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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 23:15 GMT
Williams: Senna crash hit us hard
Ayrton Senna's wrecked Williams at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix
Senna's crash had a devastating effect on all concerned
The Williams team say that the crash that killed Ayrton Senna was partly to blame for their fall from competitiveness in Formula One.

The Brazilian was killed in a Williams during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and it took the team more than five years to shake off blame in the Italian courts.

Williams technical director Patrick Head said that it took time for the team to restructure themselves to try to ensure that such an incident could never happen again.

The crash caused great emotional distress to Head and team founder Frank Williams, who had been trying to get Senna to race one of their cars since he made his F1 debut in 1984.

If we don't make up ground pretty soon, we'll never catch McLaren and Ferrari
  Patrick Head
Williams technical director

"The events of 1994 put conservatism in us," Head said, "and it was right and proper that it did. But now we are set up in a much broader way."

Head and former Williams chief designer Adrian Newey were cleared of culpable homicide charges at the end of 1999.

Williams dominated F1 through most of the 1990s, but they have not won a race since 1997, when Jacques Villeneuve clinched the team's last world championship.

Williams are widely-tipped to mount a challenge to F1's top guns McLaren and Ferrari this year.

But Head played down expectations.

He said: "There is a massive gulf between ourselves and McLaren and Ferrari and as technical director I suppose I bear responsibility.

Patrick Head
Head says it has taken time to restructure Williams

"We were doing so much to win the championship in 1996 and 1997 that we didn't do enough research and development.

"Not winning for three years is pretty horrific. It's more than double our previous most barren period.

"If we don't make up ground pretty soon, we'll never catch them. It will be very disappointing if we're not a lot closer this year."

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15 Feb 01 |  Motorsport
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