Senna trial to reopen in Italy

Almost nine years after Ayrton Senna's death in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the Italian Supreme Court has cancelled the original verdict of the Appeals Court and reopened the inquiry into the cause of his fatal accident at Imola

Senna trial to reopen in Italy

In 1997, Italian state prosecutors accused Williams technical director Patrick Head and designer Adrian Newey with 'culpable homicide', claiming that steering column failure was to blame for Senna's accident. Frank Williams was also accused, but charges against him were dropped before the end of the year.

After a long and drawn-out court process, both Head and Newey were acquitted in November 1999. They had been under threat of a one-year suspended jail sentence. Track officials who were accused at the same time were also acquitted.

Williams had appealed against an initial court verdict that steering failure was to blame. The Appeal Court then ruled that a series of factors contributed to Senna's death, including the speed his Williams was travelling through the Tamburello corner, tyre wear and unevenness of the track surface. A subsequent prosecution appeal was thrown out after just two days in court, as Judge Francesco Mario Agnoli ruled that it had not proved its contention that steering failure was the cause.

The Supreme Court accepted a petition from prosecutor Rinaldo Rosini yesterday (Monday), who claims errors were made in the original process, and the case will be reopened once again. No dates have been set, but it is likely to be heard at the end of this year.

After the '99 verdict, Newey told AUTOSPORT: "The trial is one of the worst examples of the legal system behaving badly. In terms of helping to understand what happened at Imola and learning from the event, it has achieved nothing. It has helped no one in F1 - only the lawyers."

The ruling also reopens the debate into whether Formula 1 should race in Italy under the possibility of such legal threats should a fatal accident occur in future.

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