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AUGUST 5, 2004

No Ralf? No surprise

Ralf Schumacher will miss at least two more Grands Prix despite his recent comments on a visit to the German Grand Prix. The German said that he wanted to be back in F1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix but that was never likely given that he needs to be passed fit by FIA doctors and they have indicated that concussions of the kind suffered by Schumacher at Indianapolis need at least three months.

Schumacher's manager Willi Weber told Germany's Bild newspaper that the BMW Williams driver is still not recovered from the spinal injuries he sustained in the accident in June.

"The thickness of Ralf's bone was measured and it was found that the two broken vertebrae are not yet as hardened as would normally be the case," Weber told Bild. "Another accident like Indianapolis could make Ralf a paraplegic."

One way or the other, Ralf is out and we hear that a major insurance claim is being made by Weber to his insurers at Lloyds in London.

The Williams team will probably put Antonio Pizzonia back in the car in Hungary although the team still has the possibility to employ other drivers as, according to this year's FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, a team is permitted to use four drivers in a season. Williams has used Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, Marc Gene and Antonio Pizzonia but it was accepted by the FIA that Gene was used as a case of force majeure after Ralf Schumacher was injured and so he does not count and thus the team can if it wishes to do so, choose another driver. The only way that this is likely to happen is if the team finds a driver who is available this year and would be a Williams driver next year.

In all probability therefore Pizzonia will be seen in the car in Budapest. The Brazilian is currently holidaying in Manaus but will be at the Hungarian GP whether he is racing or not.