Tragedy mars Ferrari's homecoming

Italian Grand Prix: Fire marshal dies in hospital after being struck by flying debris from dramatic multi-car pile up on first lap

The first fatality at a Formula One circuit since the death of Ayrton Senna overshadowed everything else at the Italian Grand Prix here yesterday on a day of drama befitting this evocative old theatre of motor racing.

The first fatality at a Formula One circuit since the death of Ayrton Senna overshadowed everything else at the Italian Grand Prix here yesterday on a day of drama befitting this evocative old theatre of motor racing.

While Michael Schumacher's victory lifted him to within two points of McLaren's Mika Hakkinen at the top of the world championship to revive Ferrari's hopes of a first title in 21 years, the day was dominated by a a spectacular crash involving at least five cars on the first circuit. A fire marshal, Paolo Ghislimberti, 30, died after sustaining severe head and chest injuries when he was struck by a flying wheel.

Following a skirmish at the very first chicane which forced Eddie Irivine out of the race, a much more serious collision followed at the second. Britain's David Coulthard, in the other McLaren, was among those caught up in the mayhem.

He was thankful to be unscathed after Pedro de la Rosa's Arrows cartwheeled over him. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was criticised by some drivers for his part in the accident. His Jordan-Mugen team-mate, Jarno Trulli, and Rubens Barrichello, in the second Ferrari, like Coulthard, were helpless.

Coulthard said: "I've never seen Rubens so furious. He was pointing the finger at Heinz-Harald, who looked very sheepish. We all know how to get round the first lap and this is stupidity.

"It was a horrible feeling sitting in the car. So much was going on but because of the dust it was like being in a blackout. I ducked my head and just hoped. I heard a noise coming towards me. It was De la Rosa's car but I didn't see it going over. I was scared to lift my head."

Johnny Herbert, making his last appearance in a European Formula One race, was another who had an uncomfortably close encounter with the Arrows. The Englishman, who retired his Jaguar, said: "De la Rosa launched himself off the back of my car. I looked up and saw a wheel 100 feet in the air."

De la Rosa said: "I just saw the yellow flags and braked and then saw pieces of car all over the place, lots of tyre smoke. After the smoke cleared there were two cars travelling really slowly and I just couldn't slow down my car enough. I think it was [Ricardo] Zonta and I hit him on the rear wheel. This launched me into the air and then I just barrel-rolled until the car stopped.

"Fortunately I am OK, there is no problem. It is a racing incident. I wouldn't say I was unlucky as I am lucky to be here. I stayed a little time in the car after the crash because the car was upside down and the marshals were trying to turn it over but they couldn't, so I decided to get under the gravel a little bit and crawl through the small gap under the car."

The fire marshall, struck by the flying debris from the crash, was initially treated at trackside before being taken to hospital, where doctors were unable to save his life.

An Italian magistrate, Salvatore Bellomo, opened a formal investigation into Ghislimberti's death and interviewed the drivers. It is understood that the cars involved have been impounded by the local police authorities.

The FIA, motor racing's governing body, completed its own investigation hours after the incident and concluded that it was a "racing accident" and that no further action was necessary.

Jenson Button survived both incidents only to be caught out as the safety car, which came on to the track for 11 laps, peeled off. He turned sharply to avoid running into the back of Jacques Villeneuve's BAR but clipped a barrier and could not keep his car on the road as they rounded the Parabolica.

The Williams-BMW driver blamed Schumacher, saying: "He was going slowly, then accelerated, then braked hard. There was nowhere for me to go except on to the grass."

Schumacher acknowledged: "Everything was so low in temperature after so long behind the safety car I was accelerating and braking to warm up the brakes. I think I did a mistake and I'm sorry for whoever suffered for that. I thought everyone realised what I was doing."

Schumacher and Hakkinen avoided the widely anticipated problems on the first lap and went on to dominate the race. They filed behind the safety car before the Ferrari pulled away and forced Hakkinen to accept second place.

Ralf Schumacher drove his Williams into third place, Jos Verstappen was a splendid fourth for Arrows, the much maligned Alexander Wurz was fifth in a Benetton and Zonta sixth for BAR Honda.

While yesterday's race tightened the gap between the two main title contenders, Coulthard conceded that his own challenge for the crown was effectively over. He said: "That's it, finito. It probably means the team will need me to support the guy in front. It's very disappointing, but I fully understand the situation."

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit