Wheel falls off Schumacher`s anniversary

Spa-Francorchamps: Mercedes promised a full investigation on Saturday after a wheel came off Michael Schumacher`s car before he had completed a single lap in qualifying for his 20th anniversary race in Formula One.

The seven times world champion, the sport`s most successful driver who made his grand prix debut at Spa in 1991, had been on track for only 91 seconds before the incident pitched his car into the tyre wall.

"We need to look at exactly what happened but it would appear there was something amiss with the right rear wheel attachment and we need to go through it carefully tonight to ensure there can be no repeat," said team principal Ross Brawn.

Unsurprisingly, race stewards granted a Mercedes request for Schumacher to be allowed to start Sunday`s Belgian Grand Prix despite not having set a qualifying time and the 42-year-old German will line up last on the grid.

"Obviously I would have wished for a different end to today`s qualifying, but it is difficult to drive on three wheels -- even if I should have the experience to do this in Spa," he said.

He was alluding to a 1998 collision with McLaren`s David Coulthard at the same Belgian circuit when the Scot, about to be lapped, slowed in heavy spray on the racing line and Schumacher`s Ferrari crashed into the back of him.

The Ferrari limped back to the pits on three wheels with Schumacher angrily accusing Coulthard of trying to kill him and trying to force his way into the McLaren garages to confront his rival.

The veteran was in a more understanding mood on Saturday, with Mercedes celebrating his career milestone in their motorhome with German beer and sausages.

"Seriously, this is certainly something that should not occur, but then this is also Formula One," he said of the incident. "We are working at the highest level but still things can happen."

Schumacher said he had apologised to the team initially because he had been unsure what had happened.

"Then I saw the wheel off the car and understood the reason why I had lost control.”

Bureau Report

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