Irvine will not shed tears over near miss

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The Independent Online

Eddie Irvine has vowed to quickly shrug off his bitter World Championship disappointment, insisting: "There will be no tears shed over this."

Eddie Irvine has vowed to quickly shrug off his bitter World Championship disappointment, insisting: "There will be no tears shed over this."

The Ulsterman saw his first and possibly only chance of driver glory ended in yesterday's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as Mika Hakkinen raced to the victory he needed to successfully defend his title.

Irvine finished third behind team-mate Michael Schumacher to leave Ferrari with the consolation prize of a first manufacturers' title in 16 years, even if the primary target eluded them yet again.

"There is no point crying about it," added Irvine after missing out by just two points on becoming the team's first drivers' champion in 20 years before heading off to Jaguar Racing for next season.

"We put up a really good fight over the season but made a couple of little mistakes and that cost us. All credit to Mika, he drove a fantastic race, was too quick on the day and deserved the title.

"Now I am going to take a good, long holiday for the next two months because I need it. I have never worked as hard as this in my life."

Irvine jets off to the United States today to start the holiday before beginning his new career at Jaguar where the pastures will be greener - at least in the race car livery.

And Irvine spared a thought for Rubens Barrichello, who is replacing him at Schumacher's team-mate in 2000.

"God help Rubens," said Irvine. "It will be a different story for me next season but at least I won't be up against Michael Schumacher in the same car every race.

"Partnering Michael is just like arriving at every race and getting hit on the head with a cricket bat for four days.

"I am really looking forward to going to Jaguar because they have got great potential, but I want the holiday first."

Irvine, whose bid for glory was watched by his proud parents Edmund and Kathleen as well as sister Sonia, had to rely on Schumacher thwarting Hakkinen after becoming a virtual spectator.

But Schumacher faltered at the start - just as he did last year in his own last race showdown - and Hakkinen took a stranglehold on the race that he was never to relinquish.

The Finn eventually won by five seconds with Irvine so far back McLaren were worried he was waiting for his rival to catch him from behind.

Schumacher's failure to repeat the domination he enjoyed on his race comeback after injury in Malaysia raised questions about his commitment to Irvine's cause.

"I have heard the rumours he would have been quite happy with the result because he did not want Eddie to win the championship," said McLaren's David Coulthard, who was forced to retire with gearbox problems.

"Despite this very public image of 'he would try and do what he can' and the admirable work he did in Malaysia, I think deep down he will go back and he will be quite happy. He wants to be the Ferrari champion."

Coulthard and Schumacher became embroiled in a furious post-race row after the Scot was accused by his Ferrari foe of deliberately holding him up when coming back following a crash that required a pit-stop.

"David had passed many blue flags and he had some kind of problem, but he was really zig-zagging," said Schumacher. "I was disappointed to see such a manoeuvre that nobody would expect such a guy to have done."

But Coulthard, who had delayed Irvine earlier as Ferrari were repaid for the tactics they used in Malaysia, angrily hit-back having initially threatened legal action before a meeting between the two.

"Michael cannot question my integrity and basically do harm to my reputation as a racing driver in such a public way," he said.

"He cannot go around saying what he likes about another driver. It does him no good at all. He has a real problem at admitting his own mistakes.

"I am not comfortable from a racing point of view that I was holding Eddie up, trying to help Mika. But Ferrari have said it was not dirty tactics.

"It is not something I liked to do, especially to Eddie because if he had won the championship I would not have begrudged him it. As a fan of the sport we would all like a British guy as world champion."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen secured third place in the drivers' championship with fourth place.

Ralf Schumacher was fifth for Williams, but that was not enough to stop Stewart Ford celebrate a career-high fourth in the constructors, in their last race before the name change to Jaguar.

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