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Formula 1's walking wounded

THE exact details of David Coulthard's injuries received in his plane accident two weeks ago have finally been made public by the McLaren team and it seems that contrary to earlier suggestions, the Scotsman did suffer three cracked ribs in the accident at Lyons Satolas airport. Despite the injuries, and severe bruising, Coulthard managed to finish second to Mika Hakkinen in the Spanish GP and he remains only two points behind Finn in the World Championship.

According to McLaren's Ron Dennis, Coulthard was given a medical inspection by McLaren doctors in the days after the crash and this did not reveal any cracked ribs. An inspection last week at the Princess Grace Hospital in London showed that Coulthard had suffered cracks to his eighth, ninth and 10th ribs on his righthand side.

The team quoted the F1 doctor Professor Sid Watkins saying that he was "absolutely confident" that David will race at the European Grand Prix and that the findings of the medical examination will not influence his performance. The only danger is that ribs can behave oddly under pressure. Back in 1977, it may be remembered, Niki Lauda was forced to miss the Spanish Grand Prix after he ran over a curb during the warm-up and snapped one of his ribs damaged in his fiery accident at the Nurburgring the previous season. Lauda returned two weeks later and finished second at Monaco.

Initial reports about the condition of Ferrari refuelling man Nigel Stepney have also proved to have been wide of the mark as the Englishman suffered a broken bone in his lower leg rather than just strained ligaments. Stepney is not expected to be back in action as the Ferrari refuelling man until after the Canadian GP in mid-June.

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