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  Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 13:50 GMT
Senna death case back in court
The wreckage of Senna's car at Imola
Senna was travelling at 220kph when he crashed
Williams technical director Patrick Head and former chief designer Adrian Newey must face court for a third time over the death of Ayrton Senna.

Head and Newey were acquitted of culpable homicide charges after a trial in Bologna in 1997, and that verdict was upheld by an appeals court in 1999.

But now Italy's highest appeals court has annulled the 1999 appeal verdict because of "material errors" and ordered the hearing be held again.

The move raises doubts about the future of the Italian and San Marino grands prix.

We won the two other trials and I do not see why we should fear losing the third

Roberto Causo
Williams lawyer

F1 bosses believe motor racing is a dangerous sport that should be exempt from any liability over serious injury or deaths and warned that if there was a conviction teams would not race in Italy.

Senna, a triple world Formula One champion, died after crashing his Williams at Imola on 1 May, 1994, during the San Marino Grand Prix.

The Williams team confirmed that it had received notice of the Italian Supreme Court referring the legal investigation back to the Court of Appeal in Bologna.

"Williams has assisted in the detailed investigation of this matter over the last nine years and has been cleared of any culpability on two separate occasions," Williams said in a statement.

"Accordingly, Williams is surprised that the matter should not be considered closed after such an extended period and an extensive examination of all the facts.

"Williams however respects the legal process in Italy, and will continue fully to assist the authorities as they require."

At the 1999 appeal, the prosecution sought a one-year suspended sentence for Head and Newey, claiming the duo were responsible for the fatal crash.

Prosecuting magistrate Rinaldo Rosini argued that a poor weld on Senna's steering column had snapped as the Brazilian entered Imola's notorious Tambarello curve.

Williams technical director Patrick Head
Head escaped a one-year suspended jail term

He claimed this caused Senna to lose control of his car and smash into a concrete wall at 220kph.

Rosini said that Head and Newey, as two of the most senior technical officials in the Williams team at the time, should be held responsible.

Both men denied the charges and the judge ruled the prosecution had failed to prove steering failure was directly to blame for the crash.

No fresh evidence can be introduced at the re-run appeal, which is expected to be heard within a year.

And Italian lawyer Roberto Causo, who is representing Williams in the case, said he had little doubt that the original acquittal would again be upheld.

"This has an importance in terms of the formalities but in substance it changes nothing for us," he said.

"We are calm - we won in the two other [trials] and I do not see why we should fear losing in the third."

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC motor racing correspondent Jonathan Legard
"Formula One could threaten to cancel Italy's Grands Prix"
See also:

15 Feb 01 | Motorsport
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