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SEPTEMBER 18, 2001

Schumacher denies intention to miss US GP

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER has denied speculation that he is considering missing the last two grands prix of the season, in the USA and Japan, although the Ferrari team has hinted that the choice is up to the 32-year old German driver as to whether he races at Indianapolis on 30 September.

"I was aware of these rumors, but at the moment I have not the slightest thought of not racing in the US or Japan," said Schumacher who left Monza immediately after Sunday's Italian GP without making any comment.

After driving a deliberately conservative race to fourth place in Sunday's race it had been speculated that he might miss the Indianapolis race due to a genuine concern over whether it is appropriate to be racing in the USA at the present time.

In the event of his standing down, Schumacher's place will be taken by 27-year old Luca Badoer, Ferrari's longtime test driver who is every bit as familiar with the F2001 car as the double world champion.

FIA present Max Mosley admitted that Ferrari was quite within its rights to change competitors as the rules permit one change of number one driver during the course of each season.

"If Michael is concerned and apprehensive about going to America, then I think one must accept how he feels," said Mosley.

Mosley also reiterated his belief that the Indianapolis race would go ahead. "The US will have taken the necessary precautions to protect people at large gatherings," he said.

However, Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt said; "We will decide, respecting his (Schumacher's) opinion, who drives. If a final decision must be taken (on the race) I only wish it is taken as soon as possible."

Todt's almost rhetorical question highlights the steadily increasing concern over whether or not the US grand prix will take place with potential logistical problems appearing as significant as the moral issues involved.

The cars are scheduled to leave Britain on Friday for Amsterdam where they will be loaded into the fleet of chartered 747 freighters after being inspected in a giant X-ray machine. They will land at Indianapolis on Monday where a specially hired fleet of articulated trucks will carry them to the nearby circuit, assuming that the flights are not interrupted for any reason.