Salo replaces Schumacher

 

Finland's Mika Salo will stand in for the injured Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. Jean Alesi ruled himself out as a replacement, and Salo was preferred to test driver Luca Badoer.

"Ferrari have reached a collaboration agreement for the current season with Salo, who will drive car number 3 from the next GP of Austria," said a statement.

Salo joins Eddie Irvine, who is currently joint second in the championship with Schumacher behind world champion Mika Hakkinen.

Salo has become known to many motor racing fans as "the other Mika" - a long-time rival to McLaren's Hakkinen. Both men are from Helsinki and both paid their dues racing in British Formula Three, where Hakkinen finished first ahead of Salo in 1990.

Last season, while Hakkinen was a regular starter from the front row of the grid, Salo was regularly to be found among the tail-enders with Arrows. Salo's appointment now raises the prospect of both Mikas battling at the front end instead.

The 32-year-old Salo, who has driven in 71 Formula One races for Lotus, Tyrell, Arrows and BAR, had his first test drive yesterday ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix on July 26th.

His move to Ferrari was another twist in a remarkable season for a man who lost his drive at Arrows the week before the first grand prix of the year in Australia. He was then called up by the newly-formed BAR team to replace the injured Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, competing in three races including a team-best seventh place at the San Marino Grand Prix in April.

With Ferrari, Salo will have by far the best car of his career and a chance to match his talents with the machinery alongside Irvine. Despite the loss of Schumacher, considered the best driver in the world, Ferrari can still hope to win the constructors' title, in which they hold a slim lead over McLaren.

Ferrari also said yesterday that Schumacher's dramatic high-speed crash at Silverstone may have been caused by a loose screw in the braking system.

"What has been established so far, is that the accident was caused by a sudden loss of pressure in the rear brake circuit," Ferrari said in a statement. "This was due to the loosening of a brake bleed nipple on the left rear caliper. Ferrari will continue to try to establish the reasons for this failure."

Giancarlo Fisichella crashed in Formula One tests in Monza yesterday, wrecking his Benetton but escaping serious injury. A team spokeswoman said Fisichella hit the guardrail at speed just after the first curve in the official test session, which was then suspended for more than an hour.