Motor Racing: Benetton attack safety measures: Schumacher to drive in Spanish Grand Prix 'at his own risk'

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The Independent Online
FLAVIO BRIATORE, the head of Benetton, yesterday questioned the competence of Max Mosley, the president of the sport's governing body, FIA, and criticised his new safety measures for Formula One as being more expensive and more dangerous.

In a letter to Mosley, Briatore also stated that he had advised his driver Michael Schumacher, who leads the championship, that he would be competing in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at his own risk.

Briatore said the modifications, which will reduce downforce by 25 per cent, for the race in Barcelona have led to serious problems, including 'structural failures'. The cornering speed of the cars 'may have been reduced, but the likelihood of an accident has been increased', he wrote.

He listed other fears regarding Mosley's proposed safety changes beyond Barcelona and added: 'Despite these concerns, you continue to insist on these ill-conceived measures. It is our opinion that the ability of yourself and your advisers to judge technical and safety issues in Formula One must be questioned.'

Briatore added: 'We will be advising our drivers that the parts they will be racing on Sunday may not have been subjected to proper analysis and testing. It will be their and FIA's responsibility that they race.'

Briatore pointed out that he had supported Mosley's attempts to reduce costs in F1, but added: 'The measures you have now introduced do exactly the opposite without the beneficial effect they were introduced for.'

The new measures, which are designed to curb the recent spate of horrific accidents, are also worrying drivers. Mark Blundell and Martin Brundle yesterday revealed that they are less than confident about the safety of their modified cars.

Blundell, who drives for Tyrrell, feels the cars are no safer than before, while Brundle believes a reduction in power is also necessary. 'Our car is not too bad,' the McLaren driver said, 'but I want to reserve judgement - I want to drive it in the wet.'

Both drivers have tested the modifications at Silverstone, where the Lotus driver, Pedro Lamy, crashed on Tuesday. Lamy was reported to be comfortable yesterday after breaking both kneecaps and a thigh.

'The cars are 3.5 seconds a lap slower,' Blundell said, 'but they're no safer. There are going to be a few teams in Barcelona who haven't turned a wheel until Friday and I don't think that is making it safer.'

Brundle said he felt there was significantly less grip. 'The car is less pure to drive. It reminds me of a few years ago in terms of overall grip.'

Simtex have replaced the late Roland Ratzenberger with the Italian Andrea Montermini for Sunday's grand prix. Sauber have decided not to run a second car until the injured Karl Wendlinger, who is being brought out of a controlled coma, is no longer in danger.

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