestions that a good performance over the weekend might persuade him to see the season out, despite signs that some members of his Jordan team had lost patience with his prevarication.

His fifth place, finishing a few seconds behind his team-mate, Heinz- Harald Frentzen, represented a workmanlike showing, but afterwards Hill refused to commit himself. "There was a lot of pressure before the race," he said. "It's been a difficult week to enjoy. I had to shut out my emotions and concentrate on the job, but today put a smile on my face. The plan now is to have a few beers and think about the future."

The restarted race was led until the halfway point by Mika Hakkinen, the current world champion, in his McLaren. But after a pitstop, the Finn had the disconcerting experience of seeing one of his wheels fall off.

Race report, Sport, page 1