Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

Australian GP Chief Defends Safety Record

Monday March 5th, 2001

Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker said on Monday that the crash which led to the death of a marshal at Sunday's season-opening Formula One race was a "one in a billion" accident that could not have been avoided.

The marshal, a Queenslander in his 50s, was struck by a wheel which flew loose after Jacques Villeneuve's BAR car crashed into the back of Ralf Schumacher's Williams early in the race.

The race was won by was won by Ferrari's defending world champion Michael Schumacher.

"For that wheel to have come through that small gap is quite an amazing phenomena," Walker told Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio.

Walker said he could not guarantee that such an accident would not happen again.

"It's just like playing cricket and you get hit between the eyes by a cricket ball or if you're playing rugby and someone elbows you in the brain," he said.

"There are more accidents in contact sports then there are in Formula One and there's nothing else we can do to make the track any safer."

Walker was heavily criticised in the Australian press on Monday for earlier having praised the success of the event - which drew nearly 400,000 spectators - before expressing "great regret" over the death of the marshal, whose name has not been released.

On Monday he reiterated that the dead man's family would be looked after "as the public would expect", reacting angrily to a question one radio interviewer that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone should personally compensate the family.

"We are handling the man's family in the way that you would expect and the public would expect, so don't start all this emotional claptrap on this show of yours," Walker said.



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