Honda website
Honda website

NOVEMBER 29, 1999

Senna appeal flops

PATRICK HEAD and Adrian Newey have finally been acquitted of all charges relating to the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in May 1994. The two engineers were cleared of "culpable homicide" charges in December 1997 but Italian prosecutors were unhappy with the result of the trial and decided to appeal, restating that they believed that the death of the Brazilian was caused by a faulty steering system which was ultimately the responsibility of Head and Newey - the two senior engineers in the Williams team at the time.

Their belief in the theory of steering failure was based on a 500-page technical report produced in December 1995 by a panel chaired by Professor Enrico Lorenzini, head of the engineering department at Bologna University, and including in its membership a group of experts such as veteran Ferrari team manager Roberto Nosetto, former F1 driver Emanuele Pirro and former Ferrari engineers Tommaso Carletti, Mauro Forghieri and Jean-Claude Migeot. The conclusion of the report was that the most likely cause of the accident was a steering failure, caused by a faulty weld. In December 1996, Head and Newey were charged with "culpable homicide" and prosecuting magistrate Maurizio Passarini asked for a suspended one-year jail sentence for both men. This was rejected by an Imola court in December 1997 but the court did not rule about the cause of the crash and so the prosecutors decided to try again under appeal.

This time the appeal court judge Francesco Agnoli said that the prosecution claims offered "no proof of blame" and so the appeal was dismissed.

With the Senna case now finished it remains to be seen whether the Italian authorities will have problems with Formula 1 teams refusing to race in Italy until the laws relating to accidents are changed. It has been agreed that the law needs to be modified and the FIA has been campaigning for either a change in Italian law or the adoption of pan-European legislation to cover such situations. To date the Italian government has done nothing and it is possible that the problem could come to a head once again if the delays continue.

Ferrari is very keen for there to be races in Italy and as its parent company Fiat is one of Italy's biggest employers, so there is a considerable amount of political pressure which can be brought to bear on Italian politicians if the delays continue.