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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
F1's court on camera

By Jonathan Legard
BBC motor racing correspondent

The impact had been so violent and spectacular at Hockenheim's first corner that some awestruck TV executives might have been hoping for an equally dramatic courtroom clash in Paris.

But as the cameras recorded the workings of F1's Court of Appeal for the first time, there were no impassioned pleas for justice and no table- thumping performances.

Ralf Schumacher talks to reporters after Tuesday's hearing
Schumacher faces starting from 10 places below his qualifying grid position in Hungary

Not one voice was raised in protest throughout the hearing which lasted 90 minutes.

It could have been an everyday boardroom meeting anywhere in the world, with two tables, covered in papers and notes, and two rows of executives facing each other.

It was hard to believe that such an ordinary process could generate the outcry which greeted Ferrari's acquittal after their original disqualification from the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Williams delegation, including team principal, Frank Williams held the floor for much of this summer session.

After the initial legal presentation, the team's chief operations officer, softly-spoken Australian Sam Michael, did much of the talking.

Cool, calm and studious, he stressed the significance of video footage of the start of the German Grand Prix.

While he compared Ralf Schumacher's approach to the first corner with the lines taken by Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen - both present at the hearing - team manager Dickie Stanford replayed film of the collision.

The pile-up at the start of the German GP
First-corner carnage at Hockenheim

"Ralf was ahead of the other two drivers at all times," Michael said.

"Importantly, though, he had severely restricted view because of a sizeable blind spot either side of him, which is common to all F1 cars.

"He can see Jarno Trulli behind, Juan Pablo Montoya ahead but he couldn't see Kimi Raikkonen's move on the left because of the blind spot.

"He couldn't have known he had to leave space for two cars but his trajectory off the line was clear. He never turned left.

"F1 cars are 1.8m wide and there was double that to Ralf's left," emphasised Michael.

At this point, he highlighted the link between the film and computer data from Williams, Ferrari and McLaren, analysed by Peter Wright, technical adviser to the FIA Foundation.

This revealed how the three drivers had steered their cars in the seconds before their crash.

Wright told the court that Raikkonen and Barrichello had both been travelling faster than Schumacher.

He failed to ensure that other cars could change direction if necessary
F1 race director Charlie Whiting points the finger at Schumacher

He also claimed that both hadn't left enough time and space to overtake Schumacher before the first corner.

"Somebody needed to brake," he said, "and Barrichello was the only one who made an effort to take avoiding action."

This appeared to support Michael's contention that the stewards had been wrong to blame Schumacher as solely responsible for the incident.

"They claimed that both drivers [Barrichello and Raikkonen] were caught in a set of circumstances over which they had no control. They were not correct," Michael said.

"Raikkonen chose not use another metre of the track. That's not to apportion blame but to show the stewards were wrong."

Schumacher spoke only in response to questions from the judge and the Williams counsel.

Raikkonen and Barrichello made even less of a contribution to proceedings.

Rubens Barrichello arrives at the hearing in Paris
Barrichello swapped his racing gear for more formal attire
The Finn restated he had been hit from behind - Barrichello said that the Williams car had crashed into his Ferrari.

One key discordant note was struck by F1's race director, Charlie Whiting, who disputed Schumacher's claims that he relied solely on his wing mirrors to monitor what was happening around him.

"That's a very tenuous argument. Drivers do have peripheral vision," he said.

In a separate written report, released to the media after the hearing Whiting had been equally critical of the German.

"He failed to ensure that other cars could change direction if necessary.

"That left Barrichello with no choice but to move left where in turn he made contact with Raikkonen thereby triggering the accident."

Williams contested that charge vigorously in court. Outside Ralf Schumacher said he was "hopeful" of a positive result.

Frank Williams had lost all three of his previous appeals, so Wednesday's result, even if it did mean a hefty $50,000 fine, was a welcome one indeed for Williams.

BBC Sport's Jonathan Legard
"Williams claim the punishment was reached too quickly"

Williams' Ralf Schumacher
"Hopefully we will get the right decision"






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