The sight of Ralf Schumacher lying prone in the cockpit of his smashed Williams-BMW at Indianapolis in July after he ploughed into a wall had the world holding its breath. The younger Schumacher escaped with two cracked vertebrae and sparked a grim flashback to the dreadful day at Imola 10 years earlier, when one of the world?s great drivers, Ayrton Senna, was killed just 24 hours after Roland Ratzenberger lost his life in a practice run. Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya nearly went airborne after taking off on the slippery surface at Magny Cours just a week after Schumacher?s accident. And Felipe Massa?s smash into a tyre wall at the Canadian Grand Prix would have done more serious damage were it not for the compulsory head and neck support (HANS) drivers now have to wear. And even as Ralf recovered from his two spinal fractures, his brother Michael walked away from a 300km/h smash into the crash barriers at Monza during testing this month. Make no mistake, the big off-circuit story this season has been safety in the sport and the debate has raged all summer long. In July, FIA president Max Mosley said he was planning to quit. Politics in the sport was the main reason he gave for his decision to walk ? Mosley said opposition to his proposals to make the sport safer was wearing on his nerves. He reckoned F1 was in jeopardy unless his plans to slow down the cars were passed in time for the 2006 season ? which is way too soon for some of the big teams, who don?t like to be rushed on what are effectively the biggest changes in the sport in half a century. Mosley can present a forceful argument on the safety issue ? after all, he was the man who helped F1 stage a comeback after Senna?s death at Imola in 1994 and people in the sport take his views seriously. ?As far as speeds are concerned, the risks at the moment are unacceptably high. Make no mistake, it is drastic what we are going to do, but once it has been done F1 will be set on an acceptable course. I really hope we do not have a really serious accident in the meantime, because it won?t be until the beginning of 2006 that the new regulations can have their full effect,? he said. He wants F1 to become safer, cheaper and more of a battle of wits and judgment than the technological testing ground it has become. Mosley believes a slower race would also be more entertaining as it means more overtaking. His package of safety proposals includes a new aerodynamic wing package aimed at cutting down force ? which pushes the cars downwards and improves cornering speeds ? by a quarter. The plans also include reducing engine size to 2.4-litre V8 engines from the current 3-litre V10s, or introducing rev limits, and making tyres last for a full race rather than just short periods, to cut speeds and costs and, ultimately, improve the racing. As it stands, all the teams need to agree unanimously to have engine specifications changed before 2008, but Mosley insists adopting his plan will boost safety next season. Champions Ferrari said they were willing to accept measures put forward by the FIA to slow the cars down, even if they have to scrap plans already under way for 2005. ?We want to slow the cars down. We all agree with that and we want to do it in a way which doesn?t give an advantage to or disadvantage any specific team,? said Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn after the French Grand Prix. And Michael Schumacher agreed. ?There could be another death if speeds are not slowed down. What happened to Ralf is a warning signal,? said the 35-year-old ace. There have been some efforts to slow the cars, including the introduction of grooved tyres and making engines last an entire weekend, but despite these efforts, lap times have gotten faster at every circuit on the Grand Prix this season. ?We want to improve the show but safety always has to come first. All teams constantly develop a car to make it go faster. What we have to do is maybe find more drastic steps to slow them down,? Schumacher said. Other teams and drivers resent the efforts of the FIA to reform the sport without what they see as full consultation. Toyota?s Olivier Panis, the oldest driver in F1, said he saw no need to slow the cars down, while Renault?s Jarno Trulli said something had to be done for safety?s sake. However, if they don?t come up with alternatives, the FIA will simply adopt Mosley?s proposals as law. Tyre makers Michelin said F1 teams could halve their costs, reduce speeds and make racing more exciting by introducing new tyre regulations, such as using the same set of tyres for qualifying and the race, with testing restricted and teams limited to six sets of tyres for each day of testing. Michelin said the proposals could be introduced as early as next season. The change in engine size is expected to halve costs, thus cutting the biggest single outlay for a team. The seven manufacturers spend around HK$14 billion a season on research, development and production, all pushed higher by the search for that elusive extra 10th of a second. The big teams welcome efforts to trim costs. The FIA wants this runaway spending culture to stop and wants to focus more on creating equality among the cars on the grid, claiming this is better for the sport as it makes it more interesting to watch. If you reduce the competitive advantage gained by having the most cash to spend, then the races themselves should open up more. After a season where Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won the title on cruise control without experiencing any serious competition, a lot of fans will favour such a policy. The Hungarian Grand Prix has been called the most boring in history, effectively highlighting the need for slower cars to encourage more overtaking. It is a spectator sport, too, after all. The safety of crash barriers and other on-circuit facilities has been starkly improved since the ill-fated 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, although some recent, random events show how it is impossible to legislate against all kinds of hazards. A deranged Irish former priest, Neil ?Cornelius? Horan, ran on to the British Grand Prix racetrack last year, one of a succession of track invasions which have dogged the sport. Horan made headlines again during the Athens Olympics when he leaped on the leader of the marathon, Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima. Despite the technological advances in motorsport, some threats remain completely low-tech.