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JUNE 2, 2003

A dangerous moment

The Monaco Formula 3000 race on Saturday saw a very alarming incident when Super Nova Racing's Enrico Toccacello, who was due to go into the pits for a penalty having cut a chicane, suddenly slowed as he arrived at the top of the hill before the Virage de Massenet. Right behind him at that moment was the Red Bull Junior Team car of Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Liuzzi is a highly-accomplished young driver, a former World Karting Champion and not long ago tested a Williams F1 car. He knows what he is doing but had absolutely no chance of avoiding the back of Toccacello's car. The cars collided and Liuzzi's went into the air. Fortunately it continued in a straight path and landed just before hitting the barriers, which this year for the first time were fitted with stronger debris fencing. There is no doubt however that Liuzzi was fortunate to escape without injury and his team was less than happy at what looked like Toccacello braking much earlier than normal.

The incident was drawn to the attention of the FIA stewards but concluded that it had been "a racing incident", a decision which caused a great deal of criticism. The chairman of the stewards in Monaco was Paul Gutjahr, who is not new to controversy having been one of the three stewards of the European GP in 1997 when Michael Schumacher drove into Jacques Villeneuve to try to stop him winning the World Championship. Gutjahr and the other stewards declared this to be "a racing incident" but that decision was later overturned by the FIA World Council.

The Monaco incident could very easily have ended up with a car in a spectator area and the worry in racing circles is that if the FIA does not fully investigate the incident to see whether Toccacello backed off deliberately, then young drivers will in the future resort to such unsporting behavior on a more regular basis without fear that they will be severely punished.