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Tuesday, November 11, 1997 Published at 13:36 GMT

World: Europe

Schumacher loses championship runner-up crown

Michael Schumacher accepts the decision

The German motor-racing driver, Michael Schumacher, has been stripped of his second place in the 1997 Formula One championship.

But he will start next season with a clean sheet after a being involved in a collision with championship rival Jacques Villeneuve in the final race of 1997.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) disciplinary hearing in Slough, in the English county of Berkshire, disqualified him from the 1997 championship as punishment for his behaviour in the final race of the season. But it did not impose a fine or ban for next year.

The FIA's 24-man council blamed him for causing a collision with Canadian Villeneuve, in the championship decider at Jerez in Spain last month.

[ image: The incident in question]
The incident in question
Schumacher, a former world champion who drives for Ferrari, admitted making a mistake and accepted the penalty. He had defended himself by claiming his move was the result of an instinctive error of judgement.

The smash ended in failure for Schumacher, who spun out while Villeneuve drove on to finish third behind the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. That was enough to seal the title.

The FIA decided that Schumacher deliberately tried to ram Villeneuve to try to gain an advantage, but it did not ban or fine the German.

"Actions not premeditated"

The FIA President, Max Mosley, said his panel did not think it would be appropriate to ban Schumacher from the 1998 Championship.

Mr Mosley said: "The World Motorsport Council have carefully considered all the evidence in relation to the incident and have concluded that although the actions were deliberate they were not premeditated."

Villeneuve's Williams' team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who finished third in the championship, has been promoted into the runners-up spot.

Schumacher's reaction

After the hearing Schumacher said the last two weeks had been "fairly tough" not just because of the negative publicity he received but also as he had gone into the race "confident" of winning the championship.

He said: "It was something not very easy to live with ... Two or three days after the race I really started to struggle with it and had some bad nights sleeping and accepting what I had done, which is not usual for myself, but obviously I am as much a human being as anyone."

He thanked the Ferrari team for its continuing support: "We have learnt. We have made mistakes. But we will become stronger and I hope we will become better in the future."

Chequered record

Schumacher has a history of being involved in controversial collisions throughout his career.

In the final heat of the 1990 Macau Grand Prix, a Formula Three event, he smashed into Hakkinen's car and removed him from the race which he went on to win.

One year later, he collided with Briton Derek Warwick in a Group C sports car event in Germany after which the British driver had to be restrained from punching him.

In 1992, he was grabbed by the throat by Ayrton Senna after an altercation during testing in advance of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

And in 1994, Schumacher was involved in an acrimonious collision with Briton Damon Hill at the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide where both drivers retired.

The crash secured him his first world drivers' title, but left him with a tarnished reputation.

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