Schumacher escapes from 180mph crash

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The Independent Online

Michael Schumacher's bid for a fourth World Championship is still on course after he walked away unhurt from a 180mph crash yesterday.

Schumacher emerged unscathed from his badly damaged Ferrari after it slammed into a tyre barrier before hitting a perimeter fence during testing in Monza for next month's Italian Grand Prix.

The German, who leads the Championship by 37 points with just six races left, immediately flew home to Switzerland after his crash but said: "I'm okay." The high-speed smash was similar to Schumacher's accident at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two years ago which left his title hopes in tatters along with his broken leg.

Schumacher lost control under-braking for the Variante Della Roggia chicane. The car hit and then slid along the guard rail on the right-hand side of the track before shooting across the circuit and hitting the tyre barrier, then jumping up onto another metal guard rail.

Unlike his crash at Stowe Corner in 1999, Schumacher was able to step from the cockpit before being taken to the circuit's medical centre in a safety car for the mandatory check-up. Schumacher's brother Ralf, who was testing his Williams-BMW at the time, immediately pulled over and got out of his own car after seeing his elder sibling involved in an accident.

The car and bits of debris were covered up in a red Ferrari tarpaulin before being taken back to the garage on a tow-truck and carried into the workshop with the shutters immediately being pulled down.

Schumacher went in for an immediate de-briefing with the team's engineers while work began to discover what went wrong though early indications suggested it was not technical failure. "Michael is okay, he is quite calm about what happened," said a Ferrari spokes-women. "It is too early to say what if anything went wrong. We do not know yet if Michael will test again this week."

Schumacher finished second to McLaren's Mika Hakkinen at Silverstone on Sunday and could equal Alain Prost's record of 51 victories if he wins his home race next Sunday.