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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK

Inspired Irvine wins in Austria

McLaren mess-up: Coulthard accidentally runs Hakkinen's car off the track

Eddie Irvine threw the Formula One world championship race wide open with a superb victory in the Austrian Grand Prix.

Jonathan Legard: "Irvine needed the luck and he rode it in style"
The Ferrari driver produced the perfect tactical race to win at Zeltweg and close Mika Hakkinen's lead at the top of the standings to just two points.

David Coulthard was second in a thrilling finish to make it a British one-two, as the pair reversed their positions at Silverstone two weeks ago.

But Coulthard is unlikely to be too popular with his McLaren team.

The Scotsman was to blame for a sensational collision with Hakkinen on the very first lap, forcing his team-mate off the track with an accidental nudge when the Finn was leading the race.

The knock left Hakkinen in last place, but he gradually worked his way back through the field, finishing in third place to minimise the damage.

[ image: Eddie Irvine gives the crowd the thumbs-up after crossing the line]
Eddie Irvine gives the crowd the thumbs-up after crossing the line
Hakkinen, who had high hopes of victory after starting on pole position, shook Irvine's hand after the race before confronting Coulthard to discuss their first-lap collision.

Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen consolidated Jordan's third place in the manufacturers' championship with fourth.

Benetton's Alexander Wurz, in his home race, finished fifth with Sauber's Pedro Diniz sixth.

Eddie Irvine: "I've never felt so much pressure"
Damon Hill was eighth in the other Jordan - just ahead of Finland's Mika Salo in his first race as Schumacher's deputy.

But Johnny Herbert's woeful season continued. The Briton was caught up in the McLaren's first-lap collision and lost his front wing before eventually limping home in 14th place.

Unexpected success

Irvine, Ferrari's principal driver in the absence of broken leg victim Michael Schumacher, benefited from a late pit stop.

[ image: Champagne moment: Irvine cracks open the bubbly on the podium]
Champagne moment: Irvine cracks open the bubbly on the podium
The Ulsterman left his stop until the 44th lap and emerged ahead of the field, holding on to win by 0.3sec from a determined Coulthard.

Irvine could hardly have expected the success after being widely criticised when he was more than one second off the pace of the McLarens in qualifying.

Irvine said: "I am surprised to have beaten the McLarens, but I knew we were not a second off them and that we would be closer.

"I thought if we get the strategy right then we could do the job. At the pit-stops I just put the hammer down and went as fast as I could.

"If you saw smoke coming from the car at the end it was probably from my brain. That was in danger of overloading with David so close."

'My fault'

Coulthard, hopeful of being retained by McLaren Mercedes next season, immediately admitted the collision was his mistake.

David Coulthard reflects on the race
"This is my nightmare scenario," he said. "I have taken my team-mate off and finished second to a Ferrari.

Hakkinen said: "Whatever happened at the second corner was not important - at the moment anyway. It matters but now is not the time to explain it."

Irvine's second career win was one of the closest for years.

It will improve the 33-year-old's stock with Ferrari no end as he attempts to prove himself as team leader in Schumacher's absence.

And it gives his hopes of becoming Ferrari's first world champion in 20 years a massive boost.

1 E Irvine (Gbr) Ferrari 1hr 28min 12.438sec (average: 130.367mph)
2 D Coulthard (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes at 0.313sec
3 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 22.282
4 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Jordan-Mugen Honda 52.803
5 A Wurz (Aut) Benetton-Supertec 1:06.358
6 P Diniz (Bra) Sauber-Petronas 1:10.933
7 J Trulli (Ita) Prost-Peugeot at 1 lap
8 D Hill (Gbr) Jordan-Mugen Honda 1 lap
9 M Salo (Fin) Ferrari 1 lap
10 O Panis (Fra) Prost-Peugeot 1 lap
11 M Gene (Spa) Minardi-Ford 1 lap
12 G Fisichella (Ita) Benetton-Supertec 3 laps
13 L Badoer (Ita) Minardi-Ford 3 laps
14 J Herbert (Gbr) Stewart-Ford 4 laps
15 R Zonta (Bra) BAR-Supertec 8 laps.

Drivers' Championship:
1 M Hakkinen (Fin) 44pts
2 E Irvine (Irl) 42
3 M Schumacher (Ger) 32
4 H-H Frentzen (Ger) 29
5 D Coulthard (Sco) 28
6 R Scumacher (Ger) 19
7 G Fisichella (Ita) 13
8 R Barrichello (Bra) 10
9 D Hill (Eng) 5
10 P Diniz (Bra) 3
10 A Wurz (Ger) 3

Constructors' Championship:
1 Ferrari 74pts
2 McLaren 72
3 Jordan 34
4 Williams 19
5 Benetton 16
6 Stewart 12
7 Sauber 4
8 Prost 2
9 Arrows 1

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