A senior figure in Formula One motor sport today accepted a public apology over a claim in Business F1 magazine that he endangered the lives of drivers.
Charles Whiting, the race director of the Formula One governing body FIA, had sued over articles by editor-in-chief Thomas Rubython that appeared in the magazine in October 2005.
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His counsel, William Bennett, told Mr Justice Gray in London that the articles alleged Whiting falsified the crash test results of the Simtek S941 Formula One chassi, and it was alleged that he endangered the lives of the drivers who went on to drive Simtek cars.
It was alleged that this in turn contributed to the death of Roland Ratzenberger (a Austrian Formula One driver who died during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, the same event that saw the death of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna) and that he put Italian racer Andrea Montermini’s life at risk when they competed in grand prix races later that year.
Bennett said that the allegations were untrue and there was no basis for making them.
Rubython’s solicitor, Tim Senior, said that he apologised unreservedly for the distress caused and retracted the allegations, which he had undertaken never to repeat.
In September, Rubython’s company, Business F1 Magazine Ltd, went into receivership after a successful petition for winding-up, following an award for libel damages.
Rubython had not paid Tony Purnell – a former team principal of the now defunct Jaguar Racing Formula One team – all of £75,000 libel damages plus legal costs he was ordered to pay after losing an appeal in April over a claim made against Business F1 magazine.
However, the monthly newsstand magazine has continued to be published, as Rubython moved the title over to his second company, Business F1 Books, some time prior to the winding up.
The Purnell case arose from an article that appeared in Business F1 magazine in April 2005, which made false allegations relating to Purnell gaining positive editorial coverage of the Jaguar team’s achievements. Rubython sought to use a justification defence, but it was struck out in March 2006.
The Business F1 libel timeline
Rubython won a claim for libel against Richard Woods, director of communications for the FIA, after allegations of an anonymous email and internet attack on him. He was awarded £17,500 in damages.
The same Richard Woods was awarded the maximum sum under the Summary Disposal procedure in libel proceedings by a High Court Judge. Woods sued Tom Rubython and BusinessF1 Magazine for an article entitled ‘The Propagandist’that he claimed was highly defamatory.
Michael Schumacher’s manager accepted a public apology at London’s High Court and ‘substantial’undisclosed libel damages after the Business F1 magazine published an article headed ‘The trouble with being Willi Weber”.
Alan Donnelly, official representative of the president of motorsport body FIA, received £8,500 plus legal costs from Rubython following a story which falsely alleged he had diverted some of his £11m in fees from the FIA for personal use when it should have gone to his company.
Rubython faced costs of £15,000 after losing a High Court bid to gain press accreditation to the Australian Grand Prix.