Zonta in for Ralf at US GP

The FIA's staff of medical experts have decided that, since it would be less than 24 hours since his crash in the final turn yesterday afternoon to qualifying at 1PM EST today, Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher cannot partake in the balance of United...

The FIA's staff of medical experts have decided that, since it would be less than 24 hours since his crash in the final turn yesterday afternoon to qualifying at 1PM EST today, Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher cannot partake in the balance of United States Grand Prix competition this weekend.

Although the reason for his second consecutive shunt in this particular area of the 2.605-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit has not yet been revealed, the Toyota team has decided to go forward with tester and third driver Ricardo Zonta, who also failed to complete yesterday's second practice.

Zonta was "approaching turn 5 when I just felt a problem at the back of the car and I spun off." It was determined Zonta had a tire problem but it was unknown whether the circuit or Michelin construction was to blame.

Schumacher shrugged off the incident as bad luck and stated he will be back for the next race at Magny Cours on July 3rd.

Walking through the paddock this morning, Ralf said he feels just fine, looked quite lucid and claimed has no ill effects from the incident yesterday afternoon. Nonetheless he would abide by FIA medical delegate Dr. Gary Hartstein's call on the matter.

Hartstein believed it wise for Ralf not to be part of the race meeting because of the imminent dangers of another impact and the possible implications of a secondary concussion.

Following Schumacher's heavy crash during the 2004 US Grand Prix, the FIA asked for and received an extension to the SAFER barrier in the last turn of the oval portion of the track.

"This news is obviously very disappointing for myself and for the team," Schumacher acknowledged. "I wish the team all the best for the rest of the weekend and I'm confident I'll be back in time for [next month's] French Grand Prix."

Zonta, the 29-year-old Brazilian raced several events with Toyota last season after the team decided to dump countryman Cristiano da Matta as they shook up their lineup looking for better results. Zonta last competed in his home Grand Prix in Brazil, the closer for the 2004 season. Zonta finished one lap down in 13th position in that contest.

"This is not an ideal situation for the whole team," Zonta admitted, "and I'm especially sorry for Ralf. Of course I'm glad to be back with a chance to race the car, but on the other hand is a very difficult situation. I will try to make the most out of the rest of the weekend."

Team principal Tsutomu Tomita recognized the best solution, "after considering the recommendation of the FIA's medical team was to put Ricardo Zonta in the car." He declared the decision to race Zonta was "a precautionary measure" and voiced the team's confidence that Schumacher would return for the French Grand Prix.

Because of various incidents occurring in Friday practice, tire provider Michelin has appealed to the FIA for permission to fly in new compounds from its Clermont-Ferrand headquarters for Sunday's 73-lap race. Michelin are appealing from a safety standpoint.

"Despite all the checks that we have done, both here and in our test facilities [at Clermont-Ferrand], we have not been able to understand or reproduce the problem of yesterday."

Michelin are working with their people in France to "identify a product that we know is also capable of running at Indianapolis and we are in a process of discussing this possibility with the FIA. We are actively pursuing the dispatch of these tires to Indianapolis," according to an anonymous release from the tire provider this morning.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Ricardo Zonta , Cristiano da Matta