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Commentators slam Formula One bosses

LONDON, Oct 24 - European newspapers lambasted Formula One's governing body on Sunday, describing the decision to disqualify Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine at the Malaysian Grand Prix then reinstate him as farcical and ridiculous. Britain's Sunday Telegraph, under the headline `"Ferrari profit proves F1 loss,'' said the move had ``left the sport open to ridicule and demonstrating its inability to police its own regulations.'' The International Automobile Federation (FIA) reinstated Irvine at the top of the drivers' standings and Ferrari at the top of the constructors' table, saying they had not after all infringed technical rules. Their decision, over whether or not Irvine and team mate Michael Schumacher's cars sported barge boards too small by a matter of millimetres, meant the 1999 championship was snatched from McLaren and Mika Hakkinen. Hakkinen and Irvine will now battle it out for the title next week in the final race in Japan. Finnish commentators were philosophical, saying Hakkinen and his team had expected the decision to go against them to create a nail-biting finish to the season. Hakkinen's manager Keke Rosberg said on Finnish television: ``Hakkinen was mentally prepared for that and will now concentrate on Suzuka.'' The country's biggest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat went as far as to say the judges' decision appeared logical and honest. ``It was a surprise, however, that the Ferrari team came out of the investigation with almost entirely clean bill of health,'' it added. ``Mikka Hakkinen was smart to refuse to celebrate in Malaysia. He evidently suspected that the FIA jury would overrule the disqualification.''

Italian papers proved unashamedly pro-Ferrari. ``Ferrari triumphs'' said Gazzetta dello Sport. ``Ferrari, the world championship is yours'' Gazzetta dedicated six pages to the verdict. La Stampa ran a large front-page colour picture of fans holding a huge Ferrari flag. ``Big red party, Ferrari flies towards the title,'' it said.``Ferrari has won another Grand Prix, that of the Paris court,'' la Repubblica said in a front-page editorial. ``Everyone on the podium, from Montezemolo down, including the lawyers who proved as good as the technicians at Maranello,'' it said. German papers, while reporting Schumacher's jubilation at the verdict, said the FIA had emerged from the affair with little glory. The Tagesspiegel newspaper said: ``The bosses of the FIA can rub their hands and celebrate a pyrrhic victory.'' ``The showdown of the season next week in Japan was everything, the credibility of the FIA was nothing,'' it said. And Bild am Sonntag said in an editorial: ``The FIA has put a question mark over its own competence. It's a bit like robbing an apple, getting caught and then getting away with it because one side was already rotten. Theft is theft, a millimetre too much is still a millimetre too much.'' The Observer in London commented that there were no winners from a ``sorry episode.'' ``The richest sport in the world has dragged itself through the mire and come up smelling exactly of what you would expect.''