Senna Crew Acquittals Upheld

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An appeals court on Monday upheld the acquittals of Williams technical director Patrick Head and former team designer Adrian Newey in the 1994 death of Formula One star Ayrton Senna.

Senna, a three-time world champion, died when his Williams-Renault car slammed into a concrete wall during the San Marino Grand Prix. The prosecution had alleged that a poorly modified steering column broke as the Brazilian driver entered a curve, causing him to lose control.

Newey, now with the McLaren team, Head, team owner Frank Williams, and three race officials were originally cleared in December 1997. But prosecutors had renewed their request for one-year suspended sentences for Newey and Head, arguing the pair was to blame for the steering column.

The original verdict absolved the defendants by ruling they did not commit the crime with which they were charged. Monday's ruling said no crime took place.

The court found that a series of factors contributed to Senna's accident, including the speed at which the car was traveling, the wear on the tires, and the unevenness of the track.

Both the prosecution and defense can appeal verdicts in Italy.

The original case represented the first time Formula One executives were brought to trial in Europe for a racing accident, and the sport's governing body had feared an unfavorable ruling would discourage racers from competing in Italy.

At least one major team, Benetton, had said it would boycott Italian races if there were convictions.

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