Frentzen hits back at Monza accusations

Heinz-Harald Frentzen has hit back at accusations from Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello that the Jordan driver was responsible for the opening lap accident that claimed the life of a marshal at the Italian Grand Prix

Frentzen hits back at Monza accusations

Frentzen and Barrichello, along with Frentzen's team mate Jarno Trulli and McLaren's David Coulthard, were involved in a multi-car accident on the approach to Monza's second chicane, the Variante della Roggia. A flying wheel hit 30-year-old fire marshal Paolo Ghislimberti, who died from severe head and chest injuries.

Immediately after the race, an angry Barrichello blamed Frentzen for initiating the accident and called for a 10-race ban for the German.

FIA president Max Mosley has since described the tragedy as a racing accident, with no one to blame, and the prosecuting magistrate in charge of investigating the incident is set to arrive at a similar conclusion. But after Barrichello's comments dominated coverage of the aftermath of the accident, Jordan released a statement today (Tuesday) putting forward Frentzen's version of events and countering the Ferrari driver's accusations.

"I heard after the race that Barrichello was was blaming me for the accident," he said. "In his situation I can understand his feelings, especially driving a Ferrari at Monza. But as he well knows, the reasons for any accident are not as simple as he would like everyone to believe.

"As the stewards' inquiry showed after they had reviewed all the evidence, it was a racing accident - the sort that happens fifty times a year, but fortunately without the same tragic result.

"I think everyone who knows me and my racing career knows that I am not the sort of driver to take unnecessary risks at the start of a race," he added, "and I don't have a reputation of being involved in accidents. The first lap is always the most risky part of any race and it is inevitable that circumstances come together which result in an accident. When you have cars tightly bunched at over 300km/h, all braking hard for a slow chicane, accidents are inevitable."

In the statement, Frentzen also gave his account of the accident: "I had made a good start from the fourth row and was up to sixth place by the first chicane," he explained. "I was then slip-streaming Barrichello near the middle of the track as we came through the Curva Grande. I was planning a move down the inside in order to try and take his fifth place under braking into the second chicane. As we arrived, he moved further left, probably contemplating doing the same thing to my team mate Jarno Trulli, whom I couldn't see at the time, but who was apparently on his right.

"When Rubens braked, he did so earlier than I had expected. It took me by surprise and at 330km/h I had virtually no time to react. I simply couldn't stop my car in time and I hit the back of Rubens' rear wheel with my front wing, which then prevented him from braking properly.

"As I automatically reacted by moving to the right to try and avoid the Ferrari, Jarno suddenly appeared ahead, braking normally, and I couldn't avoid him either. My front right wheel hit the back of Jarno's rear left wheel, knocking the wheels off both our cars.

"After that it was all a high speed blur," he continued. "My car was pitched into the air sideways and I thought it was going to roll over, but then it hit the back of the Ferrari again and landed back on its wheels. By this time I was just a passenger until my car came to rest in the gravel trap along with everyone else."

Frentzen also paid tribute to Ghislimberti, saying: "We all realise the risks involved in the sport we love so much, but it does not make the reality of such a tragedy any easier to bear when one of us pays the ultimate price for our passion."

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