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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 20:19 GMT

McLaren anger over F1 decision

The results from the Malaysian Grand Prix stand

The McLaren team have reacted sharply after the rival Ferrari team won its appeal against disqualification from the Malaysian Grand Prix.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis said the real loser was not their team - for whom Mika Hakkinen would have retained the title if the appeal had failed - but genuine motor racing fans.

"It's really more than anything else a bad day for the sport," he said.

Ron Dennis: "It's a bad day for the sport"
Blaming commericial considerations for the about-turn which now sets up an exciting climax to the Formula One season, he said: "Everybody wants to have an exciting race in Japan, but I think that the price we have paid is too great."

Stewards had said unauthorised modifications had been made to the Ferrari cars driven by Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher.

But on Saturday, the motor racing appeal court in Paris overturned the disqualification of the Ferrari team's drivers who took first and second places in last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The five-man international panel found that the changes were within the rules.

The judgment means that Irvine keeps a four-point advantage over Mika Hakkinen and the championship will be decided at the forthcoming final grand prix of the season in Japan.

BBC News' Neil Bennett: This result will surprise few people
The two Ferrari drivers were disqualified after a post-race car inspection uncovered a discrepancy over the size of aerodynamic aids on their cars. The FIA panel ruled that the dimension in question fell within an allowable 5mm tolerance, but Dennis said that he thought the discrepency could have helped performance.

"I think it's slightly hypocritical to say there was no performance influence because that is a very aerodynamically critical area on the car. Hence the reason why those components were covered up every time the car stopped," he said.

And for the first time, Norbert Haug, the head of Mercedes racing, admitted that it was McLaren who had tipped off stewards about Ferrari - a charge the team previously denied.

"Our mechanics became suspicious," he said.

However, a philosophical Hakkinen seemed to accept the decision, saying: "The events of the last week are now behind us and I am - as always - focusing on the next race."

Ferrari delight

Irvine said his team had been "totally exonerated".

FIA President, Max Mosley: "The original result stands in its entirety"
"It was a pure technical matter that the car was legal all along, which is fantastic.

"I didn't want people to think that it was political, it was business, or any of that sort of carry on that got us reinstated," he said.

Ferrari's chairman Luca di Montezemolo said the ruling "acknowledged that our cars were perfectly normal".

He said the decision also "silenced many unfair interpretations which displeased us so much".

Dozens of Ferrari fans braved the rain to celebrate in front of the company's headquarters in the northern Italian town of Maranello.

Commercial consideration denied

Some correspondents questioned whether the court had ruled in favour of Ferrari simply to boost public interest in the final race of the season.

[ image: FIA President Max Mosley:
FIA President Max Mosley: "Judges had no choice"
But Mr Mosley denied this, saying: "Five independent judges had the benefit of listening in great detail to the evidence."

He said that at the hearing the FIA's technical delegate had measured the "turning vane" and admitted it fell within the tolerance in every respect.

"No judge would have any alternative but to make the finding they found," he added.

Earlier, FIA vice-president Bernie Ecclestone said the disqualification had been "nonsense".

At the news conference, Mr Mosley said Mr Ecclestone had no power over rule enforcement and that the judges would not have paid any attention to his views despite his financial power in the sport.

FIA criticised

The BBC's Motor Racing Correspondent Jonathan Legard: "Any review however is for the future"
Mr Mosley said that at the hearing Ferrari had with "some justification" criticised the FIA's methods of measurement. The judges also questioned the clarity of the regulation itself.

Mr Dennis said he was convinced that Ferrari had made an honest mistake over the size of the aerodynamic aids.

But he added: "I think it is slightly hypocritical to say there is no performance influence because that is a very aerodynamically critical area on the car."

Almost two-thirds of contributors to BBC News Online's Talking Point disagreed with the disqualification.

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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