Ralf Schumacher was in hospital last night after exiting the first day of the Monza test in spectacular fashion following an accident.

The German, who was reportedly unhurt in the incident, was completing his final run of the day when his Williams-BMW left the road at the Lesmo corners, before coming to rest with severe damage. Eyewitnesses could not confirm whether or not the car actually hit the barriers, although some reports suggest that the incident was severe enough without any contact.

"I can only say that I saw the accident," track official Giorgio Beghella Bartoli was quoted by the BBC website, "The car flipped over several times [and] bounced back to the ground, but it didn't strike the barriers."

Schumacher was initially taken to the circuit medical centre, where he was accompanied by world champion brother Michael, before being transferred to a local hospital for further checks. A spokesman for the Williams team confirmed that the younger German was awake, alert and chatting to medical staff throughout both visits.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, although the team has admitted that it will be carrying out a full investigation into suggestions that wing failure may have been to blame. Formula One's other Ralph - Jordan's Ralph Firman - suffered a rear wing failure and 150mph impact with the barriers in preparation for the Hungarian Grand Prix just over a week ago. The Briton was forced to miss the current Monza test - the first after a six-week summer hiatus - as a result of the incident.