Originally created 04/22/00

Drivers growing wary of Silverstone course



SILVERSTONE, England -- The only thing Michael Schumacher learned Friday in the first practice for the British Grand Prix was how dangerous the Silverstone course can be in the rain.

"In these conditions it is almost impossible to drive and it is also dangerous," said the two-time Formula One champion, who on Sunday tries to win for the fourth time in four races this season. "I had a problem aquaplaning, and it was impossible to see what was going on in front or to judge the distance of other cars ahead."

He wasn't alone among drivers, and the Ferrari ace even had support from the rival McLaren camp. David Coulthard had more problems than Schumacher. He got soaked just waiting for help.

Coulthard had to park his car on the track when it developed mechanical problems during one downpour. A four-wheel drive tow vehicle dispatched to bring him back to the pits got stuck in the trackside mud and had to be pushed out by hand.

Like Schumacher, Coulthard worried about driving Sunday on a thin sheet of water, saying it's nearly impossible to steer.

"I think aquaplaning is a really serious issue," Coulthard said. "Nothing will really be done about it until there is a serious accident.

"That's usually the way these things work. It's not comfortable for any of us. We all do it because we all want to win races."

While drivers dealt with the elements of nature, the human factor also was being addressed. Promoters are in a dispute with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone over the schedule change that moved the race forward three months from its usual July spot.

McLaren race chief Ron Dennis doesn't like the scheduling change, which put the race in the heart of England's wettest season, but refused to take a shot at Ecclestone.

"I do not believe it was malicious," Dennis said. "There are a lot of people thinking that this date was chosen for malicious reasons to make life more difficult for Silverstone."