Marc Gene will make a belated return to grand prix competition this weekend, after Ralf Schumacher admitted that he had not felt well following the opening day of action at the Italian Grand Prix.

While almost certainly ending his slim hopes of taking the 2003 world title, Schumacher and Williams decided that the best course of action was for the German to stand down and allow Gene to step in alongside Juan Montoya in a race that also holds championship significance for the Colombian.

Schumacher had been passed fit to race by FIA medical delegate Sid Watkins on Thursday, but found that the return to the scene of his recent testing accident left him feeling nauseous. Although he had shown well in both practice and qualifying - prior to having his latter time disallowed for skipping the first chicane - the German later reported feeling unwell, giving the Williams team the chance to replace him with its test and reserve driver.

"Ralf Schumacher will not take part in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza," confirmed a hasty statement issued by the team, "After driving in Friday's free practice and first qualifying sessions, Ralf didn't feel 100 per cent fit and, together with the team and the FIA medical delegate, Sid Watkins, decided not to continue his on track duties.

"Ralf had a significant crash whilst testing at the Autodromo di Monza on 2 September, and will now rest for a few days more to recuperate completely in order to return to the cockpit for the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis, in two weeks time."

Gene has not raced in Formula One since being dropped as Minardi driver prior to the 2001 campaign. Impressed with his on-track performances in the under-funded team, however, Williams and BMW snapped the Spaniard up to lead its test team, while also making him reserve driver in the case on illness or accident.

Rumoured to have been on Jordan's wish-list to replace the injured Ralph Firman this weekend, Gene will now get his chance to show whether he has gained from a testing role in the way that Olivier Panis did at McLaren prior to his return to action with BAR three seasons ago.



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