Motor racing: Williams and McLaren accused of colluding

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The Independent Online
Britain's two leading Formula One constructors, Williams and McLaren, have been accused of colluding to arrange the finish of the vital final Grand Prix of the season where Jacques Villeneuve clinched his first world title.

Reports in The Times reports that its investigation has unearthed two tapes of radio transmissions between pit crews and drivers at the European Grand Prix at Jerez in Spain last month.

The paper claims the tapes reveal that Williams and McLaren team officials orchestrated the order of the first three cars over the line and that their allegations have forced the sport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), to hold an inquiry.

Formula One Constructors' Association chief Bernie Ecclestone said: "This is hard to believe."

Villeneuve was overtaken by Mika Hakkinen and McLaren team-mate David Coulthard on the last lap at Jerez and finished third.

But the newspaper claims the tapes point to the order of the first three being contrived, that Villeneuve, who only had to finish sixth to clinch the title, was ordered to pull his Williams over to permit Hakkinen to win for McLaren, and that Coulthard was instructed to allow Hakkinen through.

Michael Schumacher expects to be disciplined by the International Automobile Federation for his collision with Villeneuve at Jerez. "I think I will be punished one way or the other," he said.

An Italian prosecutor said yesterday that the head of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, and three television officials risk being charged in connection with video footage of the 1994 crash that killed Ayrton Senna.

Prosecutor Maurizio Passarini, said that the TV officials risked perjury charges, while Ecclestone will be investigated for other possible charges, such as aiding and abetting perjury.