Motor Racing: Irvine's ban increased: FIA rejects appeal

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The Independent Online
THE world governing body of motor sport, the FIA, yesterday dismissed an appeal by Eddie Irvine against the Jordan- Hart driver's one-race suspension and increased the penalty to three grands prix.

The 28-year-old Ulsterman and Jordan had hoped the sports authorities would overturn the original verdict, delivered by stewards after the Brazilian Grand Prix, 12 days ago.

However, the FIA not only reaffirmed Irvine's culpability for the four-car accident, it piled on the punishment.

The driver, who has made just three appearances at this level, now misses the Pacific, San Marino and Monaco grands prix. A dollars 10,000 ( pounds 6,850) fine has been dropped, though that may be of scant consolation.

The FIA board took into consideration the basis of the appeal from Irvine, copies of video film of the accident and the statements of the other drivers involved before rejecting Irvine's appeal.

In a statement from Paris, the FIA said the board was satisfied that Irvine had caused an avoidable collision, forced the Dutchman Jos Verstappen's Benetton off the track and illegitimately prevented Verstappen's legitimate overtaking manoeuvre.

It said also that Irvine should have seen that Verstappen might overtake him at the point where the accident took place and said Irvine had failed to evaluate the situation in the way he should have done.

It added that Irvine had 'recklessly pulled out to pass the car driven by (the Frenchman Eric) Bernard'.

Irvine's team boss, Eddie Jordan, said: 'This has left Eddie and the entire team completely shattered.'

There was the distinct feeling within some quarters that the authorities were ready to seize on the first opportunity to 'put Irvine in his place' following his part in a post-race punch-up with Ayrton Senna at the Japanese Grand Prix, last October.

Irvine was said to be 'arrogant and provocative' yet no action was taken against him over that incident. Senna was given a suspended six-month ban.

A clear message has gone out to competitors and teams that dangerous driving will not, in future, be tolerated. But will the punishments be equally harsh when the targets are not so soft? Will the sport's rulers be similarly vigilant in dealing with championship contenders who step out of line?

The incident at Interlagos involved two inexperienced drivers who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, bearing down on two other cars. In my opinion, Irvine probably made a mistake, Verstappen was probably ill-equipped to anticipate, while Bernard and Brundle could simply do nothing to check the fateful sequence of events.

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