INDIANAPOLIS Ralf Schumacher escaped serious injury
Friday when he crashed during practice for the United States Grand
Prix, a near repeat of the accident that cost him most of last
The German driver lost control of his Toyota entering the final
corner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car spun around and
slammed into a part of wall protected by the energy-absorbing SAFER
He appeared to be in pain when he exited the car, rubbing his
hands over his face and wincing as he waited for emergency
personnel. Schumacher was cleared by the medical center, but a
Toyota team spokesman said he later went to a local hospital to
have his eye examined because he believed he had dirt or other
debris in it.
Toyota also blamed the accident on tire failure.
A year ago, Schumacher suffered a concussion and two cracked
vertebrae when he wrecked in almost the exact same spot -- but hit a
concrete section of the wall instead of the SAFER barrier. Indy
officials extended the SAFER barrier by about 200 feet this year, a
move that softened Schumacher's blow this time.
Schumacher missed six races after last year's accident, which
left him slumped over in his cockpit as cars had to weave their way
past the scene over and over in the time it took safety personnel
to remove him from the car.
Still, Schumacher said he had no hesitation to return to
Indianapolis this year.
"If I were afraid of being in a Formula One car I'd stay at
home," he said before arriving in Indy.
He was unavailable for comment after Friday's practice.
Montoya sets pace
Juan Pablo Montoya again was the quickest
driver, and this time there was no red stoplight to slow him down.
Montoya, disqualified while leading the Canadian Grand Prix in
Montreal last week, was the fastest Friday in each of the first two
sessions of practice for Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His top lap on the 2.606-mile, 13-turn road course was 1 minute,
11.118 seconds (131.860 mph), just ahead of McLaren teammate Kimi
Raikkonen, the winner at Montreal. Ferrari teammates Rubens
Barrichello and Michael Schumacher were next.
"Every year, I've come so close to winning this race, and
something has always gone wrong," Montoya said. "So it would be
nice to come here once and get a pretty quiet weekend and a good
Montoya, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 before joining the
F1 series, has started no worse than fifth in four previous U.S.
Grand Prix races. His best finish in the USGP was fourth in '02,
and his last pole at any track was in the German Grand Prix two
Qualifying for the USGP is on Saturday.
"It just means that we're doing the right job, but what counts
is on Sunday," Montoya said of his quick laps in practice. "At
this moment, things are looking pretty good. Both practices, I was
fastest. It's encouraging."
Montoya was leading the race at Montreal last week, but he was
disqualified after he drove through a red stoplight coming out of
the pits because of a miscommunication with his team. Raikkonen
went on to win the race, his third victory of the season, and
pulled within 22 points of Renault's Fernando Alonso after eight
McLaren boss Ron Dennis said he was "pretty mortified" when
Montoya was disqualified.
"But the fact is, if I had to write my own mistakes down, it's
a very, very long list," he said. "In a pressure situation,
mistakes happen. You carry the frustration of the outcome. You take
your successes and failures as a team."
Raikkonen's top speed was 131.657 mph. Barrichello had a fast
lap at 130.707, followed by Schumacher at 130.684 and Nick Heidfeld
"Everything went quite well today. We were able to cure a
balance problem I had early in the morning session," said
Schumacher, still looking for his first win of the season. "Now we
must wait and see what we can do in qualifying."
Alonso, who has four wins and two poles this season, was
ninth-fastest at 129.768 mph.