Silverstone is 'worst circuit' says Mosley

America got a taste of Formula One's political reality yesterday when an intended pre-event celebration of its return to the United States after nine years' absence instead saw the FIA president, Max Mosley, trenchantly dismissing threats to tobacco advertising, and delivering a hefty swipe at Silverstone's prospects of holding the British Grand Prix beyond the expiration of its contract next year.

America got a taste of Formula One's political reality yesterday when an intended pre-event celebration of its return to the United States after nine years' absence instead saw the FIA president, Max Mosley, trenchantly dismissing threats to tobacco advertising, and delivering a hefty swipe at Silverstone's prospects of holding the British Grand Prix beyond the expiration of its contract next year.

Reacting to suggestions that the British Government was now proposing to withdraw its planned extension of tobacco advertising for F1, Mosely said: "I don't think it can be of any significance. There hasn't been any tobacco advertising in the UK for 25 years. A law made in the UK can only apply in the UK, so it won't have any impact whatsoever in F1."

Hitting his stride, Mosley also savaged Silverstone. "It certainly wouldn't hurt if in the UK we had a facility to the same standard as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," he said. "It is intensely embarrassing when people visit the UK and talk of staging a grand prix and then say they are going up to Silverstone to have a look and we say don't do that, and give them another list of places to go.

"I hope in the future that we do have a circuit of world-class standard. But there is very much a question over Silverstone as a GP venue. It's probably the worst circuit in the world from the point of view of the public getting in and out. The facilities there are very second rate and obviously need to be improved. The biggest problem is having pictures going all over the world of people stuck in traffic jams. Some took six hours to get there and never even got in."

By contrast the facilities at Indianapolis cannot fail to impress, the fact that no drivers had been able to experience the new F1 track prior to the weekend adding extra spice. Some drove it in their hire cars on Thursday, the more energetic walked it. But for Michael Schumacher the only way to learn The Brickyard's F1 track prior to the first practice sessions was to cruise round on his moped, stopping at regular intervals to inspect the surface and the plastic kerbs.

Several drivers had hitherto fallen back on the time-honoured method of the computer game. Jenson Button, who was only 15 years old when he first watched an Indianapolis 500 race on television, admits that electronic wizardry helped. "But I kept hitting the wall, which actually was the fast way around," he said.

Button liked the circuit on his first acquaintance on Thursday. "It's interesting. With the banked last corner, it's quite strange. And there will be a temptation to go straight on the oval at the end of the main straight."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen led the drivers out when the circuit opened officially at 11am yesterday, but it was Michael Schumacher who immediately set the pace. The initial challenge came from Mika Hakkinen until his gearbox developed a problem, and then former Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve before Rubens Barrichello found his form in the second Ferrari.

David Coulthard lasted only two laps before his McLaren-Mercedes ground to a halt with an electrical problem, and Giancarlo Fisichella became the first casualty after sliding his Benetton into a tyre barrier. The Italian was unharmed.

During the afternoon's second session Coulthard made up for lost time with the fastest lap, just ahead of Hakkinen and the two Ferraris.

Schumacher liked what he saw, but said: "The banking wasn't as impressive as I had expected, while the infield is so flat that it is difficult to work out the right line."

Button, fourth fastest in the morning and eighth overall, found his initial favourable impressions confirmed. "It's a good circuit," he enthused. "I'm not too sure about the two first-gear corners, but the banking is really cool to drive on."

 

US GRAND PRIX (Indianapolis) Second free practice session: 1 D Coulthard (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1min 14.561sec; 2 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:14.695; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:14.927; 4 R Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari 1:15.144; 5 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Jordan-Mugen-Honda 1:15.226; 6 R Schumacher (Ger) BMW-Williams 1:15.249; 7 J Trulli (It) Jordan-Mugen-Honda 1:15.646; 8 J Button (GB) BMW-Williams 1:15.741; 9 M Gene (Sp) Minardi-Ford1:15.806; 10 J Villeneuve (Can) BAR-Honda 1:16.147; 11 A Wurz

(Aut) Benetton-Supertec 1:16.345; 12 E Irvine (GB) Jaguar-Cosworth 1:16.546; 13 J Verstappen (Neth) Arrows-Supertec 1:16.572; 14 N Heidfeld (Ger) Prost-Peugeot 1:16.626; 15 R Zonta (Bra) BAR-Honda 1:16.656; 16 M Salo (Fin) Sauber-Petronas 1:16.660; 17 J Herbert (GB) Jaguar-Cosworth 1:16.670; 18 P de la Rosa (Sp) Arrows-Supertec 1:16.787; 19 P Diniz (Bra) Sauber-Petronas 1:16.838; 20 G Mazzacane (Arg) Minardi-Ford 1:16.902; 21 G Fisichella (It) Benetton-Supertec 1:17.053; 22 J Alesi (Fr) Prost-Peugeot 1:18.213.

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