Italy Faces Boycott Threat
Tremayne, David, The Independent (London, England)
AS TEAMS prepare for the new season, everyone in grand prix racing is anxious to see an outcome to the investigation into the death of Ayrton Senna, but are heartily sick of the fresh wave of speculation that Williams chief Frank Williams and designer Patrick Head face possible jail sentences for man- slaughter now that the report into the Brazilian's accident at Imola in May 1994 is finally nearing publication.
The Williams team maintained their silence last week, sceptical of the credibility of reports emanating from the Italian media that magistrates will seek a two-year jail term against various parties involved in the San Marino Grand Prix two years ago. However, assistant investigating magistrate Maurizio Passarini, firmly denying that any decision had been taken, said: "All these hypotheses are being made out of nothing. We are still considering the findings."
Max Mosley, president of the sport's governing body, the FIA, was cautious. "I have looked at the law a little bit in various countries," he said, "and procedures are very much the same in most non-Anglo Saxon countries. They are obviously looking very carefully and have been for some time. Our position is one of complete neutrality; it's a matter for Italian law."
Though the FIA might remain neutral, teams will consider a boycott of Italian races if jail sentences were to be handed down to men in a sport where risk is an accepted part of the contract between team and driver. "Everybody has a right to decide what they want to do," Mosley said. "It's like a driver saying he doesn't want to race. But it doesn't directly concern us. We won't be taking sides; there's no side to take."
However, Ron Dennis, of the McLaren team, has indicated publicly that he would be uneasy racing in Italy if any action were to be taken against his rivals at Williams, and other team owners harbour similar private feelings. Back in 1973, as the ramifications of the Rindt accident at Monza in 1970 still threatened Lotus chief Colin Chapman, other teams were prepared to boycott the Italian Grand Prix. Eventually the matter was settled without recourse to law. This time, strenuous plea bargaining efforts are being made behind the scenes to ensure that, even in the worst outcome, parties involved at Imola would receive only suspended sentences. …