Motor racing chief Frank Williams was charged today with manslaughter over the death of Ayrton Senna.
Italian prosecutors called for Williams to face trial along with technical director Patrick Head and two Italians.
Investigating magistrate Maurizo Pasarini of Bologna, who headed the inquiry into the fatal crash in 1994, is pressing for the accused to be charged with negligent manslaughter which carries up to seven years in jail.
Three times Formula One world champion Senna died after careering into a wall at 190mph at the notoriously fast Tamburello bend, while leading the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, northern Italy.
his death has been blamed on the steering column of the Williams car snapping in two places as he took the bend. The column had been modified to make his driving position more conformable but, it is alleged, the work was done badly, with the wrong materials, and the sat did not stand up to the strain.
According to the inquiry report Senna was hit in the head by a piece of metal from the suspension which wen through his helmet “like a bullet”.
After the crash, the car’s “black box” was taken immediately to London by technicians from Williams and, when it was returned to the investigating authorities in Italy it was said to be “useless”.
The two Italians charged are directors of the company which runs the race track. The report says there should not have been an unprotected concrete wall at the Tamburello bend.
the trail, which will cast fresh doubts over motor racing’s safety record, will probably be held in Imola later this year.
Before then, the decision to lay charges is likely to bring an immediate response from Williams, which could threaten Damon Hill’s challenge for the world championship.
The pioneering team, based in Didcot (sic), may pull out Hill and team-mate Jacques Villeneuve from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, near Milan, on 8 September.
Other team owners may also boycott the race for fear of prosecution should there be a serious accident.
Williams, who is confined to a wheelchair following a road crash, was today considering his response to the news from Italy. His team will almost certainly contest any findings on the grounds it has had insufficient opportunity to inspect the wreck of Senna’s car. The flamboyant Brazilian was killed 24 hours after Roland Ratzenberger died on the same circuit. That crash was put down to driver error.
The fatalities were the first in the sport for 12 years, and the death of Senna stunned the racing world. His constant duelling with Nigel Mansell was one of the most gripping battles in sport.
Since then, new regulations have reduced cornering speeds and alterations have been made to circuits, including Imola.
26/6/96 – London Evening Standard