OCTOBER 19, 1998
Problems at Imola
THE San Marino Grand Prix at Imola is under threat next year as a result of the accident in 1994 which claimed the life of Ayrton Senna. The crash resulted in an investigation and then a trial of members of the Williams team and the race organization. Everyone involved was acquitted.
In June 1997, the Association of European National Olympic Committees held a symposium in Rome to discuss the problems of dangerous sports and Italy's unusual legal system. It was attended by leading sporting administrators and by Italian legal representatives including the presidents of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. It was agreed that the law needed to be changed and a request was made to the Italian government to exclude dangerous sports from criminal law.
Since then nothing has happened and because every race in Italy is a risk for the F1 teams, the FIA is threatening to cancel the race at Imola in an attempt to force the Italian politicians to act. In theory the same problems exist with the Italian GP at Monza but FIA sources say that it was decided not to force the issue by making it provisional as well.
Italian politics is a volatile business. There have been 26 different governments in the last 35 years and each new coalition has to balance the demands of some of the 60 different political parties. The collapse of Romano Prodi's government in recent days will not help the Imola situation. Prodi's administration lasted for 28 months, one of the longest governments since the war, and the signs are that the new coalition being put together by Massimo d'Alema will be relatively unstable.
The FIA is hoping that Italy's love of motor racing will get all the warring political factions together in order to save Italy's second Grand Prix.