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DECEMBER 22, 1997

Williams cleared at Senna trial

THREE and a half years after the death of Ayrton Senna, Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey have finally been cleared of manslaughter charges. Similar charges against three race officials were also rejected by Judge Antonio Costanzo in Imola.

The verdicts come as a major blow to Italian state prosecutor Maurizio Passarini, who was appointed to investigate the crash the day after it happened. He appointed a technical committee to analyze the crash. This was headed by ProfessorÊEnricoÊLorenzini, head of the engineering department at Bologna University. He had used a group of experts including former F1 designer Mauro Forghieri and driver Emanuele Pirro. Lorenzini's report, which was finished in DecemberÊ1995, concluded that the most likely cause of the accident was a steering failure, caused by a faulty weld. Passarini continued his own investigations and it was not until December last year that Williams and the other five defendants were charged with "culpable homicide" under Article 589 of the Italian penal code. The trial began in February but it was not until October that Williams finally appeared in court. Following legal advice Head and Newey refused to answer questions. After the evidence was given Passarini said that Williams was not to blame but insisted that Head and Newey were guilty. The judge disagreed.

"It is the right verdict," said Williams lawyer Peter Goodman. "The trial was correctly done and Williams will be very pleased that it is over and that it's gone successfully for him." Luigi Stortoni, an Italian lawyer representing Newey, added that: "the prosecution case has been swept away".

Passarini has the right to appeal the decision but is thought unlikely to do so although he has said that he intends to pursue members of the Bernie Ecclestone's FOCA Television who, he claims, committed perjury in giving evidence. He also suggested that he was investigating Ecclestone's role in the affair.