Motor Racing: Gravel traps `under review'

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MAX MOSLEY, the president of FIA, motor racing's world governing body, yesterday defended the safety precautions at Silverstone against criticism from drivers, including David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine.

Coulthard, who won the British Grand Prix for McLaren, and Irvine attacked the safety measures at Stowe corner, where Michael Schumacher went off the track at 170mph and speared the barrier while still travelling at more than 100mph. They said the gravel trap and tyre barrier were inadequate protection and called for banked traps or tarmac run-off areas.

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association, of which Schumacher and Coulthard are officers, is bound to increase the pressure for action, but Mosley responded with assurances that gravel traps are under review as part of wide-ranging research into safety measures, a process given added impetus by the death of Ayrton Senna five years ago.

Mosley said: "The investigation is ongoing to find methods of slowing cars. There is not enough evidence to support the opinion that banked gravel traps are the answer. We are working on a new high-grip tarmac construction, but the danger there is that the car can be thrown into the air."

He believes the three rows of tyres, connected by plastic piping, did their job and "perhaps saved Schumacher's life". Mosley said he was surprised Schumacher had not used the "locking" technique to spin the car in the gravel, which would have greatly reduced the speed, but that the car's "black box" recorder would provide further information.

Ferrari appear convinced a rear brake failure caused the accident and say that the force of the momentum from the rear wheels, conflicting with the braking front wheels, made it impossible for Schumacher to spin the car.

Schumacher's crumpled Ferrari - the front end having played its part by absorbing the impact - has been cleared by FIA officials after inspection and returned to the team. It will be examined by Ferrari technicians and engineers at their Maranello headquarters today.