Key Moments In Trial


December 15th, 1996: Frank Williams, Patrick Head and chief designer Adrian Newey are officially charged with manslaughter along with two track officials and a race director.

February 20th: The trial begins in Imola. It is the first of its kind to involve a Formula One team and the charges of manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of five years.

June 2nd: Damon Hill is called to testify at the trial. The then world champion, who was Senna's team-mate at the time of the crash, said he could not remember if the Brazilian had complained about his car or the steering column. Hill confirms that he had the steering column of his own car modified before Senna's death to give him more steering ability in the cramped cockpit. September 16th: Michele Alboreto, the Italian who spent 14 years in the sport, tells the court that he believes mechanical failure caused the crash. He claims to have seen videotape "which shows the movement of the steering wheel was two or three centimetres... No steering wheel moves a few centimetres." But former Williams driver David Coulthard says that the amount of movement seen on the video was normal.

October 29th: Williams, Head and Newey appear in court. Williams maintains that the steering column did not break before the crash but admits he had doubts about the unit. He said: "After examination of the telemetry, and a lot of simulation, we, as a company, formed the opinion that the steering column did not break." He also admits that changes were made to the steering columns of other Williams cars following the crash. Extensive checks and alterations were made, says Williams, "To remove any doubts about integrity."

Newey and Head refuse to answer questions, with Newey's lawyers arguing that he had been interviewed in the wake of Senna's crash as a witness - not as an accused.

November 7th: Prosecution recommends that Williams and the three race officials be cleared of the charges but calls for a one-year suspended jail sentence against Head and Newey. Passarini claims Williams should be cleared for "not having committed the offence" but Head and Newey made a "microscopic" error in the re-design of Senna's steering column. He said: "Newey and Head designed it badly and, in particular, did not check how the plan was put into execution."

November 18th: Trial resumes with the summing up of cases and magistrate Antonio Costanzo announces that he will deliver his verdict in mid-December. Defence lawyer Oreste Dominioni launches five-hour attack on prosecution case, claiming that Passarini had been let down by his technical advisors.

December 16th: All six defendants cleared of manslaughter charges.