Benetton `clear' champion

Motor racing
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The Independent Online
Motor racing


Benetton-Renault yesterday produced computer data to refute claims that Michael Schumacher slowed unduly before the collision with Damon Hill in last Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Some observers felt Schumacher brake-tested the Englishman and Bernie Ecclestone, who masterminds the marketing of Formula One, suggested the German may have lured the Williams-Renault driver with an act of gamesmanship.

Ecclestone added that he could not be certain without access to relevant telemetry read-outs. Benetton have now examined the data from lap 24, when Hill ran into Schumacher approaching a chicane.

In a statement, Benetton said: "At the point of impact Michael Schumacher was travelling slightly faster than he had done on the previous two laps. On lap 24 he braked eight metres later than on the previous two laps. Schumacher's rate of deceleration [braking] was the same as the previous two laps. We estimate from the velocity of impact that Damon Hill's car was travelling at least 15kph faster than Michael's car.

"The Benetton-Renault team believe that this information supports the FIA [world governing body] decision to clear Michael Schumacher."

The stewards at Monza found Hill responsible and gave him a one-race ban, suspended for one grand prix.

Tyrrell have confirmed that the Finn, Mika Salo, will drive for them again next year.