- December 17 down the years
Williams faces charges over Senna deathWhat happened on December 17 in Formula One history?
Concerns grew that F1 teams would boycott the 1997 Italian Grand Prix after manslaughter charges were brought against Frank Williams and five others over the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. Benetton head Flavio Briatore warned he would boycott the event were anyone to be convicted, explaining: "Fatality is part of the game." Jordan's commercial manager added "as things stand, we couldn't risk racing in Italy" while FIA chief Max Mosley described it as "a uniquely Italian problem requiring a uniquely Italian solution".
Stunt co-ordinator Stan Barrett became the first man to exceed the speed of sound on land, albeit unofficially, when his rocket-powered three-wheel vehicle travelled at 739.666 (Mach 1.01). Powered by an hybrid liquid and solid-fuel engine, there was controversy over the claim (a radar recorded the speed at 38mph before it was discovered it had been trained on a nearby truck) and no sonic boom was heard.
After one of the longest development processes in F1 history, Toyota finally launched their car. The Japanese team had an entry for the 2001 season but chose not to compete, instead spending the year setting up the team and testing the car. Ove Andersson, the president of Toyota Motorsport, said: "Success is not a matter of money. It is about a good team working well together and getting everything right." In 140 grands prix between 2002 and 2009, when it finally called time, Toyota failed to win a race.
Ludwig Fischer was born in Straubing, Germany. He qualified for the 1952 German Grand Prix in a privately entered BMW - he failed to start the race despite qualifying 31st and the organisers considering all 32 entrants had qualified. He raced successfully throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, mainly in German Formula 2, but also in hillclimbing and Formula Junior.