Senna's Death Trial

Background to the Trial

Ayrton Senna died as the result of an accident on 1 May 1994 while taking part in the San Marino GP: he lost control of the Williams car he was driving and hit the wall at the Tamburello. Senna's helmet was smashed in and the driver died of severe head injuries in the Ospedale Maggiore a few hours later.
The day before Simtek driver Roland Ratzenberger had died in another accident (the first fatal accident in F1 for 12 years). Ratzenberger's death was not deemed to be suspicious by the special prosecutor as the Simtek driver had damaged the front wing of his car when he had left the track earlier on and that was judged to be the reason why he had had the accident.
In the case of Senna's accident the special prosecutor could not find an obvious reason why an experienced driver such as Senna should lose control of his car. He also found out that Senna's steering column had been modified by cutting and welding it just before the race had started. The special prosecutor decided there was enough evidence to bring charges of manslaughter against the Williams team. Since at the time it appeared that the bumps on the Imola track were quite deep and could have caused enough vibration to damage the welding on the steering column, charges were brought against the people in charge of the San Marino racing track as well.
Several people claim that the trial is just an attempt by an unknown magistrate to become famous using Senna's name. In reality, under Italian law all accidental deaths must be investigated if there is no obvious reason as to why the accident has happened.


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