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Hakkinen agony could have bitter sweet ending

MIKA HAKKINEN and the McLaren-Mercedes team will probably have to sweat it out for over another week before they know whether the Finn's 16th career Grand Prix victory - secured in Austria before the question of the missing FIA seal on the car's electronic control box arose - can finally be confirmed.

The clue to the impending tension may be found on the bottom of today's official FIA release confirming that a meeting of the stewards of the Austrian Grand Prix will be reconvened in London next Tuesday at 14.00. Below this news is included a helpful note pointing out that "competitors have a right of appeal from a decision of the stewards to the International Court of Appeal."

So you can imagine the likely scenario. The stewards take the very reasonable decision to confirm Hakkinen's win. But they follow the example of the stewards at the 1995 Brazilian GP where Michael Schumacher's Benetton and David Coulthard's Williams were excluded for having fuel which had not been pre-registered with the FIA.

On that occasion, both cars were disqualified but the drivers' points only were restored on appeal. This time the Austrian stewards could take the same "exceptional circumstances" route off their own back and exclude only McLaren's ten constructors' points for the win.

If McLaren then appealed, Ferrari could weigh in with objections and seek to have both rival car and driver disqualified from the A1-Ring result. Too risky for Ron Dennis to gamble on that one, I suspect. Or is it?

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