Motor Racing: Lamy in 'horrifying' crash at Silverstone: Lotus driver breaks kneecaps and thigh as car disintegrates following 150mph smash during testing for Spanish Grand Prix

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The Independent Online
FORMULA ONE'S torment continued yesterday when the Portuguese driver, Pedro Lamy, testing modifications intended to make the sport safer, crashed into and over perimeter fencing at Silverstone, landing in a spectator area. The 22-year-old Lotus-Mugen Honda driver broke both kneecaps and a thigh, but was said to be stable following an operation at Northampton General Hospital.

Lamy's Lotus, incorporating the new aerodynamic changes ordered by the governing body, FIA, for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, went out of control at 150mph, between Abbey Curve and Bridge, a section of the track not regarded as especially dangerous.

The car spun, then lifted and plunged into the wall and debris fencing on the left. Much of the wreckage was strewn across the track but the survival cell, with Lamy strapped inside, was tossed along a walkway and into a pedestrian tunnel. No one was in the area yesterday, but at a grand prix meeting there would have been hundreds of spectators in the vicinity. Almost immediately on the scene was Lamy's English team- mate, Johnny Herbert. He said: 'I had been following Pedro, about 100 yards behind, when his car spun. There was lots of dust and it just took off.

'I stopped my car and jumped out but at first I couldn't find him. Then I could see the tub had been thrown on to the other side of the fence. I couldn't believe it, he was half-way down the tunnel.

'The back end of the car was on fire. Even his helmet was steaming. The marshalls soon appeared and I helped them put out the fire. I didn't really want to go in there but I had to. I feared the worst after what's happened recently.

'He was unconscious when I got to him but he gradually came to. He was breathing heavily and obviously in pain. They put his legs in splints and carried him to the helicopter to be taken to hospital. It was as horrifying as any as the recent accidents we've had.'

The incident had repercussions across the Atlantic, where Carl Haas is opposed to Nigel Mansell's possible limited return to grand prix racing. 'I am not comfortable with it and the latest accident involving Pedro Lamy makes me feel worse,' Haas, the co-owner of Mansell's IndyCar team, said.

Lamy was driving one of Lotus's older cars, converted in line with the new regulations. Herbert, who was testing the team's new car, which he is due to drive in Spain, added: 'I tested the old car on Monday and it was fine. It's impossible to say what went wrong.'

Drivers, teams, officials and the public will be asking whether the changes, decreed by FIA, to reduce downforce and cornering speeds, following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, at Imola, and the serious head injuries sustained by Karl Wendlinger, at Monaco, have been introduced too hastily. Less serious accidents have occurred at Jerez, where other teams have been preparing for the Barcelona race.

A Silverstone spokesperson said: 'The debris fencing at that point is 10 feet high. We will be looking to see whether it was a freak accident and whether we should improve or increase the height of the fencing at that point. If there is any danger of an accident like this happening again we would shut off the area to the public. Our concern is not only for the safety of the drivers but especially for the spectators. We had already drawn up plans to amend parts of the track that the drivers have expressed concerns about.'

Derek Warwick, nominated by the revamped Grand Prix Drivers' Association to inspect Silverstone ahead of the British Grand Prix, on 10 July, said: 'This is not an area of the track that springs to mind as being particularly dangerous. There are a couple of small crests across and along the road, but I would suspect car failure.'

It is estimated this first phase of changes to the cars has reduced downforce by up to 25 per cent, adding about three seconds to a lap of Silverstone. The fear in some quarters, however, is that the alterations may have created unforeseen problems.

Doctors in Nice have restarted attempts to bring Karl Wendlinger out of his controlled coma. An earlier attempt was halted because of brain swelling.

(Photograph omitted)