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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK

Eddie feels the pressure

Irvine had trouble in the pits as Ferrari endured their worst race

BBC Motor Racing Correspondent Jonathan Legard looks back at last weekend's European Grand Prix - a nightmare for Ferrari and Eddie Irvine.

The strains of running for the championship, which Eddie Irvine has never failed to mention when McLaren do badly, are taking their toll on the Ulsterman and Ferrari.

Sunday's European Grand Prix was the team's worst performance of the season when it needed to be one of their best.

Eddie Irvine failed to score a point because his first pit stop was a complete shambles - the pitcrew only had three new tyres ready instead of four.

[ image: Irvine: Happy to only lose two points after mistakes]
Irvine: Happy to only lose two points after mistakes
And he lost the championship lead to Mika Hakkinen who overtook him to claim 5th place.

The whole weekend left Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo fuming, and on Monday he let fly at the whole team in a hastily arranged meeting.

"This sort of thing cannot and must not happen again if we are going to win the championship," he said.

The Ferrari President was also reportedly upset by Michael Schumacher's pre race comments.

The German tipped Hakkinen to retain the championship, a clear snub to Irvine.

He also stayed away from the Nurburgring, even though he was staying with his parents less than an hour's drive away.

[ image: Hakkinen: Two points could make all the difference]
Hakkinen: Two points could make all the difference
He had also treated his mechanics to a night out at a kart track in midweek.

There is also growing pressure on Jean Todt to deliver after six years as Ferrari team manager.

His future is being openly questioned in the Italian press as another trophy-less season looks all but over.

There have also been reports of a bust-up between Eddie Irvine's race engineer and Ferrari technical director, Ross Brawn, over the sharing of technical data.

Brawn himself accepted responsibility for the bungled pitstop: "We screwed up and it was my fault."

[ image: Coulthard: Bad race for Scot who spun off]
Coulthard: Bad race for Scot who spun off
Cynics will conclude that it was all part of the continuing conspiracy to deny Irvine and allow Schumacher to return next season and gloriously claim Ferrari's first drivers title since 1979 for himself.

Irvine maintains he got off lightly on Sunday: "We made mistakes but only to have lost two points is OK."

But Hakkinen's prospects still look the brighter of the two.

The Finn judged Sunday's risks in the sunshine and showers better than team-mate David Coulthard whose title ambitions ended in the barriers along with his car.

As Hakkinen said pointedly afterwards: "David went off, I did not. I scored two points and he did not.

"I'm not sad about the race. I could have scored more points but fortunately other drivers in the championship didn't score heavily either."

[ image: Frentzen: Title chance all but gone]
Frentzen: Title chance all but gone
Heinz-Harald Frentzen's retirement has also pushed him out of real contention.

And the fact remains that if Ferrari and Irvine fail again in Malaysia next month and Hakkinen wins, the Finn will become only the sixth champion in F1 history to retain his title.

Johnny Herbert's well deserved success for Stewart will send him into the final two races in good heart.

Next year's partnership with Irvine at Jaguar may not be as one-sided as some were predicting.

Herbert and Rubens Barrichello also have the chance to secure fourth place in the Constructors Championship for Jackie Stewart's team in their final season in tartan.

Williams, for whom Ralf Schumacher continues to star, are firmly in their sights, only two points ahead.

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Formula 1 Contents

In this section

Toyota set to join F1

Irvine's $2m miss

Hakkinen crowned F1 champion

Finn toasts team success

1999 Championship standings

Ferrari dream in tatters

F1's emotional champion

Dreams shattered in Irvine's home village

Grand Prix's favourite son

Mika's glory: Japanese GP in pictures

Top cat Eddie

The best man won

Damon Hill: An F1 career in pictures

Silverstone to stage F1 Easter parade