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Schumacher secure amidst war clouds
Alan Baldwin | March 20, 2003 16:28 IST
Ferrari's world champion Michael Schumacher believes adequate security measures are in place for Sunday's Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix after the start of war in Iraq.
Speaking after U.S. missiles targeted Baghdad, the German said on Thursday he feels safe in the only Islamic country to host a Formula One race.
"Personally I think it is under control to be safe, not only for us," he told a news conference. "I think all measures have been done.
"It's probably more dangerous when you are sort of in an unknown period than when you know where risks could come from and what to do. I guess a lot of security measures have been taken for this race."
Malaysian air force fighter planes thundered low in formation over the Sepang circuit on Thursday morning, practising for the race day aerial display that has been a feature of previous years.
But there was little sign of any tighter security around the circuit near Kuala Lumpur's international airport, some 45 kms from the capital.
Asked whether he had considered not attending the race, Schumacher said it was a harder decision for Formula One drivers to make than in other sports which are less team-oriented.
"I think it's a matter of mentality," he said.
"I guess particular Americans are very, very concerned. I noticed one event where Tiger Woods was supposed to do a golf tournament in Dubai and cancelled that," said Schumacher.
"In those circumstances it is a single person's decision and it is easy for him to do so.
"Here we have quite a big structure around and I guess at the end of the day it is not a single man's decision except maybe Mr Mosley who can take a decision like this to decide whether it is safe or not.
"I guess they have looked into that and have reached a decision that it is safe to do so."
International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley is not in Malaysia, the FIA announcing on Thursday that a scheduled visit had been cancelled after a local meeting with senior politicians was called off.
"Sometimes you raise the question and we did so last year after the (2001 September 11) attacks (on America) , whether it was safe to go on," said Schumacher.
"It is not up to us to decide, it's pretty difficult for us sometimes."
Schumacher is by far the highest paid and most successful driver, as well as being one of the world's best known faces, and his absence would have a major impact on race ticket sales.
A team like world champions Ferrari, one of just 10 on the grid, can bring in excess of 70 staff to a race. There are no American drivers in Formula One, whose heritage is strongly European.
Local newspapers this week quoted Malaysia's second finance minister Jamaluddin Jarjis as reassuring grand prix visitors that they had nothing to fear.
He said that while fewer Europeans were expected to attend the race, organisers expected fans from China, Indonesia and Korea to make up the numbers.
"A year ago we only sold 35 per cent of our tickets but this year we have sold 70 percent which represent 70,000 tickets," added the minister.
Schumacher said that despite his determination to continue racing, he could not but be affected by the situation in the Middle East.
"We are not driving with such closed eyes. We know pretty much what is going on and we are affected as well by it to some degree."