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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK

Irvine: I'm still in shock

Eddie Irvine: "The punishment is too harsh"

Eddie Irvine has pleaded with motor racing officials not to ruin his World Championship dream.

The Ferrari driver admitted he was stunned that his car was disqualified from Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix after he and team-mate Michael Schumacher had snatched first and second place.

Irvine and Schumacher were scrubbed from the results after their cars failed a post-race technical inspection in Kuala Lumpur - allowing McLaren's Mika Hakkinen to be crowned 'provisional' champion.

[ image: Irvine and  Michal Schumacher were disqualified after their cars failed technical inspections]
Irvine and Michal Schumacher were disqualified after their cars failed technical inspections
Irvine, from Northern Ireland, now faces an anxious wait before Ferrari's appeal is heard on Friday.

"I can't believe that they are taking the points and the leadership of the World Championship away from me for something like that," Irvine said.

"The punishment is too harsh compared to the crime.

"I'm relying on Ferrari's ability to defend themselves. As a driver, I can't make any appeals. All I can do is drive and say that the car was exactly the same as the one at the Nurburgring.

"It seems impossible to me to lose a world championship over a story like this. Everybody in Formula One knows that things like these give you little or no advantage at all... it was an oversight.

"I hope the judges decide that the punishment was too heavy. I'm convinced that, aside from the facts of what happened, the final decision will take account of people's good faith."

Hakkinen: I feel bad

Irvine has been supported by Hakkinen, whose belated promotion from third to race winner will see him crowned champion if Ferrari's appeal is rejected.

The Finn currently has an unassailable 12-point lead.

[ image: Mika Hakkinen: Supports Irvine in his fight to be reinstated as winner]
Mika Hakkinen: Supports Irvine in his fight to be reinstated as winner
"I don't really like it. It is not the way to win a title. It does not feel good to me," Hakkinen said.

"They won the race fair and square on the track. But the team does not want me to talk about this until after the hearing."

Hakkinen's McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who was upset by other Ferrari tactics during the race, also believes it would be a hollow victory.

"This is not a way to win a World Championship," he said. "It is bad for the sport."

The final Grand Prix of the season, at Suzuka, would be guaranteed to generate a television audience of hundreds of millions and seems a fitting way to end what has been a thrilling and extraordinary campaign, even by Formula One's standards.

Irvine, who joins Jaguar Racing at the end of the season, might never again have a better chance of joining the elite group of British drivers who have won motor sport's most coveted title.

The 33-year-old would start favourite if Ferrari's appeal is successful and he is handed back his points advantage over the Hakkinen, who was well beaten on the track.

But the Finn could still win the title if he triumphs in Suzuka - even if Irvine comes second - because of a greater number of victories this season.

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Finn toasts team success

1999 Championship standings

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