Patrick Head, the technical chief of Williams Formula One team, has disputed the official findings of the inquiry into the death of Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola which blames steering failure for the fatal accident.
The report says the steering column on the three-times world champion's Williams suffered metal fatigue and only a small part of it was intact when he lost control of the car and crashed into a wall. Head disputes that. "We haven't had the opportunity to look at any of the parts properly, but it [the conclusion] would not tie in with the data we have from the car," he said.
He said in an interview with Autosport magazine that he is not questioning the expertise of those who compiled the report, but he added: "The technical report states in black and white that the data on the car indicates that the steering was working correctly at the time of impact. And then at the end it says the car must have gone off the track because the driver couldn't steer. It doesn't try to say how the data does not tie in with their judgment."
The inquiry's findings have yet to be published, but Professor Enrico Lorenzini, chairman of the official investigating commission, has confirmed its contents.
Head concedes that there must have been fatigue cracks in the steering column of Senna's car. "The people who did the material analysis are too capable to identify cracks and for there not to be cracks there," he said.
Noting that many jumbo jets fly despite showing fatigue cracks, he said it was a matter of "whether they are present to the extent to actually put a component at risk."
Head was at pains to quash rumours that a modification to the car's steering column had contributed to the accident. He said it had been done 10 days before the season started and scrutinised after the Pacific Grand Prix, when the car had been hit by Nicola Larini's.
n Tom Walkinshaw Racing has taken over the Arrows Formula One team and will assume full control before the European Grand Prix on 28 April.