MARCH 4, 2001

Marshal dies after Villeneuve crash

IT has been confirmed that a race marshal died as a result of being hit by a tire from the crashing car of British American Racing's Jacques Villeneuve during Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve crashed at around 170 mph after hitting the back of Ralf Schumacher's BMW-Williams on lap five at turn three.

The marshal, who was beside the track at that corner, is reported to have been hit by a tire from the BAR car as it hit the outside fencing in mid-air after turning 180 degrees.

The race was run under a safety car for 10 laps as paramedics attended to the marshal. Both Villeneuve and Schumacher were unhurt after the big shunt.

"I'd like to send my condolences to the family of the marshal," said BAR managing director Craig Pollock. "There is not much you can say about how the accident happened, but it is very sad.

"It is a dangerous sport and the tire did come off the car. It is impossible to make any conclusions without the facts."

The fact the tire came away from Villeneuve's car will once again raise fears over safety. The tires are supposed to stay connected to the car by two tethers in a crash.

Last year, marshal Paolo Gislimberti died after a wheel from Pedro de la Rosa's Arrows car hit and killed him at the Italian Grand Prix in September.

"I think we need to take another look at the safety around the tracks," said David Coulthard, who finished second in Melbourne. "I picked up six points with a reasonably steady race, but that seems insignificant now."

Race-winner Michael Schumacher, who did not celebrate with champagne on the podium after news of the marshals' death filtered through, also took the time to pay tribute to the volunteer marshal.

Schumacher said: "I'm shocked to learn that the marshal did die. I'm very down with the situation and my thoughts are with his family."