Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

Villeneuve Slams Crash Critics

Thursday March 15th, 2001

By Alan Baldwin

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve dismissed those critics who blame him for the fatal crash at the Australian Grand Prix as "babies" on Thursday.

"I made an effort to be neutral in my comments, to make sure I didn't put the blame on anybody and the other side reacted like a bunch of babies trying to point their fingers," the former world champion said ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"I thought that was highly unacceptable."

Ralf Schumacher was the other driver involved in the accident that killed 52-year-old Australian marshal Graham Beveridge, but Villeneuve did not single him out and appeared to be aiming his anger at European media criticism.

However he made it clear that, in his opinion, Schumacher was not without blame for the fifth-lap crash in Melbourne 11 days ago.

"Ralf had problems with his front tyres and he was extremely, extremely slow and he was braking earlier than everybody else on the racetrack," said Villeneuve.

"So if that happens, and you know that that's what's happening then don't stay in the middle of the racetrack. Stay on the left or the right and give enough room for someone else to react.

"If you are going to brake 30 metres earlier than everyone else because you have problems there's no way the other people can react."

Villeneuve's car flew into a concrete wall and safety fencing, throwing debris across the track, after he hit the back of Schumacher's Williams approaching a curve.

A wheel from the BAR flew through a hole in the fence and killed Beveridge.

He was the second track official to die in the last five races -- the only fatalities in Formula One since the death of Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994. Italian official Paolo Ghislimberti was killed at Monza in September.

Accidents Will Happen

Schumacher was critical of Villeneuve at the time and said immediately after the race that he had braked.

"Suddenly I felt a huge bang in my back and saw Jacques flying over me," he said.

"I think that Jacques overrated himself, just like last year in Canada when he again ran into my car."

Villeneuve said it was hard to draw any conclusions about race safety after the fatality.

"Accidents like that will happen," he said.

"We're not on a road with signs and 'oh please, it's your turn now'. We're both trying to fight for the same corners and the same lines on the racetrack."

He said he was surprised at how big an accident it appeared to be when viewed on television.

"It felt big from the inside but it looked even worse from the outside.

"Normally when you crash you are spinning, you look in the mirrors and you known where you are going to hit and how you are going to hit so you can prepare yourself," he added.

"There, once I was in the air, I was trying to look in the mirror but I couldn't see where I was going to hit or how, if I was going to be upside down in the tyres.

"Then when I landed in the sand and started rolling I didn't know if I was close to the tyres or not."

Villeneuve said Formula One was the same as ever but perhaps with a slight change in driver attitudes this season:

"Maybe we are becoming slightly more aggressive now, which is a good thing, it's a part of racing," he said.

"You need to be aggressive but I think that (with) mistakes now, there's much more blaming than there used to be."

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