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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Formula One Stunned By Senna Trial

LONDON -- As Britain's Williams Formula One motor racing team expressed disappointment at the news from Italy that team boss Frank Williams will be charged with manslaughter over the death of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, the effects of the trial on Formula One racing in Italy were still being assessed.


A statement issued by the team read: "Williams Grand Prix engineering is disappointed at the content of the summons requesting that Frank Williams, chief executive, Patrick Head, technical director, and Adrian Newey, chief designer, appear before the magistrate at Imola on 20th February 1997 to answer charges arising from the accident that caused the death of Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.


"We do not believe that the charges are well founded and intend to do all that is necessary to defend our position and contest the charges."


An expert report for Bologna prosecutor Maurizio Passarini, who led investigations into Senna's death, concluded that the car's steering column had been modified and snapped as a result of a poor weld as the vehicle took the curve.


The Williams team has argued that the steering column was intact until the moment of impact.


Williams' Italian lawyer Roberto Causo said the only charge which had been open to Passarini under Italian law was manslaughter and argued that it would be heard by a low-level court because it constituted a "minor offense."


Manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. Causo said that in the vast majority of cases, defendants found guilty of manslaughter in Italy were sentenced to suspended prison terms of less than one year.


The trial will call the future of Formula One in Italy into question. Benetton team boss Flavio Briatore said that he would be unwilling to race in Italy if Williams was convicted. "If anyone were to be convicted in Italy, it would be big trouble," he said. "I would not risk bringing my team to a country that can convict you for an accident. Fatality is part of the game."


Veteran Formula One team boss Ken Tyrrell said Tuesday that it may be impossible for his team to race in Italy next year


"You have to say that it is difficult to understand how we can race in Italy if this is going to be the sort of situation after an accident," said 72-year-old Tyrrell. "Motor racing is a dangerous sport. The drivers themselves know that and, although the loss of Ayrton was awful, and it is awful to lose any driver, I don't think we will be able to get insurance cover to prevent a similar situation [criminal charges]."


?Former world champion Nigel Mansell ruled out a return to Formula One on Tuesday less than a week after successfully testing a Jordan Grand Prix car in Barcelona.


Mansell explained that his life outside sport would leave him insufficient time for the Jordan team.