Schumacher makes safety demands

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Michael Schumacher is demanding more safety measures at the corner where he broke his leg after the Brazilian, Ricardo Zonta, crashed spectacularly at the same spot here yesterday.

Zonta, who drives for the BAR Honda team, was helpless as a push rod broke and he lost a front wheel approaching Stowe Corner at 175mph in testing for next week's British Grand Prix. The car rolled across the gravel trap, flipped over the tyre barrier, a wall and fence, and landed upside down in a grassed no-go area.

Zonta climbed out of his car unhurt but for a cut finger. However, BAR stopped their programme here and at a circuit in France, where their British test driver Darren Manning was also running.

Schumacher, the world championship leader, driving here for the first time since his accident in last year's race, returned to the scene in his capacity as official of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association to inspect the safety precautions.

Silverstone has spent £600,000 on improvements approved by the FAI, the governing body of motor sport, since the last British Grand Prix, including the addition of a third row of tyres and a protective rubber belt in front of the wall. Schumacher was content the extra protection had been "helpful" but will contact Charlie Whiting, the FIA safety officer, to ask for further measures before the drivers begin practice for the grand prix next Friday.

"There are a couple of things which I think are vital," said Schumacher, who went straight on at the corner last July and was excluded from racing for three months. "I don't think I should be more specific until I have spoken to Charlie. We don't want to turn this into something controversial. I realise we cannot have any major work but I'm pretty sure we can look after details.

"I have looked at the incident on the video and it was interesting to go to the scene of the accident. The car landed quite a long way from the stand and we are very lucky Ricardo is almost unhurt. It shows how good car safety is. But it also shows that even though Silverstone have improved safety in this area it does not mean we can stop where we are."

Silverstone, which has consistently upgraded facilities and safety standards in recent years, is prepared to respond to the requests of the drivers. Denys Rohan, the track's chief executive, said: "If there is anything we can do to make further improvements, we shall. We'll sit down, talk and listen to any suggestions, especially from drivers. We are always learning and making things better. But you have to bear in mind you can't legislate for everything. This was very different from Michael's accident because the BAR became a three-wheeler, and it was sideways and rolling. Zonta walked away from the accident. Long ago it could have been a terminal situation. Spectators would not have been where he landed."

For Schumacher it was a traumatic twist to a test programme that had seemingly negotiated any psychological baggage from his own accident. The German said: "On my first lap I was following Heinz-Harald Frentzen [the Jordan Mugen driver] and thinking nothing about my own accident. I only think about it when people ask me. After Ricardo's accident I did have some emotions about that. My circumstances were unusual and so were Ricardo's. There's nothing you can do if you lose your brakes or a wheel. It is fate and you can't influence that. As long as I understand why it happened I am okay.

"I had an accident at Imola in 1995 which I couldn't understand. It's natural that you think about it to some degree but it doesn't slow me down. It just makes me more wary about going over the edge."

* Paul Stewart, the 34-year-old son of the former world champion Jackie Stewart, has cancer of the colon and will step down as chief operating officer of the Jaguar racing team. Jackie Stewart said in a statement yesterday that his son's cancer was treatable and Paul was undergoing chemotherapy at a clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

This treatment is to continue for some months on a periodic basis.

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