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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK


Mika mistake gives us thriller

Is this the moment Mika Hakkinen lost the divers' title?

Mika Hakkinen had nobody but himself to blame for another failed Italian job.

Into the wall at Imola in April. Into the gravel at Monza on Sunday. Two driver errors which could cost him the title, and he knows it.


[ image: From the
From the "seventh heaven" of winning pole on Saturday........
"Before the race I was in seventh heaven. Now I'm in hell," Hakkinen said.

"My finger slipped and I changed down to first gear not second at the chicane.

"It's so easy to blame the team or your team mate but it's the most difficult thing to blame yourself.

"This time lying wouldn't help anything and I have to accept the fact that I'm guilty. It was my mistake."


[ image: .....to the
.....to the "hell" of throwing it all away on Sunday
It means that instead of taking a lead of 11 points to the next race at the Nurburgring, Hakkinen has been caught again by Eddie Irvine.

The Northern Irishman's good fortune since Michael Schumacher's accident beggars belief after a weekend which saw Ferrari off the pace.

Like Austria, Germany and Belgium, Irvine prospered because Hakkinen faltered, and sixth place drew him level on points with Hakkinen.

"It's going to be very interesting to see the effect this result has on Mika. It's something that could go to his head," said Irvine, typically pushing the point home.

"I knew it was vital for me to finish the race and that might have cost me two or three places. In the end though I got one point and my nearest rival got none.


[ image: Irvine: Only a point, but one more than Hakkinen]
Irvine: Only a point, but one more than Hakkinen
"At least it feels good to be leading the championship gain. Now we must work, work, work."

Hakkinen's tears in the trees afterwards backed up Irvine's remarks. They also raised questions about his ability to withstand the pressure of one of the closest title battles in years.

"I've now got to prepare myself stronger and keep myself in better control," said the defending champion. "I need to make sure this is my last mistake of the year."


[ image: Frentzen: In the title race after Italian win]
Frentzen: In the title race after Italian win
McLaren's misfortunes are playing perfectly into the hands of Ferrari. And after Sunday's result Jordan are feeling the benefit too.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen's second victory of the season extended a remarkable run of form which has seen him finish fourth or better in the last seven races.

"He's only ten points behind Hakkinen and Irvine and you have to put him in as a contender," said Eddie Jordan, his jubilant team owner.

"He's going to be hard to shove aside because when he finishes he does so in the points."

Jordan's harsh words for Dennis

But Jordan's comments also carried a cutting edge aimed at McLaren's team principal, Ron Dennis.

"Ron is a great competitor but he has not got it in him to come and say well done. That's his way and I have no problem with that," said Jordan.

"I admire the guy and I think his team is sensational. But if I had a team as good as that and had not won the world championship then I would be sick."

For the neutral, F1's title race hasn't looked so appealing in ages.

What it lacks without the quality of Michael Schumacher, it's gained in the breadth of competition.

Any one of four drivers - even David Coulthard, who disappointed at Monza - could become champion in a contest which seems certain to last until the final race in Japan.





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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

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Damon Hill: An F1 career in pictures

Silverstone to stage F1 Easter parade