Engine failure puts Raikkonen on the back foot

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The Independent Online

Raikkonen, who desperately needs to keep winning races in order to reduce Fernando Alonso's 22-point advantage and to draw away again from the closing Schumacher, ran into a road block yesterday afternoon when his McLaren's Mercedes V10 engine failed on his first flying lap.

Under the rules, teams may only use one engine per car for two races, or else face a penalty of 10 grid places if they make an engine change. The best that Raikkonen can thus hope to start on Sunday afternoon is 11th.

"That is obviously going to affect my weekend quite a bit," the Finn said. "It will make things more challenging."

Meanwhile, Schumacher found himself on the receiving end of criticism from his fellows in the Grand Prix Drivers Association, which met yesterday afternoon.

Schumacher, together with Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello and the Jordan drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro, was one of the few drivers who did not sign an eloquent statement offered by the drivers in mitigation of the decisions that their teams were forced to make in Indianapolis.

This, much to the chagrin of the FIA president, Max Mosley, was submitted in the teams' defence to the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris last Wednesday, as the signatories spelt out in crystal-clear language to motor sport's governing body, the FIA, why a voluntary speed limit for Michelin-shod cars was not an option for Turn 13 at Indianapolis.

While discussing the matter on Thursday, Schumacher said: "As far as I understand, it was an initiative from Renault. I don't recall they called me. I would have been surprised if they had anyway. Just to make clear, this was not a GPDA thing. I think we just have different opinions about it, which is only natural so I would not have signed it."

Reiterating the point subsequently, Schumacher added: "As I said, the GPDA was not involved because it's nothing to do with circuit safety. Here it is a mechanical situation, from one team to another, which is not a subject matter for the GPDA."

Fellow GPDA director Jarno Trulli, who took pole position for the US Grand Prix, disagreed and said: "I received the document direct from the GPDA.

"We all know how many people are in the GPDA and probably most of us here are GPDA members. So, I don't really understand the situation and I will try to understand it better tomorrow when we will have a meeting.

"Anyway, we will all get the information from the GPDA by email. So nobody can say I didn't get the message. You can only say I didn't agree."

Elsewhere, a fresh threat to the smooth running of the French Grand Prix emerged in the form of notorious French militant protester Francois Schneider, who is planning to disrupt entry to the Magny-Cours circuit tomorrow morning.

Together with his donkey Jujube, Schneider is heading towards the track with the intention of protesting against the consumerism of the Nievre department of France which seeks to bring economic benefit to the region via the race.

"We want the end of this anachronistic activity reserved for a score of spoilt rich brats," Schneider's organisation claims. If it happens, this will not be the first attempt to disrupt the race; the inaugural grand prix in 1991 was interrupted by a national truck drivers' strike.