Eddie Irvine today accused Ferrari of ‘taking the mickey‘ out of Formula One by refusing to let their drivers race - even though Michael Schumacher has wrapped up the World Championship.
Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello used their massive superiority to turn the last race in Hungary into a procession and ensure the Brazilian triumphed to boost his chances of finishing second in the drivers’ table.
Barrichello is currently five points ahead of the Williams-BMW duo of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher with four races left.
Ferrari are expected to employ similar tactics in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, a circuit where the Italian team’s advantage over their rivals could be even more pronounced.
But Irvine slammed the team’s approach saying it was just as cynical as in Austria earlier this season when Barrichello was ordered to move over to gift Schumacher an easy victory.
“Ferrari not letting the two guys race is just not right,” said Irvine, who drove for the team for four years.
“They should let them race. Who cares who comes second in the championship? This is overkill – just like it was in Austria.
“It‘s the fact that Ferrari have produced the best car this year, but what they are doing is completely over the top. They are just taking the mickey out of the sport.”
Schumacher, who claimed the title just 11 races into the 17-race season, insisted today that he was unable to attempt any overtaking moves on the tight and twisty Hungaroring track but said it might be a different story this weekend.
“We will have to wait and see but I hope so,” said Schumacher, who has won the race five times, a record he shares with Ayrton Senna. “It all depends on the circumstance.”
Irvine, meanwhile, has also ruled out making a return to Ferrari next year as a test driver for five-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
The 36-year-old was reported to be in talks with the Italian outfit for whom he drove for four years between 1996 and 1999.
But Irvine, whose three-year contract with Jaguar Racing is up at the end of this season, said there was no chance of him rejoining Ferrari in 2003.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Irvine. “When you have been driving around Mugello for three days it takes you a week to recover. I am not going to do that.
Irvine came close to winning the title with Ferrari in 1999 when he was promoted to number one after Schumacher broke his leg at the British Grand Prix and is highly-rated as a test driver by the German.
The Ulsterman insists he is in no hurry to sort out his Formula One future for next season amid speculation he will leave Jaguar to be replaced by Minardi’s Australian driver Mark Webber.
Irvine has said he would consider a testing role with a top team but has also been linked with a return to Jordan, the team with which he launched his career back in 1993.
Jordan’s sponsors, Benson & Hedges, are said to be keen on a high-profile driver while another of their potential targets, Germany’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen, has opted for Sauber.
“I don’t know about my future. There is no rush to be honest, I am just plodding along.”