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MARCH 16, 2001

Williams and BAR team bosses calm over "racing accident"

THE Williams and British American Racing teams have deemed the accident involving their respective drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve in the Australia Grand Prix as simply a racing accident.

Schumacher's Williams was hit from behind by Villeneuve's BAR and a marshal was killed after a wheel from the BAR hit him. Both drivers exempted themselves from blame after the season-opening race and now both teams have concluded that neither driver could have done anything to avoid the shunt.

Patrick Head, technical director of the Williams team, revealed that investigations have confirmed Schumacher did not brake early before being hit from behind by Villeneuve.

"Looking at the data," said Head, "Ralf braked the same as on the previous lap or slightly later.

"The Michelin tires had a dip in the early laps which was well known and [Schumacher had] a bit of understeer so I think Jacques thought he could overtake him. There was a misjudgment and they hit each other."

BAR managing director Craig Pollock agreed, and added: "I don't think either driver lifted earlier or later than before. Certainly they lifted earlier than in qualifying but I think it was just a basic racing accident and that's the way I'd like to leave it."

Head and Pollock confirmed both teams are assisting with the investigations by the Australian authorities, who have impounded the BAR chassis for scrutiny.

The investigators have also obtained the black boxes from both cars and will look at the data in an effort to explain how and why the crash happened.

Pollock said that the team had no problems in giving the authorities this information, and added: "We are helping them out as much as we can. There's no reason to hold anything back."