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Racer Schumacher Could Miss 3 Months

July 12, 1999

NORTHAMPTON, England (AP) _ Michael Schumacher could be sidelined at least three months after breaking his leg in two places during a crash in the British Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver was recovering today in Northampton General Hospital following surgery on his right leg. He is almost certain to be out of contention for the Formula One drivers’ championship.

However, he is expected to return before the end of the season.

Schumacher was lucky to escape more serious injury after his Ferrari crashed head-on at more than 100 mph into a tire wall. His brakes appeared to jam about 30 seconds into Sunday’s race at Silverstone.

``I wonder what would have happened years ago with such an accident,″ Ferrari team manager Jean Todt said today.

A similar accident killed Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna in 1994 at the Imola track in Italy.

Northampton General Hospital chief executive David Wilson today said Schumacher spent a comfortable night, his wounds were healing and he was moving his legs.

``Currently he is having his dressings changed and will be starting physiotherapy,″ Wilson said. ``He will be staying at the hospital until at least tomorrow (Tuesday).″

Surgeon Dr. Bill Ribbans said some pins were placed in the leg during the 90-minute operation.

Team officials and surgeons declined to comment on how long Schumacher will be out of racing.

Wilson, however, said: ``I think surgeons would normally say 12 to 16 weeks for a normal everyday person like you or me.″

On Sunday, Syd Watkins, a Formula One medical delegate, estimated Schumacher would be out six weeks, a period that includes races in Austria, Germany and Hungary.

The Hungarian GP is Aug. 15. The two following races, in Belgium on Aug. 29 and Italy on Sept. 9, also would be in jeopardy. The remaining three races of the season are the European GP in Germany, the Malaysian GP on Oct. 12 and the Japanese GP on Oct. 31.

Todt said he was ``confident″ Schumacher would be back before the end of the season.

Whatever the case, Schumacher’s bid for his third World Drivers’ Championship looks in doubt. So does his bid to bring Ferrari its first drivers’ title in 20 years.

After Sunday’s race, the eighth of the season, Schumacher shares second place in the standings with Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine at 32 points. McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen leads with 40 points.

Todt said Schumacher is ``in good spirits″ and his wife, Corinna, arrived at the hospital on Sunday night. Racing fans sent dozens of floral arrangements to the hospital to help cheer the German driver.

``Michael is all right,″ Todt said. ``Racing sometimes gives joy, sometimes gives sadness. Yesterday it was sadness. We can always see that things could be worse.″

Todt said team officials still can’t explain what caused the accident.

``We don’t know precisely yet what happened,″ he said. ``Brake problems probably. (Schumacher) felt he lost the brakes in the rear of his car.″

Luca Badoer, who drove for the Minardi team at Silverstone, has a contract with Ferrari and was expected to test drive today and Tuesday. Todt declined to sat of Badoer will be the permanent replacement.

Another possibility is former Formula One driver Mika Salo.

Update hourly