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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK

F1 title in the balance

Eddie Irvine: Lost first place as well as the drivers' championship

The 1999 Formula One drivers' championship hangs in the balance following the disqualification of Ferrari pair Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher.

Jonathan Legard: "Rarely has a champagne moment turned flat so quickly"
Ferrari has appealed against the decision to throw out Irvine and Schumacher, who finished first and second in Sunday's first ever Malaysian Grand Prix.

Defending champion Mika Hakkinen, who finished third, has been installed as provisional world champion after Irvine's and Schumacher's cars were deemed to have broken technical regulations.

[ image: Mika Hakkinen: Provisional champion after a controversial decision]
Mika Hakkinen: Provisional champion after a controversial decision
A routine inspection found problems with the bodywork of both Ferraris and they were thrown out less than three hours after the race ended.

Hakkinen finished third but his McLaren car was placed first following the double disqualification, giving him an unassailable 12-point lead with only one Grand Prix to go.

Irvine, who comes from Northern Ireland, only heard about his disqualification when his private jet touched down in the Portugese colony of Macao.

After the race at Sepang, he had flown straight there from Kuala Lumpur.

Aerodynamic aids

Jo Bauer, a spokesman for the sport's world governing body FIA, said the Ferraris' deflector panels were deemed to have broken the regulations.

The deflector panels are aerodynamic aids which channel air to the side and rear to help the engine keep cool and improve the car's stability.

An appeal hearing will be held before the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

The Italian team said the breach of the regulations did not improve the car's performance.

Ferrari spokesman Claudio Berro admitted the body panels might not conform to regulations.

He said: "We need to check the technical situation. We checked the parts, whether it confirmed to the rules."

"It is possible the manufacturer does not conform. I don't know. It is too much early to give an explanation."

Japanese climax

If Irvine were reinstated he would regain a four-point lead to take to the final race at Suzuka. That race is estimated to have a worldwide television audience of around 500 million.

Jonathan Legard: "If they have broken the rules they should be expelled"
It was a dramatic twist to a race that saw Schumacher, in his comeback from a broken leg, wave through his team-mate with three laps left, to set up what looked like a thrilling climax to the drivers' championship.

Former world champion Schumacher led the race, after Irvine, from Northern Ireland, pulled in for his second pit stop, but the German let Irvine cruise into first.

[ image: Michael Schumacher: Drove a superb tactical race for Ferrari despite the ruling]
Michael Schumacher: Drove a superb tactical race for Ferrari despite the ruling
Johnny Herbert - who followed up his win in Europe by finishing fourth - was promoted to second.

Hakkinen snatched back third place from Stewart Ford's Herbert with a daring move on the penultimate lap.

Rubens Barrichello was promoted to third after coming fifth, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen moving to fourth.

Team-mate Damon Hill was forced to retire in the penultimate race of his career after being hit on the opening lap while McLaren's David Coulthard quit with a technical problem when lying second.

Revised positions

Result of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix following the disqualification of the Ferrari team who finished first and second:

Race distance: 56 laps:

1. Mika Hakkinen (Finland) McLaren 1 hour 36 minutes 48.237 seconds
2. Johnny Herbert (Britain) Stewart 1:36:56.032
3. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Stewart 1:37:10.790
4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany) Jordan 1:37:13.378
5. Jean Alesi (France) Sauber 1:37:32.902
6. Alexander Wurz (Austria) Benetton 1:37:39.428
7. Marc Gene (Spain) Minardi 1:37.10.056
8. Alex Zanardi (Italy) Williams 1:37:36.473
9. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Benetton 1:38:14.562

Not classified:

Jacques Villeneuve (Canada) BAR completed 48 laps
Pedro Diniz (Brazil) Sauber 44 laps
Pedro De La Rosa (Spain) Arrows 30 laps
Luca Badoer (Italy) Minardi 15 laps
David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 14 laps
Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams seven laps
Tora Takagi (Japan) Arrows seven laps
Ricardo Zonta (Brazil) BAR six laps
Olivier Panis (France) Prost five laps
Damon Hill (Britain) Jordan retired first lap

Did not start:

Jarno Trulli (Italy) Prost

Disqualified: Eddie Irvine (Britain) Ferrari
Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari

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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