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AUGUST 3, 2001

Red flag was right for Hockenheim, says FIA

THE controversial decision to stop the German Grand Prix following the start line collision between Michael Schumacher's near-stationary Ferrari and Luciano Burti's oncoming Prost.

Debris from the barrel-rolling Prost and the rear end of Schumacher's Ferrari was strewn across the circuit, through which the field threaded in the wake of the Safety Car before the red flags came out.

"I was surprised when there was a red flag," said 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve, who ultimately finished third. "We already went through the debris once. By then the track was clean so the most dangerous moment of the race is actually the start so I was really really surprised."

Coulthard, who still stands a mathematical chance of stealing Schumacher's thunder in the drivers' world championship was even more forthright in his opinion, saying: "If you were cynical you would say the race was restarted because Michael was out in front of his home crowd. With all respect, unless it is a driver that is hurt, then they don't normally stop races for accidents or inquiries off the track."

Francesco Longanesi, head of the FIA's external affairs, stated the governing body's case, however, saying: "The amount of debris was considerable and there was no way we could have cleaned that portion of the track properly with normal brooms. We had to stop the race because there was a very serious risk of a puncture, and on a high-speed circuit like Hockenheim, it could have led to catastrophic results. You can't take the chance on something like that happening."