Criminal Investigations and Motorsport

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    Are there any cases where F1 drivers have ever been arrested/investigated for something that has happened during a race or sued by another driver?

    The reason for asking is because of a strange incident in the Dakar rally where one of the quad drivers – Kees Koolen – is threatening to file a criminal complaint against Carlos Sainz with Koolen claiming he was hit by Sainz’s car. Sainz was given a 10min penalty for the incident and Koolen doesn’t think is enough which seems to be why he’s threatening criminal action.

    Djangles LeVaughn

    Bertrand Gachot comes to mind. His prison sentence opened up the door for Michael Schumacher to race at Spa in 1991.


    I doubt Koolen’s case will get far if he does take legal action, as there is apparently no evidence from what I’ve heard. No video from either vehicle (no video on the quad obviously, and from what I’ve seen of the coverage I believe the only video from Sainz’s car is internal so you couldn’t see anything). Personally I think Sainz’s penalty is a bit strange and arbitrary, if he is guilty then it is nowhere near harsh enough – but if innocent then obviously should be no penalty at all. That said it’s a tough situation for the ASO to be in because, what do you do?

    Mehtab Ahmed

    I don’t know any F1 cases besides Gachot but some other come in mind, especially from IndyCars:
    John Paul Jr and his father, and the 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the year Randy Lanier, were all charged and sentenced for drug trafficking, there is a detaild longform article on sports illustrated about Randy Lanier.

    Alianora La Canta

    I would be surprised if there are any modern ones regarding F1, because the Sporting Regulations specifically state that drivers are not third parties in relation to each other. That means that there is no method for drivers taking each other to court for bad driving, unless a breach of the regulations so severe that the FIA couldn’t adequetely handle it by itself (or the FIA, for some reason, didn’t make an appropriate effort to do so). In the former case, it would likely end up being Driver A + FIA v Driver B in court, and in the latter it would be Driver A v FIA (with Driver B likely being a witness). A straightforward Driver A v Driver B (like Dakar) would simply not be possible.

    A court looking at the Koolen v Sainz case would probably start by asking why Koolen’s team did not lodge an appeal against the penalty to the Swiss Court of Arbitration – a civil court – since the FIA has a long-standing policy of not accepting appeals against in-race penalties. From what I heard, if it weren’t for that rule, both drivers would have been appealing the penalty…


    Tomas Enge comes to my mind, as he was tested positive for drugs twice: first in 2002 while driving in F3000 and then in 2012 in GT racing


    Plenty of examples of drivers getting in trouble off the track, but I can’t think of any who have been criminally charged for anything that occurred on while racing. The closest I can think of is Williams being on trial in Italy for several years following the death of Senna.

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