Schumacher not seriously injured

Updated: June 17, 2005, 6:32 PM ET
Associated Press

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 season.

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 Barrier.

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 result."

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 years ago.

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 races.

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 at 130.562.

"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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press