Irvine's relief as McLaren worry

Eddie Irvine, who pulled out of the Austrian Grand Prix last Friday complaining of abdominal pains, has been passed fit to drive for Ferrari in the German Grand Prix at the end of the month after being released from a London hospital, where he underwent extensive tests.

Eddie Irvine, who pulled out of the Austrian Grand Prix last Friday complaining of abdominal pains, has been passed fit to drive for Ferrari in the German Grand Prix at the end of the month after being released from a London hospital, where he underwent extensive tests.

The Ulsterman said yesterday: "I've been given the all-clear which is a huge relief. I'm feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to go. Although I have been told to rest for the next couple of days, I'm very keen to get back in the cockpit. I'm looking forward to Hockenheim. I have been keeping tabs on the team's Silverstone test this week and we're all encouraged by what has been achieved."

Mika Hakkinen faces another anxious few days before discovering if his victory in the Austrian Grand Prix last Sunday will be ratified. The Finn's McLaren team will appear before the stewards of the race in London on Tuesday. The Woking-based team will have to explain why the post-race inspectors found that an official seal from an electronic control box on Hakkinen's car was missing.

FIA, the sport's world governing body, hope the stewards' decision will be known later that day. The delay in confirming the result - a decision was originally expected within 48 hours - suggests that either Hakkinen, McLaren or both will have points taken away. It may well be that Hakkinen's 16th career win will be confirmed, but that McLaren will lose the team points as has happened in similar cases.

The stewards' decision could have a vital bearing on the outcome of the drivers' and manufacturers' championships. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who crashed out in Austria, leads by six points from McLaren's David Coulthard with the champion, Hakkinen, two points further back with seven races left.

If Hakkinen were penalised, Coulthard would be promoted to race winner and would move just two points adrift of Schumacher going into the next race in Germany on Sunday week. Hakkinen would again fall 18 points behind.

McLaren's one-two at the A1-Ring saw them take the lead in the constructors' championship by six points over Ferrari for the first time this season.

FIA investigators, who have sent a report to the stewards, met with the team and visited the factory of TAG Electronic Systems, part of the McLaren group, which makes the box that controls the car's computer software.

McLaren said at the time they were confident Hakkinen's victory would be confirmed while analysis of the software which had already been downloaded from the box showed it had not been tampered with.

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