Motor racing: Irvine defends Briton's driving

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The Independent Online
EDDIE IRVINE has refused to support Michael Schumacher, his Ferrari team-mate, in the row over Sunday's stormy Belgian Grand Prix and instead came to the defence of David Coulthard.

Schumacher had stormed angrily into the McLaren pit and accused Coulthard of "trying to kill" him as he attempted to lap him in zero visibility. Schumacher accused the British driver of deliberately slowing down as he tried to lap him, with the result that they collided in heavy spray and the German's Ferrari was put out of the race at the Spa- Francorchamps circuit.

However, Irvine claimed that Schumacher was a victim of unfortunate circumstances. "There is no way DC's [Coulthard] going to do it deliberately," Irvine told Autosport magazine. "He is not that kind of person. No driver would do that to a colleague. If Michael had lifted off every time he couldn't see where he was going, he would have been last. He was just unlucky that this time there was a car going much slower."

Damon Hill, the race winner, agreed with Irvine and claimed it was not the first time Schumacher had blamed another for his errors. "Blaming others is a tactic he often uses when he has made a mistake," Hill said. "He targets the innocent party to deflect from his own error. To think that David would make Michael run into the back of him is just too ridiculous for words."

Schumacher said he is ready to talk to Coulthard about their collision but that he would not apologise. Speaking on German television, Schumacher said: "I think we should discuss what happened. Looking back, you see things in a more balanced fashion but that does not mean one has to apologise. What happened happened, and it doesn't merit discussion."

McLaren said the team felt Coulthard was not to blame for the incident, which wrecked Schumacher's chances of a victory that would have given him the lead in the drivers' championship over McLaren's Mika Hakkinen.

Schumacher and Coulthard ignored each other during testing at Monza, the venue for the next Formula One race, the Italian Grand Prix, on 13 September.