Formula 1: Schumacher crashes in practice

Friday, March 02, 2001
Michael Schumacher spectacularly crashed out on the opening day of the new Formula One season in Australia.

He barrel-rolled twice as his Ferrari flipped up after hitting the coloured gravel in Melbourne's Albert Park.

But the German was immediately able to step from the cockpit following his biggest accident since breaking his leg at the 1999 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

The 32-year-old, who regained the title for Ferrari after a 21-year absence last season, was sent careering backwards across the track as his Ferrari suddenly snapped out of control.

Schumacher was lying in second spot behind team-mate Rubens Barrichello with just minutes of the first practice day of the new season left.

Before the session finished, Schumacher had dropped to third as Jordan's Jarno Trulli shot ahead of him - but 0.3 seconds adrift of Barrichello.

It completed a miserable day for Schumacher, who was the subject of a court battle in Belgium overnight with his helmet maker.

Schumacher could face a fine of around £70,000 at every race in which he wears a helmet other than a Bell this season.

The 32-year-old wore another helmet, a Schuberth Helme, today but will switch to a Bell from tomorrow when the timing of the court order begins.

Schumacher revealed there had been a problem with the yellow warning flags but insisted the accident was not a major one.

"It looked more horrid than it was," he said. "I did not have a major impact at all.

"I was going flat-out and though I braked very hard it was not enough to make the speed needed for that corner. But it was a really soft impact and I did not hit the wall or anything."

Schumacher said the transition from the grass to the gravel, which probably caused his car to flip, was not good enough.

The Swiss-based racer had warned race officials yesterday that improvements needed to be made, having inspected the track as part of his duties with the Grand Prix Drivers Association.

Button, meanwhile, admitted it has not been a good start to the season with his new team.

"This was not a very satisfactory day for me," he said. "It will get better though.

"We started with some general set-up work, then at the end of the first session I had a problem with the engine and it had to be changed, so I lost the first half of the second session.

"When I went out again, I then had a problem with my rear tyre, so I got very little running done.

"Luckily the team completed the programme on Giancarlo's car so we have some good data to work from."