Ferrari not impressed

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The Independent Online
Ferrari, the grandest name in grand prix racing, had a bad reaction yesterday to the news that the results of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard from the Brazilian Grand Prix would be reinstated. And Niki Lauda, the world drivers' champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984, described the decision as "the biggest joke ever in Formula One''.

A meeting of the sport's world governing body, the FIA, in Paris on Thursday decided that Schumacher and Coulthard, who were first and second at the So Paulo meeting on 26 March, should not be punished for the fact that their Benetton and Williams cars were run on fuel that did not match the samples supplied earlier by the teams.

Ferrari's Austrian driver, Gerhard Berger, who came third on the track, was awarded victory late on the night of the race, Benetton and Williams appealed, the appeal was upheld and Berger was back in third.

In a statement from their Maranello headquarters in Italy yesterday, the team said: "Ferrari notes that statements made by the FIA's appeals tribunal and the verdict issued seem to imply that a driver can now win a Formula One race driving a car that does not conform to the regulations."

Lauda, a compatriot of Berger and a racing adviser to Ferrari, said: "It's the biggest joke ever in Formula One. The richest team can run a car that breaks the rules, pay a fine and have its driver declared world champion."

The decision cost Berger his 10th grand prix victory and dropped him to fifth overall in the drivers' title standings, one point behind Coulthard and nine behind the leader and reigning world champion Schumacher. Berger's team-mate, Jean Alesi, fell from joint second to third in the reshuffle.

Ferrari also lost valuable points in the constructors' championship, even though Schumacher's Benetton team and Coulthard's Williams organisation were found guilty of using irregular fuel, supplied by the French company Elf, and were heavily punished.

Both teams were excluded from the result for the purposes of the constructors' championship and fined $200,000 (£125,000) - but the points were not awarded elsewhere.

Elf was delighted with the judgement, saying it vindicated the legality of its fuel.

Williams said: "We are very pleased David Coulthard has had his six points reinstated. This is a fitting reward for his efforts during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

"Although no team wants to forfeit six constructors' championship points, we are optimistic about our chances in the remaining grands prix this season.

Ferrari's statement added that Benetton and Williams had clearly infringed article 16.7 of the FIA's technical regulations, and that on the crucial issue as to whether any unfair advantage had been gained, the various experts had failed to reach an agreement.