Motor Racing: Ferrari read riot act after pit-stop embarrassment

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The Independent Online
THE ENTIRE Ferrari team, who had a less than auspicious Grand Prix of Europe, were summoned to a two-and-a-half hour meeting with a disgruntled president, Luca di Montezemolo, yesterday.

Eddie Irvine, the team's championship challenger, was brought to the team's headquarters at Maranello by helicopter for a piece of the president's mind.

Irvine had to endure a 48-second pit stop at the Nurburgring on Sunday as mechanics searched for a missing wheel, the consequence of Mika Salo's unexpected arrival for a new front wing.

The crew had been ready with wet tyres, as requested by Irvine two laps earlier. By the time he made his way down the pit lane he had changed his mind and opted for dry grooved rubber. Irvine was parked inside his pit markings just 23 seconds after Salo had departed, and in the frantic activity one of the grooved tyres had been misplaced.

That mix-up put Irvine out of the points and any hopes of salvaging something from the chaos ended when he went straight on at a chicane under pressure from his championship rival, Mika Hakkinen. The McLaren-Mercedes driver finished fifth to go two points clear of the Ulsterman, who came in seventh.

Montezemolo, sensitive to media condemnation in Italy and Germany, said: "I've spoken with everybody and explained to each and every one of them that this sort of thing cannot and must not happen again if we are going to win the championship."

Ross Brawn, the team's much vaunted technical director, accepted responsibility for the uncharacteristic blunder. "We screwed up and it was my fault," the Englishman said.

Montezemolo suggested the absence of his German number one, Michael Schumacher, had affected Irvine's performances in recent races. He said: "Without Michael maybe Eddie has lost a reference point for his strategy. Mika has done a good job but he's new to the team. Equally, it must be said Eddie gives advice and help to Michael."