The Melbourne Inquest

IT is now eight months since Jacques Villeneuve's BAR-Honda cartwheeled down the wall at Albert Park, sending parts flying in all directions. The safety fencing did a remarkable job but a trackside marshal was killed when hit by a wheel which, extraordinarily, somehow managed to squeeze itself through a gap in the debris fencing.

After the race both Ralf Schumacher and Villeneuve were interviewed by Victorian state police investigators belonging to the Major Collision Unit. Villeneuve's car (or at least the remains of it) were impounded. That investigation is still going on and, according to the latest reports in Australia, will not be completed before Christmas. That means that time will be running short if there is to be a coroner's inquest into the crash before the 2002 race.

The problem for Melbourne is that the race will not happen if the inquest is not completed as the FIA has indicated that the race is provisional pending that inquest.

Not surprisingly, opponents of the race have tried to seize on the accident to disrupt the event and have submitted their feelings to the coroner, explaining that they feel the safety around the rest of the track is not up to the standard necessary. While racing people might brush this off as being irrelevant, this puts the coroner is a rather delicate position.

It is possible that if the bureaucracy threatens the race, the FIA could turn around and allow the race to be run without the inquest having taken place but there may also be legal reasons in Australia why this cannot happen.

In all likelihood, however, the problems will all be solved in time for the race to go ahead without problems and the suggestions that there could be trouble ahead are simply scare-mongering by the frustrated opponents of the race.

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