Warning for McLaren drivers over pact

 

Motor sport authorities yesterday warned that any repetition of the incident between David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen at the Australian Grand Prix will be "severely punished."

McLaren drivers agreed before the race in February that whoever reached the first corner first would be allowed to win the race.

Hakkinen duly took the lead from pole position and was heading for a comfortable victory before he was mistakenly called in for a pit stop and lost the lead.

Coulthard inherited first place but allowed his Finnish team-mate past two laps before the finish to honour their agreement.

Hakkinen praised the Scot for his "great sportsmanship" but Formula One fans - particularly those who had bet on Coulthard - were outraged that they had been robbed of a fair result and called for a ban on such "team orders".

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) yesterday stopped short of such a ban but instructed race stewards to come down hard on any similar incidents in the future.

A statement issued after a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris read: "The World Motor Sport Council has noted what happened at the 1998 Australian Grand Prix and during certain World Championship rallies.

"The World Council is informing the stewards of all future international events that `any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition' should in future be penalised severely in accordance with article 151(c) of the International Sporting Code."

The decision in effect means that team orders have not been banned but they should not be implemented again in such circumstances.

Coulthard said after the incident that he would expect Hakkinen to do the same for him if the situation arose in the next grand prix in Brazil.

The FIA also revealed that the ban imposed on Jerez staging another Formula One grand prix had been lifted.

The circuit had been taken off the F1 schedule following an incident at last year's season-ending European GP when the mayor of Jerez and local government officials made their way onto the podium during the presentation ceremony.

The Mayor, Mr Pedro Pacheco, attended the WMSC meeting to explain the "misunderstanding" and after accepting his explanation, the circuit has been cleared to stage races again.