Data logging deviced to be mandated for 1997

Black box solution to grand prix accident inquiries By Timothy Collings The Electronic Telegraph THE legacy of Ayrton Senna's death continued to reverberate through grand prix motor racing yesterday when Max Mosley, the president of ...

Black box solution to grand prix accident inquiries

By Timothy Collings The Electronic Telegraph

THE legacy of Ayrton Senna's death continued to reverberate through grand prix motor racing yesterday when Max Mosley, the president of the sport's ruling body, announced that aircraft-style data-logging black boxes will be fitted to cars next year.

Speaking during an informal lunch in London, the president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the FIA, said also that the sport's ruling body was hoping to introduce a code for accident investigations which could be imposed and followed all over Europe.

This would help remove, in future, the long drawn-out investigations in Italy where actions following the death of the Brazilian at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix are now said to be imminent.

According to speculation in Italy and Germany, several members of the Williams team, including Frank Williams and Patrick Head, and the Imola circuit authorities could face criminal charges within a matter of days if the year-long procrastination by the magistrates is completed and proceedings finally begin 21 months after Senna's death.

The Williams team have maintained a dignified silence throughout the long and traumatic period since that fateful May Day and no proof of their culpability has yet been published officially despite incessant rumours.

In the 12 months since the head of the investigation, Maurizio Passarini, handed his report over to Italian magistrates, there has been speculation over the causes of Senna's alleged broken steering column, possibly a result of faulty welding, but nothing has been proved.

"There is always danger and Senna was terribly unlucky to be a victim of it"

Explaining the delays in the Italian investigation, Mosley said there had been a lot of reports to consider and a lot of expert opinions to go through. He said he had seen a copy of the technical report which was objected to by the Williams team, but was unwilling to comment any further.

"This sort of thing is very annoying because it goes on and on," he added. "But there is nothing we can do about it. I'm hoping to know more at the weekend, as I am going to Italy."

The new black boxes, which may be used on an experimental basis this season, have been commissioned from an American company. The costs of the project, estimated at around #660,000, will be split between all the constructors.

Mosley also made it clear that the FIA have agreed with the teams that they will only be able to use the box to assist them in gathering information in the event of a serious accident, not in relation to collisions or controversies in the sport.

"The aircraft industry has said it wants to see things handled in a certain way and to have their code accepted by Brussels," explained Mosley. "We want to do something similar.

"We've started discussions with the Italian authorities to do something like this, as the current situation makes the teams feel very uneasy."

Mosley also explained his belief that Formula One will become "very, very, safe" within five years, but admitted the sport could never rule out the possibility of further fatal accidents.

"There is always danger and Senna was terribly unlucky to be a victim of it," he said. "It is something which will happen every now and then from time to time, but the sport is becoming safer and safer.

"The public accept all of this, but it does nothing to change the shock which is always felt when someone is killed. It was accepted very differently 20 years ago, but it is very different today."

Mosley added that while he was not overly concerned by the image of Formula One, he was not worried by the prospect of a grid of only 20 cars this year. "I am comfortable with 20 because it is the number we have always worked around both financially and in other ways," he said.

He said his most serious problem in motor racing this year was likely to arise from spectator control in the world rally championship. He explained that the FIA would have a helicopter patrolling the stages ahead of the action to ensure spectators were accommodated in the correct areas and were out of danger when the cars came through their section.

* Olivier Panis, the Frenchman who finished eighth in last year's world drivers' championship, and Brazilian Pedro Paulo Diniz have, as expected, been named as Ligier's drivers for the coming Formula One season.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Olivier Panis , Ayrton Senna , Patrick Head , Frank Williams
Teams Williams