Motor Racing: Villeneuve appeal withdrawn

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Williams-Renault have taken the path of least resistance and accepted Jacques Villeneuve's punishment, which shifts the balance of the world championship in Michael Schumacher's favour. Derick Allsop reports

Williams-Renault have withdrawn their appeal against Jacques Villeneuve's disqualification at the Japanese Grand Prix, so forfeiting his two points and sending him into the final race of the Formula One world championship, on Sunday week, trailing Ferrari's Michael Schumacher by a point.

Villeneuve raced under appeal at Suzuka last Sunday after the stewards invoked a one-race ban - imposed at last month's Italian Grand Prix but suspended for nine races - on the Canadian for failing to slow down at yellow warning flags. He finished fifth, which provisionally kept him ahead of Schumacher, the race winner.

Few gave Villeneuve any hope of keeping the two points he earned at an FIA appeal court hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday and the president of the international governing body, Max Mosley, indicated that Williams should drop their case. He said Villeneuve risked not only losing his two points from Japan but also disqualification for the concluding European Grand Prix, at Jerez, which would hand the title to the German. Mosley, however, insisted he was not threatening the Oxfordshire-based team.

Clearly, however, Williams have interpreted the message to that effect and announced yesterday that "having reviewed all relevant circumstances" they had withdrawn the appeal.

A brief statement concluded: "The two points awarded to Jacques in Japan have been withdrawn and the penalty of a suspended one-race ban imposed on him at the Italian Grand Prix has been discharged".

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Suzuka) Revised results and standings after disqualification of Jaqcues Villeneuve: 1 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 29min 48.446sec (ave speed 207.508 kph); 2 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Williams-Renault +1.378sec; 3 E Irvine (GB) Ferrari +26.384; 4 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes +27.129; 5 J Alesi (Fr) Benetton-Renault +40.403; 6 J Herbert (GB) Sauber-Petronas +41.630.

Drivers' World Championship: 1 Villeneuve 79pts; 2 M Schumacher 78; 3 Frentzen 41; 4 Alesi 35; 5 Coulthard 30; 6 Berger 24. Other GB: 7 Irvine 22; 11 Herbert 14; 13 D Hill 7.

Constructors' championship: 1 Williams 118pts; 2 Ferrari 100; 3 Benetton 64.