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Monday, March 9, 1998 Published at 05:50 GMT


Protest lodged over Hakkinen win

An offical protest has been lodged by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker over the way Mika Hakkinen won the first Formula One Grand Prix of the season.

David Coulthard controversially pulled over two laps from the end of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and let team-mate Hakkinen win.

The pair said afterwards they had a pre-race "gentleman's agreement" that whoever led at the first corner could claim victory.

Walker said he had lodged a complaint with the Formula One world governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

Ron Walker explains why the protest has been lodged (0'36")
"I have faxed a letter to the FIA on behalf of the race - it is an official complaint," he told reporters.

"It's not my place to discuss any punitive action, that is not my area of responsibility, but we've got to seek clarification on this matter."

Walker said the race should have gone down to the wire, regardless of team loyalties.

"We've always maintained Formula One drivers are in the same category as Olympic athletes in terms of their outstanding fitness," he said.

"It's not the right of team owners to decide who's going to win."

'Thank-you David'

After the race, Coulthard explained: "I gained my position over Mika because of the pit-stop situation. The team explained that to me and, difficult as it was to move over, I knew the order in which we were running was because of that mistake.

"Maybe, if I lose the championship by four points, I will regret it."

Hakkinen said: "I want to say 'thank-you very much' to David."

Hakkinen has now won two Grand Prix from 97 starts. Both are thanks to Coulthard - he grabbed his first win in Jerez in 1997 when the Scottish driver again moved over, but on that occasion on the orders of the team.

Bookmaking companies received complaints from punters about the way the race had been won. At the start, William Hill had Coulthard 9/4 to win while Hakkinen was 13/8.


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