Irvine warns against dirty tricks campaign

Eddie Irvine is ready for the race of his life in Japan to seal the world title - and he has warned McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard not to try any dirty tricks.

Eddie Irvine is ready for the race of his life in Japan to seal the world title - and he has warned McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard not to try any dirty tricks.

Ferrari ace Irvine said today that his chance of winning the title was still open after his points lead over rival Hakkinen was restored in a weekend legal tug-of-war.

But he warned he was ready for any dirty tricks, saying Hakkinen and Coulthard may "play games and push me back into Stewarts and Williams and Jordans" at the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

"It could cause problems and we have got to be very careful. We cannot afford to relax," said the 33-year-old Ulsterman after a weekend of partying at a Tokyo night club.

"I hope to get the result we want."

But Irvine also said he could rely on his "hometown" advantage stemming from his F-3000 stint in Japan from 1991 to 1993.

"Suzuka is my favourite circuit," he said.

"It's like my home grand prix because I raced in Japan for three years and I had a lot of fun here and I have enjoyed coming back."

On Saturday an independent inquiry in Paris overturned Ferrari's disqualification from the last grand prix in Malaysia where Irvine and double world champion Michael Schumacher finished one-two.

The verdict, which dispelled suspicions Ferrari's red machines carried illegally-sized deflectors, reinstalled Irvine's four-point lead over 1998 champion Hakkinen.

"The situation is still very open," Irvine said, adding it would have been much better if he had a five-point advantage.

If Hakkinen wins at Suzuka, the 31-year-old flying Finn will have his second world title. But if Hakkinen finishes second, Irvine has to finish in the top four to seal the title.

"That will be nice," he said, commenting on the possibility that Schumacher beats Hakkinen into second spot so that Irvine just cruises into fourth spot to sew up his drivers title.

"If Mika (Hakkinen) breaks down at the start then I can really have fun because I really love the circuit," he said.

"And, it will be the greatest way to go into the race and I can go crazy."

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